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.

 

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…

A misery shared…

Just kidding. Writing isn’t a misery… most of the time.

image Porter and Menolly, working hard at the “Learning Farm”

What I am laughingly trying to say is that if you’re having a hard time writing, you might consider a different approach: collaboration. It is amazing how much I can get hashed out just talking to a trusted friend or loved one about a story, and if the person you’re talking to has a vested interest in what you are writing, as in it’s their writing too, so much the better.

One of the tenants of first year English at the college level is workshop and collaborative writing. It always gets mixed results, and there hasn’t been any project structure that can account for all of the potential problems with group projects, but when it works, it is one of the greatest learning and writing experiences that you can get.

Now, most students have had a very bad group experience in school, and very few have had great ones. There is often one person in the group that is a leader and does most of the work, one who is a follower and will basically do the least amount of work to get a decent grade, and one person in the group who simply doesn’t show up. There are ways for individuals in groups to try and keep the work load and participation balanced, but so few students know these tactics or how to employ them, so they just go through the project as quickly as they can and keep their head down hoping for a passing mark.

This, of course, is not why teachers assign group work. If nothing else, seeing how other people view your work and getting their feedback on it is one of the best things to happen to any writer. While you might be writing for yourself, if you ever intend to be published, you are writing for an audience, too. If you don’t have any idea what the audience thinks about your work, you don’t know how to give the audience what they want.

On the collaboration front, if you have more than one mind working on a project, you’re guaranteed to get something more creative and more interesting to more people. You simply can’t get away from the fact that someone else will look at your writing with another perspective and other ideas will come to them that wouldn’t have necessarily come to you. If you’re actively trying to put your individual spin on a piece, you’ll get something even better because your separate perspectives are focused in one direction.

There are a couple of different ways that you can collaborate that are advantageous, and I’m sure you can come up with new ways, as well. You can write the entire story together, each pick a character or a couple of characters, switch off chapters, even one of you come up with character development and another work on plot while a third is creating the world. There are all kinds of ways for writers and creative minds to inspire each other and come up with great work.

So you might groan when a teacher assigns you group work, but there are a lot of great reasons to complete it, not the least of which is that you will probably have to do group work in the ‘real’ world, as well. And you never know, maybe this will be the group that changes your mind about group work?

And yes, this post was inspired by watching two one-year-olds (see the picture!).

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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