Turning Inward

As the weather turns colder, there is a phenomenon that is pretty common in the continental climate parts of the world. I can’t speak for the areas with a steadier climate as I’ve never lived in one, but up here while the change to autumn is all around you – notifying all of your senses – we tend to become a people of philosophy right before the snow falls and locks us up tight for a few months.

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September on the Escanaba River Basin, Michigan

It might be because of the spectacular fall show. It’s one thing to describe the riot of color that slowly burns through all of the deciduous trees around you, and it is quite another to actually walk through the blaze and notice the few green branches that are still clinging to summer as the rest of the season has burned out around them. It’s amazing to note how dark green the pines are in the face of all that excitement, disapproving old caretakers that don’t understand what all the fuss is about.

It certainly is hard not to think about death when many things are singing their mortality as loudly as they know how. It’s easy to ask what your purpose is in life and why are we really here when you notice the things that will soon be gone.

It might go back to our farming roots. When you had to make sure that there was enough food to carry everyone through the winter, there was a LOT to be done in the fall months. After the harvest, there was a flurry of preparation that needed to happen, in the fields and in the house, to keep body and stomach together through the cold season. Once that is done, your brain is primed to planning and thinking with no focus to keep it occupied, and that’s when the philosophy starts.

Cozy Conversation

Always better with a lap critter.

Whatever the origin of this turn, our focus moves inward and we’re more likely to sit in coffee shops until all hours of the night talking over politics, religion, the past, the future… almost anything that we can imagine. It is truly lovely to have a soft cabled sweater and a cup of something warm and sweet to drink while these conversations are happening. A thick pair of socks or a handy lap blanket (or lap critter) adds to the cozy atmosphere and gives a boost to our creativity. After the harvest, somewhere between the start of school and mid-terms, and before the holiday season takes most of our attention, we turn inward and a lot of our most creative ideas come out.

So while the season is cooling, let’s get out there and… turn inward. Who knows, maybe you’ll think of the solution for world peace! Or maybe you’ll just figure out what to get Uncle Jim for Christmas. Either way, worth the effort.

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I can haz accomplishment

I am an English teacher. On forced sabbatical at the moment, perhaps, but I am an English teacher. Moreover, I’m the daughter, niece, and granddaughter of editors, and just about everyone in my family compulsively edits everything and everyone around them. We are so known for this that friends and even family members purposely misuse words just to bug us (FUNNER IS NOT A WORD, COREY!!!). Ahem.

Netspeak

Whole phrases condensed down to three characters.

As a result, most people would assume that I am not a fan of netspeak. The shortening of words or substitution of numbers for letters so they are easier for people to type (especially on phones) has invaded every part of our written society. I have actually had to correct netspeak out of research papers, though not much.

Many think it’s a sign of laziness. Many also believe that it will cause kids to grow up not understanding how to write or spell anything because they are too used to abbreviations or substitutions and don’t understand that netspeak is not an appropriate form of communication in many settings. It has been suggested that netspeak and text speak will ruin all of the hard work of literacy programs for this current generation.

I don’t agree with any of those nay-sayers. Not only did I grow up in the generation that wrote the first netspeak, but I also have been part of the generation that has made texting a crucial technology for survival. I was one of the first people I know who knew where “I can haz cheeseburger” came from.

Studies have shown exactly the opposite effect to what aforementioned nay-sayers think will happen. This upcoming generation is one of the most literate, though perhaps not the best read. They spend their lives looking at text, most of which has automatic spell checkers actively looking for spelling and grammatical errors. Many of my students have had better grammatical skills than I have, and I have personally noticed a drop in misspellings and grammatical errors in un-edited papers that I’ve graded.

I also have always been fascinated by language and the ways it changes or stays the same. I would often tell people that I was going to college to get an English degree so that I could make up words.

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The Munchkin compels you!

So netspeak is just another form of communication. One that has its place in the world. One that really doesn’t belong some places, but that can be a really fun tool for those who are interested in using it. One should always be prepared, though, and find out how BEST to use it before they start spouting ‘L33t Sp34k’ or typing with numbers. I am an English teacher, after all, and I always encourage learning proper communication.

Tx 4 da r34d!

Not-So-Back-To-School

I think I’ve mentioned on here that I went back to college with the intention of teaching. We have four or five colleges within reasonable commuting distance (I’ve driven most of an hour to get places from home for most of my life).

 

Pile of books and a laptop with an apple on top. http://straubroland.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/education_technology- resized-600.png

Books, technology, and fuel. Not necessarily in order of importance.

 

On a whim (or an empty bank account, anyway), I applied for a teaching position about six years ago and didn’t have the credentials to actually get it. That was when I realized that I really wanted to teach. This desire came as quite a surprise for me since I had spent five years of my Undergraduate career explaining to everyone that I was a writer and that I was NOT intending to teach.

I explored these feelings a bit more and realized further that I really believe that teaching is the way to make our world a better place. Teaching children to not hate someone out of fear or a misplaced sense of entitlement. Teaching people in our isolated part of the country that it’s important to reach out and become a part of the greater world surrounding us. Teaching and learning from a group of people who might not even LIKE English class.

Through Graduate school and a little bit after, I got to exercise those muscles and expand on the answer to, “Why is education so important?” I took entire classes that helped me figure out how to teach what I think my students need to know. I taught some incredible people how and why to have confidence on the page.

And it was just as awesome as I thought it would be. I was in a community and a position where I felt like I belonged and was doing something really important.

Misty 1st Avenue by Kathryn Morski. https://kathrynsopinion.wordpress.com/

The future is a little foggy

And now… I’m not. First I explored why I really really want to teach and finding all of those reasons to go back to school (taking the time a money to prepare myself for this career) and then I actually got to experience teaching. I loved the connection and education of a room full of people. Now, it is really hard for me to be in what I see as a holding pattern.

I understand that jobs in my specific line of work aren’t that easy to come by and I will have to be patient. I know that looking back I will probably be glad that I am not teaching three college classes right now while my children are small and need so much of my attention and focus. I keep thinking that maybe this is so I will take more time to work on my own projects (maybe finish my novel or get my Etsy page running) before I have to devote so much energy and attention to a classroom again. Or maybe I just need this time to focus again and reinforce myself.

Whatever the reason, I am not teaching at the moment, which is making this impending fall somewhat bitter-sweet. I love the change that the season brings even without the excitement of a new semester. It’s not gone, it’s just different.

 

Reading…

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Actual picture of my bookcase. Note the vases and general crap in front of all the books.

I have a confession to make.

I have not read a physical book of more than 25 pages since I graduated from Grad School.

Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. I had to re-read The Hunger Games in order to teach it to my class last fall, and I’ve picked up various books to start reading them since then, but I haven’t really had/taken the time to actually read a book for my own pleasure.

Not that I haven’t been reading. I read at least ten books a day — Of the cardboard variety. And, of course, I read articles and posts online on my computer and on my phone all the time. Articles are much easier put down when someone shouts from the other room that she needs help wiping herself. The article doesn’t lose its place so that I have to re-read the same paragraph each of the five times I go back to it over the course of the three hours it takes me to finish reading it.

I haven’t thought much about this fact in a while. I read a lot while in college, of course, but not so much in grad school. I had less time and more going on outside of school to deal with. I read all of the books I needed to for school and loved it, but I didn’t really take the time to read anything that wasn’t assigned to me.

Another fact has become increasingly apparent to me, and I think the two are probably related: I haven’t been writing. Other than Facebook updates and things that are necessary for basic communications, I haven’t been writing on my novel, any songs, on any short stories, or here (as I’m sure you’ve noticed). And while the last couple of posts here have been about living my life and being okay with being away from my online presence, I think that this is something that I need to address in my life.

Because let’s face it, I still have a lot to say. I still have things I want to say to the world. I still have characters and stories and ideas in my head that are trying to get out. But these things aren’t going to find an outlet or a road into the greater world without a little help. Words pave these roads and blast through the mountains of doubt and writer’s block. Ideas help fuel the energy to bring incorporeal things to life, to create, to birth.

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“Thanksgiving” cactus blooming at MorSkies Ranch

 

So in order to do justice to the voices in my head, I am going to try to focus back on my creativity. Writing has always been a big part of my life, but I’m not feeding it in the same way that I did. Without reading and putting in words and ideas, I’m not getting anything out. Anything that isn’t nurtured and taken care of isn’t going to flourish.

I’m just hoping that what I have is a cactus that simply needs a little water to bloom.

Life training is job training

As I hang out with my fourteen month old daughter and watch her alternate between playing with the puppy and eating the de-husked pieces of popcorn that I’m leaving for her (sometimes both at once as she feeds the popcorn to the puppy), a sentence occurs to me that is one of those great truths that we come up with once in a while:

Being a mother is being everything to everyone, all the time… and on half the sleep.

<img src=" http://mybabyexperience.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/motherhood-quotes.jpg&quot;

Now I know that this blog is supposed to be about writing and teaching and learning, but that's exactly why my kid, husband, puppy, and kitty (and mom, and dad, and brother, and in-laws and…) all make appearances. I do think that a lot of what I have learned being a wife and mother is helping prepare me for whatever is ahead of me in the classroom. If you have experience being a mother or mother figure, you know that you have be be prepared for people with different needs and perspectives, and you have to be able to change up what you're doing with no warning.

Teaching someone who can't talk, and who you can't tell if they understand anything you are teaching them, is certainly good training for teaching any one. You have to think of so many different ways to explain things including visual and auditory, and you can't just rely on the text book. You can't expect the pupil to conform to your way of teaching, you have to figure out how the pupil learns the best and go with that. You have to try to cover all of the bases and teach everything that you can think of that might possibly apply, then you have to let go and watch what happens. And let's not forget the innate ability of babies and toddlers to turn any adult goofy.

Now, that's not to say that you should hold the hand of every one of your students and spend every waking moment working on new and different ways to write you assignments, but a little creativity and fun go a long way to helping your students figure out how they learn best. I had the great good fortune to be home schooled for most of my formative years, and that helped me figure out how I learn best. Unfortunately, most of your students will have gone through a standard school system with overworked teachers and strict requirements that don't allow a great deal of creative thinking or exploration. The best teachers, the ones that your students look up to and remember years after graduation, will be the ones who were creative and exploratory, anyway.

I'm not saying that everyone should run right out and find a baby to raise, but there are opportunities for everyone to mother or mentor.  If you take these opportunities, not only will they often look really good on a resume, but they will help enrich your life and teaching experience, as well. Every teaching experience is also a learning experience, and should be appreciated for it.

And going to college was the second best test for how much I could get done on too little sleep…