Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Easy Writer

Three weeks and counting. That’s right—exactly three weeks from today classes start at my community college. And just last night, I agreed to take on another section. No big deal, really. I only had one course for the fall, so the second one won’t be an overload. And the subject is exactly the same! So, I decided I had best get moving on writing my syllabus. Problem is—I don’t have the basic composition text book. That prompted me to make a quick trip to campus today. Well, things are in a state of almost readiness. First, the car in front of me has a license plate designed to deter peeping?

(Just in case you can't read it, the license plate says ICUPKIN.)

The campus is quite pretty during the summer. The grounds are always a treat—with master gardens digging away seemingly everywhere. In fact, every year in the late spring, the gardening department holds a kind of Oklahoma land rush on flowers. They take all the extras they have, send out a general email, and invite staff to come with boxes in hand and at the stroke of noon, rush toward the plants and GRAB. Thankfully, no one is displaced, and there are no fatalities.

Ah—here is my building. It houses the English department, along with Theater, Arts and Humanities. So, by campus building standards, it is a little more interesting than the average building.

The signs of readying for classes to begin are everywhere. Painting, painting, painting. Fresh paint signs hang all over the place. The college must have gotten a great deal on rainbow colors, as every door, door jamb, and window sill is painted in a different color.

Entering my office, I see something NEW? What is this? Cool—new computers for everyone. Now, let’s see if I can remember my password. Is it the dog’s name? the cat’s? my children? my husband? Hmmmm—think, think, think. Got it!

Next I check out the classroom. Six rows wide, by five rows deep. This is very important, as every year I draw up a diagram and then fill in student names. Human nature being what it is, we tend to sit in the same seat each time we go back to a public space. (Uh-huh—so, last time you were in church . . .assuming there was a “last” time, did you sit in the same pew?) I rely on this human tendency as a way to learn student names. I fill out the chart for a couple of classes, then keep it handy and as we have discussions, I call on students by name. I once had a fellow instructor tell me he did not know whether or not someone was in his class because he doesn’t bother to learn their names!

Oh great—it is a SMART classroom, for both sections. That absolutely makes my day (and very likely my semester). I use this technology to prepare PowerPoint presentations for students. Another human tendency—if the instructor is lecturing, don’t take notes. If she begins to use a PowerPoint, TAKE NOTES. Don’t ask me why—it is just true.

Finally, the text books. The reader Every Day Everywhere, I have used before and loved. It has such wonderful essays in it as “Sperm in a Jar.” This is one I frequently begin with—after all, you have to get their attention first. And then there is the grammar handbook—Easy Writer—this is what I went to campus to retrieve.

Now, must stop writing blog. . .time to write my syllabus. . .ignore Harry Potter calling my name. . .must write syllabus. . .eyes getting very sleepy. . .must write sylla------zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!


Anvilcloud said...

What a joy to teach in a well equipped room like that.

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

The gardening department plan-grab sounds like Lucy and Ethel at a sale!
I have the same picture on MY desktop!
Your classroom looks so clean and uncluttered.
It's hard to connect with someone who won't or can't learn your name.
I'll bet you're a terrific teacher!

Pam said...

Thank you for the very interesting peek into your world, makes me wish I was back in college.

The flowers are just beautiful.

cat59 said...

I loved reading about your behind the scenes preparation. I hope you will continue to share your experiences preparing for and teaching this semester. Hmmm. . ."Sperm in a Jar." Is that about what I think it's about? (okay; I know that's not a well constructed sentence!). As a student, I always appreciated getting a copy of the PP slides so that I could make notes on the handout during the presentation. Thanks for giving us a peek at your campus!

Cathy said...

Donna, It makes me wish I were headed for a campus. The anticipation of watching your students file in that first day - has to be stimulating. I could smell the polish on the corridor floors. The fresh paint, too.

Hmmm. "Sperm in a Jar". Hmmmm. You're a gutsy lady. I don't think I could say that word aloud sitting in my living room. (Just kidding :0) Maybe.

RuthieJ said...

Hi Donna,
What a pretty campus...sounds like you will enjoy going back to work. I hope you have lots of diligent students in your classes.

Anonymous said...

I read it all and it made me think... as usual Donna makes people react. All of us bloggers are so diverse and different but here we all are... sharing little tiny pieces of the fabric of our lives. I secretly wish I was a writer so I lounge around here on Donna's site. I really liked this piece and hope you will continue to share your teaching experiences with us.

KGMom said...

To all who may be curious about "Sperm in a Jar"--it is a wonderful personal narrative essay written by a woman who was trying to get pregnant. Sadly, this is not a problem too many of my students have. The number of young women in any given class who have had babies--while they themselves were teens--is astounding.

AC--I love the SMART classrooms--they have computers with projectors so I can use the Internet, show PowerPoints, also show movies on DVDs.

Lynne--during the semester, I put a blank screen on my computer with this statement "DO NOT ADD ANYTHING TO THE DESKTOP". I share the computer, and someone downloaded something that added a virus to the mix!

Pam & Cathy--I'll take you! The best students are frequently the noon-traditionals--that is, those who are a bit more mature than teenagers.

RuthieJ--I hope I have diligent students too. Sometimes I do; too often I don't.

Ocean--actually I find writing so easy that it is sometimes hard to understand why my students have writers' block.

KGMom said...

Pam & Cathy--make that the NON-traditional students! Over-eager fingers typing too many OOs.

Cathy said...

That's a hoot! I swear I read 'non-traditional' the first time and never would have known otherwise if not for your last comment.

dmmgmfm said...

Your last sentence made me laugh so hard I scared the cats.

Love the photos too. Thanks.

possumlady said...

Oh, I would love to be a gifted writer, and to teach too! Have you ever read "Writing down the Bones"?

Hurry and read Harry Potter! I need to discuss it with folks!

Mary said...

Thanks for the tour of your beautiful campus! You are fortunate to be located in an artsy building with lots of foliage surrounding it. I'm in a bland building with swat teams, police, and EMTs. LOL!

I always take notes during power points. The bullets help... We always return to the same seats during meetings. Interesting!

Your last comment is hysterical! Did you work on it?

Dorothy said...

Donna I wish I could come be in your class. It's hard to believe it's time for school to start once again.
I've not had a go at Harry Potter yet, but like Mary, now that the dust has settled on the series, I'll have to check him out...as soon as I'm finished with my current book, that is.

dguzman said...

Boy, am I glad I retired from teaching (at age 36!) before the age of PowerPoint. When I was a kid, the whole reason I wanted to be a teacher was to write on the board with chalk!

I'm now back at school myself (Penn State), getting a Forensic Science degree to go with my MA in English. I know--weird--but I want to work in a crime lab.