Grading Midterms, NOT

I come to the office on a Sunday evening to get a jump on grading midterms – or that’s what I tell myself. Instead, I think about technology and teaching, next year’s students. This year’s students have acquitted themselves honorably. I no longer worry about turning my back on the world if it were to be turned over to them tomorrow. I don’t know exactly what it is but there is always such a moment in each semester, earlier and earlier these days, in which I am confident my work is done.

In Basic Writing / Preparatory Composition classes, that moment comes one student at a time. In recent years, it was always the moment in which, reading their weekly Freewriting Analysis, I would arrive at their answer to Question #4: What do I need to make the changes I intend to make? In one way or another, each fledged student would avow, I have everything I need [to address the challenges writing places in front of me]. This year, thanks in no small measure to edmodo, that moment came just after Week 1, after the third time I sang their praises for having 100% submission rate on their first assignment. We are entering Week 5 of an eight-week semester and I am in the office to read their midterm essays. They look MAhvelous!

All but one student provided evidence of a writing process. All students wrote at or above 300 words after reading a thousand-word article including opposing views of The War on Drugs in less than one hour. We will see what tomorrow brings. Tonight, I allowed myself to continue the quest for electronic delivery and universal platform access to course resources and reading materials. I have read reviews comparing the Google Nexus 7 tablet, Kindle Fire, iPad and Nook. I’ve checked out the iPad, Samsung Galaxy 10-inch for ease of use with edmodo and Angel – though we’ll be using Canvas’ learning management system in the near future. I downloaded the free Nook reading &  Nook-Study apps to phone and desktop, a sample of their mobile study guide for Composition and Rhetoric and purchased American Copia for consideration for Fall’s section of the Migrant Lit course so I can test drive the software, portability and annotating capabilities. I’m trying to organize my life and my work around reading more and writing for publication. I am hopeful that technology will improve my chances of acting on such intentions. I want to make my desires inescapable. I believe it is, after all, up to us to walk the words Liz Brown of HarrisBrown Gallery in Boston once shared with me during an interview.

Art makes the struggle possible.

In this case, technology may just be the art that makes my struggle possible.


Day 2 NaNoWriMo

After class today I decided to record notes instead of blog as I’d gone back to bed after 5 a.m. prayer instead of going to the gym or putting in my 30 minutes for NaNoWriMo. The last paragraph of those notes is pasted below.

The current wrestling match is to focus on whatsoever things are of good report instead of focusing on what’s NOT happening in class. Team Miracle did a wonderful job, miraculous in many ways given the team’s composition and the assignment – to teach one course objective, one of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits, one chapter out of the textbook, one section from MyCompLab and one experience of Service Learning. The division of labor was evident. The interactivity and creativity were present. They had information and or activities related to each assigned lesson as well as helpful hints and mnemonic devices for remembering homonyms. They brought candy and a prize for the raffle conducted after the quiz. How, in such an environment ripe for harvest did I allow the last 15 minutes of Q & A regarding the Spaghetti Edit / Revised Midterm to sour the experience for me?

Indeed, it comes down to preparation – mine, and not just for Friday’s faculty retreat which I am co-facilitating, but for the next level of spiritual growth in which we are to cast down spiritual wickedness in high places. Shadows be damned. I am a child of the Light!

What if I just went up in praise when these feelings of defeat rise so fitfully. What if I just started turning my gratitude key and followed that logic. What if I just slept when I was tired, learned to tell when I’m hungry or emptied by despair, and ate the right thing at the right time? 1006 words for now.

Fortunately for me I had the answer before the question posed itself. At prayer this morning Evangelist offered Luke 21 as encouragement. Only late this afternoon was I able to read it. The verses particularly helpful to me are:

34“Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. 35For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. 36Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”

I believe I will. Continue to stand, that is.

If I Don’t Praise Him…

The rocks will cry out. Though it seems inevitable that I will forget, today I have proof enough that God is on my side! So very many little things happened around the big victories that it can only be His favor on my life. Evidence of protection, purpose, provision and more than I could think, ask or imagine were revealed to me. Can’t share the details yet so I’m leaving this place marker. Suffice it to say: Let God Arise!

Blindsided in Church

With all God has poured into me in the spiritual and natural realms I remained speechless and dumbfounded. The elder had shown nothing but concern for me in our previous conversations. Yes, I had thought it a bit odd that she brought me pantyhose and kept volunteering to exchange them for the correct size when she didn’t see me sporting them after a couple weeks. But I just laid that to the charge of generational differences. We live, after all, in a dessert and I rarely wear skirts above my knees so I don’t see the point of wearing stockings even if they’d give my uneven skin a bit more polish. The same can be said for make-up and you’d be hard-pressed to remember a time when I was found sporting anything beyond lipstick and that rarely.

So when she made that remark about all those Hispanics lined up for immunizations at some grocery store or other and that she was now debating about paying her taxes as a result, I was caught off guard. The only thing that came to mind after sharing Christ Jesus’ command that we love one another was the great festival my husband and I had seen on a recent furniture-hunting expedition to the East Side. It had been similarly wall to wall Latinos enjoying the games and getting their kids’ shots. She said she’d only been joking and turned away.

What I might have said was, yes, isn’t it wonderful what great care Latinos take of their children! Or, after more than a decade of being a practitioner of the NCBI model, I could have pulled a Columbo and asked her what exactly she was getting at, the better to hear her into action. I might even have invited her to tea so I could have the chance to dust off more than 14 years of my Re-evaluation Counseling Art of Listening skills. But no, I became a smiling deer in the headlights, and stood there, blinking.

I wonder this morning at her motivation. Was she inspired to make the comment because she saw me sitting with my husband and thought perhaps he was only a love interest and therefore she had time to stop the presses, derail the union? Or, was this part of Jesus’ plan to answer the tearful prayer offered up on the way home after church while listening to the gift He’s given Whitney Houston, that I more effectively give to others what He’s given to me?

Or, is it His way of allowing me to understand better and to live what Oswald Chambers discusses about reconciliation in today’s devotional?

“First be reconciled to thy brother . . .” Our Lord’s direction is simple, “first be reconciled.” Go back the way you came, go the way indicated to you by the conviction given at the altar; have an attitude of mind and a temper of soul to the one who has something against you that makes reconciliation as natural as breathing.

Whatever the reason, I accept this challenge as a call to go up higher in my daily walk and talk as an ambassador for Christ.

It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over – Class That Is

After getting the Migrant Literature course approved with corrections through Curriculum Committee I return to the office to grade online submissions and answer and delete email. An hour or so in, a former student texts me that he’s back from Afghanistan. I let him know I’m in the office in case he wants to stop by.

When he does, he pulls out his journal from the few weeks he spent in class with us. He said he kept practicing his paragraphs using the PREP method through the six months’ of his redeployment and that he still has a few essays he wants to write for me. That would have been enough to start the waterworks leaving it at that, but he went on to say that writing, staying connected with the assignments, memories of his classmates and our times together kept him going.

He read aloud a paragraph he’d been working on when his unit was ambushed yet again. A straight week of getting ambushed every night. That did it. The dam burst, though I was able to pull it back together relatively swiftly. He’d been writing about the first hot meal they’d just had in more than a month and how rations ‘suck’ when they came under fire.

After that, the conversation took several turns and we touched upon everything from being grateful to stand up without the weight of his pack to intervening at a local grocery store where a man was kicking his girlfriend on the ground. He mentioned his mother’s angry relief at his return (she didn’t want him to go again after he returned from his first tour with the tip of a finger missing and a scar from a near-fatal blast to the forehead) and what it was like losing buddies. We brainstormed some strategies for responding to the challenges of returning to civilian life and he acknowledged in no uncertain terms how the prayers of classmates kept him alive. After viewing the class slide show, we parted with his promise to return to campus and visit to encourage one or both of my current ENG 098 classes. I printed him a copy of the list of personal appreciations classmates had written about him at the end of last semester that I hadn’t been able to email him. I am humbled by how good things can get every now and then.

Mission Accomplished!

The pressure was on. The alarm was supposed to go off at 3:45 a.m. so I could spend 15 minutes on my back talking with Jesus before waking M’Dear to take the dogs out, feed them, pack and meet the cab at 5. I’d stayed up way later than expected feeling compelled to pack at least my bag once all her clothes were washed and folded. I’d have close to an hour of shut-eye by the time I was horizontal. That is after getting up once to look for the cross the body sling I wanted to carry instead of the over the shoulder purse, and another time to limit access to the recently completed online course folders so I could move content around and see what’s what before the next semester opens.

Well, things didn’t quite go as planned and the next thing I knew, I’d rolled over to hear the dogs barking, squinted at the time on the cellphone through the silently vibrating flight alarm to discover it was 5:24 and the taxi driver who was expected at 5 was knocking at the door. I simply prayed the name of Jesus each step toward the door, made hasty apologies, thanking the driver for knocking and promised to be out presently.

Only the Holy Ghost could pull this one off. M’Dear was still face down, feet hanging off a corner of the bed where she’d arranged herself after the neighbor’s impromptu birthday/farewell celebration for her, and after not doing a single thing beyond making the three piles I’d requested before leaving to pick up textbooks for the new class on Personal Evangelism I was notified I’d be teaching a few hours earlier. He’s never failed me yet and never will.

She had neither emptied her suitcases since the day of arrival two months earlier, nor packed them for departure this morning. We had fewer than 30 minutes to organize (stuff everything really) and make it to the airport if we were to make the 60 minute check-in window the airlines require. I just kept praying the name of Jesus and getting one more thing closer to the door with each step. Somehow, we made it, seams bursting, phone charger cables dangling, into the cab. This time, instead of door keys, it was eyeglasses that threatened to undo the trip for which all else had been preparation.

To calm myself, I started thanks-giving aloud. I asked M’Dear what she was thankful for and she said her camps, the cab, friends and family who loved her. I launched into a full blown prayer of thanksgiving to stave off the utter panic that threatened to topple the favor we were already quite evidently riding in. Low voiced but apparently audible, I continued with the items I would have mentioned had I the time I’d planned for talking with the Lord. I listed each part of the full armor of God, covered the driver and his family, thanked God for giving him the desires of his heart, bound the enemy, dispatched angels, blessed the master’s degree candidate’s thesis defense I was expected to attend via telephone once we landed, and spoke life over my household, marriage, relatives and friends ending with a sense of peace that whatever happened at the airport, it is indeed well with my soul.

When we pulled up to curbside check-in the driver patiently waited, hatch open, as I attempted to close the carry on and duffel bag without breaking either zipper. He deposited the closed items on the sidewalk and waited till I remembered payment was due. I got flustered again, gave him a huge tip, and said I was so grateful I could hug him as I leaned in his direction for permission. He stepped toward me and I embraced him. He said softly, it’s been a long time since I heard someone pray like that. That’s when the dam broke. That’s when I realized, yet again how precisely all things work together for good to them that love God and are the called according to His purpose. I figure being late for just such a purpose was more than worth it. I smiled and went to meet my next angel at curbside check-in and later was bid fond farewell by colleagues clearing security at precisely the same time we were. Thanks, Je-Sus! Mission accomplished.

Preparing For the Best

Today’s devotional at My Utmost for His Highest inspires this question: What does it take to “maintain an attitude of perfect trust and an eagerness to ask and to seek” God? It is easier to know the answer than to live it even when there is abundant evidence that it is not only the best option but the only true option. I was given a powerful object lesson today when, instead of urging my husband to a specific action, I sat quietly beside him, smiling broadly and genuinely (this detail surprised even me, Holy Ghost), and shared the first scripture that came to mind. After the initial consternation subsided, the floodgates of love it unleashed were the first of their kind I’d ever witnessed.

I was so inspired by this outcome that I tried a similar approach to offering my niece the consequences of her failure to complete the tasks agreed upon the night before and left her smiling as well. This holy boldness saved us all the anxiety and ill-feeling that would likely result from our former method of dealing with differences of opinion. Prayers are always answered – not necessarily in the ways we expect and so we often miss the gift answered prayer is intended to bring. I’m so grateful I was paying attention.

The following was excerpted from a wonderful email currently making the rounds:

My obligations, my fear, my pride, my circumstances – they all become disabilities when I do not trust them to God’s care.