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!

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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.

 

I know it’s been a while, but…

No, I didn’t intend for this post to be at the end of a long hiatus (not to be pronounced, “Hate-Us”). I’ve been spending the last few weeks with family, friends, looking and applying for day jobs, and trying to get my house in order in case I get one of those day jobs. Somewhere in the middle of it, I remembered that I’d left you all waiting, and suddenly I had a topic for this blog post.

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Ooh, hot fudge...

I can not count how many times I’ve had a blog, a social media site, any kind of writer’s group, or anything where people expect you to participate regularly and I’ve had to say, “I know I haven’t been here/on/posting in a while, but I’m still here, and this is the update of my life!” I don’t now if I’m that busy, that easily bored, or just that easily distracted, but even if I can get into a rhythm of things, I often get off track for a while and have to catch up or apologize because I’ve been gone. (fun fact, rhythm is the only word in the English language without a proper vowel in it!)

The thing is, we’re human, and we’re not going to be perfect. It’s the whole sad truth, but there it is. Even those of us that are driven and punctual have stuff happen and make them late and miss things, or so I’ve been told. Life happens, and we WANT it to happen. So why to we feel so guilty when it does? Why do we feel like we can’t go back to that writer’s group or gym or blog every time we miss a few sessions? Do we really have to cancel membership or start a whole new blog to keep going?

No! We need to get back on that elephant and ride it to the bazaar!

Every time my favorite bloggers and online comics take a break, I am saddened and slightly adrift. At least until I remember how many thousands of other blogs and comics there are on the web. But then when they come back, it’s like Christmas! I get ridiculously excited to see what new things are going to come out of my favorite minds. Sometimes they are whole new projects, sometimes just new things that are informed by what those minds were doing that took them away in the first place.

And that’s the thing about having a life — it might take you away from what you want to do for awhile, but it almost always brings you back to it, and it will add depth and interesting things to whatever it is once you’ve returned. “A writer – and, I believe, generally all persons – must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource,” said Jorge Louis Borges. So appreciate those resources when they happen and for however long it takes to happen. Just make sure you tell us all about it when you get back.

Henry David Thoreau said, “How vain it is to sit down and write when you have not stood up to live.” If that means that writers need to take a little time off for living, do it! Now to apply that same pep talk to my yoga practice…

“Hi, I’m Caitlin, and I’m a writer…”

This is your cue to chorus back, “Hi Caitlin.”

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David H. from strobist.blogspot.com, "Book Club"

Again, I am being facetious (and if you don’t know what that word means, you should go look it up). While this post is about support for you and your writing, I don’t really think that every writer should be part of a twelve step program. While Anton Chekhov said “If you can not write, don’t,” (well, it has been attributed to many different people, but I heard it was Checkov), I don’t really see it as something we need to recover from in that way.

What I am talking about is support for you so you can write. If you have to take care of a day job, a night job, full time schooling, children, parents, a spouse, a house, a roommate… or any  combination of these things, you probably find it difficult to find time to write. While we have all heard about the people who have all or most of those things and still manage to eke out the best novel of the year that wins a dozen awards before it’s even published, it is much easier to write if you have help with the rest of your life.

This occurs to me this week as I celebrate my wonderful family for many different reasons. My daughter turned one, my grandfather is turning 89, my brother is turning 34, my dog and cat are both turning two, and it’s mother’s day, so we’re just partying as often as humanly possible. I am planning or helping to facilitate many of these parties. I stole time away while I’m baking a birthday cake to write this (hooray mutlitasking).

Obviously every parent needs some sort of support just for life, and if you can use that support to help you write, then you don’t really need this post. If it’s never occurred to you to use that support to help you write, then maybe you should start there and figure out if maybe grandma and grandpa can take the little ones for a few hours every Tuesday and Thursday or something like that. I see it as a blessing and a necessity for every writer to have someone who supports and validates their work.

And to that end, I would say that if you don’t have a very supportive family, you should seek out other like minded individuals. When I was in college, I had a group of friends who were all English-ly inclined, and we decided that we were interested in reading each others’ work and getting feedback on our own in a less formal setting. We started Girl’s Write Out, and we had a great time getting together, reading and commenting, generally kibitzing, and drinking too much coffee. It is pretty likely that someone in your area already had this idea, and there is some sort of writer’s group around that you can investigate joining.

It is important to be careful about the writer’s group that you join because some groups are far too critical of everyone’s work and some far too little. You really need to sit in on a few sessions, maybe ask them a little bit about your own work, and feel out if they are a good fit. While it’s a huge benefit to be in a group that you work well with, a bad writer’s group is much worse than not having a writer’s group at all.

Writing can be too solitary an exercise, and a writer’s group can not only help you move out of your shell and improve your writing, but often it helps you network and meet people who can help you with editing, publishing, and maybe even some day, cover art.

Back to the Basics

It’s a good idea to revisit what we already know to be true. One of the things that I have been blessed to do in the last two years is take another look at the building blocks of English writing in academia, mostly from a ‘how do I help these students understand what I mean’ perspective. I do think that this closer look at something that I feel like I have known forever has made me a better writer and student myself, and I was surprised to see how often these ideas and techniques came up in my graduate level classes, too.

But now I’ve graduated and have yet to find a teaching job, so what am I doing?

Going back to the basics.

Basics in almost every way. In career ways, I am on a job search like I haven’t done since I was first in the job market. I do have more experience and I have more skills, but the availible jobs don’t seem to have changed much.

Also back to basics in the things I am doing to keep busy and maybe make some money in the meantime. At least basics for me. I am going back to my original idea that if I am going to make money in a creative way, I’d better have more than one creative endeavor. I’m revisiting my novel, for instance, and digging out the notes that I’ve gotten back on it. It’s time for that fourth draft (watch this space)!

I’m crafting again: beadwork, knitting, and crocheting. These were originally taken on as a hobby, but it made sense to try to add that to the list of things I could do to make money. Shameless plug #2: Check out my Etsy page!

We’re planning on doing music again, as well. The summer reading program is about science, which isn’t exactly spot on with our stuff, but we certainly don’t dislike science-y songs, we just need to learn some. And we can get back into songwriting in the schools, as well, with a little more official paper to back us up (as in, my MA, of course).

And then there’s the basics in my personal life: my family. I changed my verbiage just a couple weeks ago. Instead of “I’m unemployed since I graduated.” I switched to, “I’m a stay-at-home mom since I graduated.” I remembered that we were expecting me to have a little bit of a wait before a job opened up for me, and the complete gift that I am getting from this is getting to stay home with my daughter who is almost a year old. Anyone who is a parent says, “Enjoy it, this won’t last!” and I am very grateful to have the time with her while she is small.

And you want to talk about basics, there is nothing more basic than helping a child grow and learn. How do you help the child learn to talk if you aren’t sure how many words the child understands? Can you start a child learning to read before they can talk? How can you help them learn more than one language at once? I expect to get many great ideas and stories for my classroom from this kid.

So for now, I’m focused close to home and working out my building blocks for the next step. But don’t worry, I’ll still have stuff to say here, so you won’t miss out!

(not like you’ve been missing out for the last year while I was busy finishing my degree and having a baby.)

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