Sunday, October 21, 2007

Work, a workshop and working my wages.

This week was a little more normal, with no festival, no break and no conferences. Monday was a little unusual, because I went to a workshop for writing teachers. I’m taking a class on teaching college composition, and Professor Neff canceled class so we could all go. I carpooled over to Christopher Newport University in Newport News, VA, with Jacob (the guy in my classes who used to be a helicopter pilot in the army).

He had downloaded an audiobook of North and South, which we’re reading for our 19th Century British Lit class. We listened to it going to and from the workshop. Cheryl Glenn, the woman conducting the workshop, is chair of the Conference on College Composition and Communication. I really liked her presentation. I disagreed on a few fine points, but overall she was great. She modeled the way composition teachers should hold their classes (lively with a lot of student interaction and input). She also had some great grading advice that may save me hours! She suggests we spend time writing comments on, but not grading, drafts. Commenting will be more fun without the pressure of grading, because you're just trying to help the student get better.

Then, when you’re grading the final paper, write the grade and three sentences: I see you were working on ______. You did a great job with ________ and __________. I hope you’ll continue to work on _________. Nice! But what about the rubric, I wondered? (A rubric is a detailed chart rating student performance in various categories to determine the overall grade.) A classmate suggested I use the rubric in conferences. Perfect! I think younger students need a detailed rubric at every step, but for college students…well, they need to get used to their grades being a little mysterious, because few professors provide detailed rubrics.

At the conference, they gave us cookies, free books and the centerpieces. I ended up with a little raffia pumpkin and a flower. (See photo above, left.) It’s so cute. I’ve been wanting a plant, but couldn’t justify the expense. Free flowers, hooray! I’m going to name it. Penelope, maybe? I’m open to suggestions, so please respond with some. Man, I hope I don't kill it.

Tuesday I had a midterm that took longer than usual. I also had to write two poems and write two responses before class at seven. I just barely got it all done. Wednesday I was finishing the first half of North and South. After class, Jake was going to check out a local Peruvian restaurant and asked if I wanted to come with. I agreed, and the food was lovely. Mmmm…steak with bean-infused rice (bean-coated rice? I don’t know how to explain it.) On the side was a chopped salad of tomatoes and red onions and I had a fabulous Peruvian soda that Jake describes as a combination of mountain dew and cream soda. I think it tasted more like the pineapple soda I used to get sometimes in Spanish Harlem.

Jake proposed an interesting idea. He thinks everyone should have to serve the country for two years after high school graduation. You wouldn’t have to sign up for the military (although you could). You could choose a program like the Red Cross or Habitat for Humanity or Americorps. Whatever the program, everyone in America would get to experience discipline and community. Everyone would have a working skill and would have access to undergraduate education after their term of service. I think it’s brilliant. The lack of freedom would be annoying, but there are so many people out there who are convinced they can’t accomplish anything. With a program like this, they would have to. After dinner, I spotted the craziest car in the parking lot.

Thursday I was in full research mode, working on my 19th Century Lit class. We read an excerpt from Eastern Life, Present and Past by Harriet Martineau. In one part of the book, she describes the "hareems" she visited, and when I got home I turned on the TV. “The Girls Next Door,” a “reality show” about life in the Playboy Mansion, was on. The Playboy Mansion was eerily like the harems described in the article.

Martineau described one hazard that befalls any children born in the harem. She wrote that the women had nothing to do all day and longed for affection and attention, so they would pamper and feed a child almost to death...well, no, she said actually to death, but it sounds so xenophobic! Anyway, in the episode I saw, one of Hugh Hefner’s girlfriends had a monkey she was feeding nearly death just so she had someone to take care of and love.

I had to research on line so I could properly site the episode in my paper and find more information that would strengthen my Playboy Mansion/Harem comparison. I think this is the kind of project that makes my dad feel skeptical about the over-educated. The point is, we study the past to better understand our culture and our daily lives. Why are we so fascinated by harems? More on this in the future.

I’ve already written a tome on my online shopping adventure. Since then it’s all been studying. You know, I have some young relatives who read the edited version of this blog once in a while. I sometimes wonder: Am I being a good example to talk so much about money and other material things?

The answer is: Yes! Establishing a healthy relationship with money will helps to establish good credit, live within one's means, save up for important opportunities and buy only what one really needs or really wants. It’s also essential for healthy relationships. (According to a survey by Consumer Credit Counseling Service, “sixty percent of married respondents report fighting about money with their spouse. In addition, nineteen percent said that financial problems negatively affected their relationships with their parents; while thirteen percent said the same was true for their friends.”)

It’s important, but it’s not easy. I’m not going to pretend it is! Right now, my bank account looks like it has plenty of money, but I’ll have to buy Christmas presents before long. I have gigantic NYC taxes to face in April, and I don’t get paid over the summer, so I need enough cash left over to cover three and a half months’ expenses. If I want to go home for the summer, I’ll need money for plane tickets, too. I have to be careful without becoming a miser. Being too miserly will make you just as miserable as being broke (those words are related for a reason). I'm just trying to find the balance. I hope you all find it, too.

So here are my rules: 1- credit cards are only for emergencies, and should be paid off aggressively, and 2- think about tomorrow when spending today. Suze Orman says to ask yourself: Is it kind? Is it necessary? Is it true? If the answer to any of those questions is no, don’t buy it. (For example, take credit card debt. "It's not kind. Is it necessary? You know that it isn't. And if you don't have the money to pay for it outright, it is not true. If you have to put it on a credit card, it's not true." From Oh, how I love that woman and her crazy leather clothes. Her fashion? Sometimes crazy. Her advice? Always brilliant.

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