I turned 50 this last weekend and thanks to Rachel (my wife), I had one of the nicest birthdays of my life, maybe the nicest. First, she let me buy a new part for my bike, a compact carbon crank, but that wasn't one of the things that really make her such a great partner in life. But it was sure a step in the right direction. I'd be crazy to say otherwise.
I took in my first batch of English 101, generically known as first year composition, essays on Friday, and right off the bat, plagiarism. I wrote about this before, and that ended up as part of a CCC article, which I kinda didn't like in the way I was portrayed, but I'm over that. this is, of course, a different student and a different class. I think every time I get an obvious example of plagiarism, and this one is, I'm going to write about it.
Friday night we attended a local production of The Foreigner, a play about a man who just wants to be left alone while away from home, so he pretends he can't speak English. He is on holiday with a friend who has to go away and work, and as the foreigner lives among the locals, somewhere in the deep south of Georgia, he acquires, in his words, a personality. Spokane has several theater companies that do first rate work, and the Civic Theater where we saw the production, is one of the.
Today was the third day of the new term, so I have about 70 new student names to learn and three different classes to get ready for each day. While three preps is a good bit of work, I took that over teaching two of the same class, because those two would likely be English 101, first year college composition, and as much as I enjoy teaching, and even reading and responding to student work, though not always, having two classes of essays is just too much for me to enjoy. It's more like I have to endure.
It's almost funny that several months ago I was entranced with the new snowfall, totally psyched up to put the studded tires on my bike so I could commute in the snow. Maybe the excitement is because the winter would be relatively short lived, at least in a sense, and spring would be coming, and I would be able to get a little skiing done in the meanwhile. But I've long since tired of skiing (which I enjoy, but at nearly 50, is tough on the knees), took the studs off the bike, and had myself all psyched up to get some miles in over spring break. That didn't happen.
Spring break is wrapping up, with just a few days until Spring term begins. I teach in a quarter system, which means three terms during the traditional school year and a summer term as well, which is optional for faculty. What this means is winter term/quarter ends, we get a week off, and spring term/quarter begins. During the so-called break, I, and I assume many others in the same boat, work from home getting ready for the new classes.
My generation, bay-bee; my generation bay-bee. Hope I just don't fade awaaay . . .
Perhaps I protest too much, but I am a month shy of turning 50. As I told a colleague, at the very least I must now admit to, or concede, middle age, which means I plan on living to 100, though I have no idea how I'll afford such a thing. There is a bit of history on my side, with my father's mother living to nearly 103 if my math is correct. But I don't know if I want to live that long, spending my last few years cooped up in a retirement center. But enough of being morose.
This isn't really about the trouble with high school English everywhere and for all times, but for Washington state here and now. I've recently become involved in a project (I'm a very small cog in the machine) that looks to increase the preparedness of high school students when they get to college English. Right now, in Washington state, 44 percent of high school graduates test at the developmental level of college English, which is mostly about their ability to write and respond to non-literary texts.
Here's a link to my most recent publication, a book review of Pedal Power: The Rise of the Bicycle in American Public Life by J. Harry Wray, in a regional publication Out There Monthly. This is the kind of writing I enjoy doing though it's hardly earth shattering (but what really is?) and the money is underwhelming. I'm working on another article for Out There. It's actually more a list of upcoming bicycling events, somewhat like an annotated bibliography, than an actual article, but it's writing of the sort I enjoy much more than the writing I have to do on a daily basis.
In 2000, I voted for Ralph Nader. There, I've outed myself. In some ways, it's not big deal because Bush took the state with a considerable majority, as might have been expected from a state that is a good deal redder than the party rolls might indicate. I've always described a Nevada Democrat as being like a moderate Washington state Republican. The point is, as stupid as I was to have voted for Nader, no "real" harm came from my ballot. It's the ballots cast in the states that were close, Florida and Ohio for instance, that did the damage.