Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I Like It; Yes, I Do

After years of telling students, "Don't use the semi-colon. You don't know how, and I don't think it's really that necessary," I have finally decided that I actually DO find a semi-colon, now and then, a little bit necessary. The thing is, I just didn't understand how to use them. That was an okay excuse for a while, but my students soon began to pester me. "Semi-colons are going out of style" simply wasn't enough to keep them from wanting to use them; thus, I had to learn the usage and merit of the semi-colon.

I had cleverly fashioned my policy regarding this mark of punctuation after taking a class with Dr. Nasheeb Shaheen, who said, more than once, "A semi-colon is a weak period," in his characteristic drone. That was enough for me to decide that, in addition to the fact that I didn't really know how to use one anyway, the semicolon needed to be absent from my writing life.

However, it kept coming back, poking its nose into my business, rearing its ugly head. Too often I marked in bright purple ink (I refuse to use red when grading papers) "DON'T USE SEMICOLONS," on a student's work; too often I repeated the narrative of my time with Dr. Shaheen to students that asked how to use a semi-colon. The Guardian even published an article on the fate of this grammatical tool: The End of the Line?

I finally had to relent; my clever avoidance of the issue was not sufficient. I have slowly begun to explore the world of the semi-colon. I have dipped my toes into the waters of punctuating creative expression. I have opened my heart to the frontier.

As some woman I read about said:

Sadly, anyone lazily looking for an excuse not to master the colon and semicolon can always locate a respectable reason, because so many are advanced. Here are some of the most common:

1. They are old-fashioned.

2. They are middle-class.

3. They are optional.

4. They are mysteriously connected to pausing.

5. They are dangerously addictive ...

6. The difference between them is too negligible to be grasped by the brain of man.

Lynne Truss

Hey lady: Don't use a comma with "because" unless the dependent clause comes at the beginning of the sentence. Gees.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Here is Something That I Have Been Thinking About

I was on Central yesterday, stopped at a red light at East Parkway, and there were kids with orange warning cones, a white piece of poster board with "North Memphis Tigers Football" scribbled on it with a black marker, and just, you know, open hands, walking up to cars and asking for money for their team. I'm sorry, but when did pan-handling become okay for Jr. sports? When I played mean...when I participated in extracurricular activities (band, choir, academics), we sold things that were sponsored by fund raising companies. It was a business. People got good products and were able to give a little bit of money to our programs. It doesn't work for bums downtown, why should it work for kids on street corners? When did we decide that cutting out the middle-man and training kids to beg for money was a good idea? I don't know a lot about economics, okay, I don't know ANYTHING, but I know that this is kind of ridiculous. NO, not kind of, it is totally ridiculous. Now, homeless people have to compete with kids that want to play football for money at stoplights. Is there no justice in the world?

I have a problem with this.

I also have a problem with kids going into a grocery store, buying candy for fifty cents a pop, and then selling it to me for two dollars to help out their little league. Again, isn't that just like, I don't know, scalping tickets? Instead of encouraging kids to panhandle and/or scalp, why can't we encourage them to, I don't know, learn something useful? If I sell $50 of these special candy bars, I get $30 dollars donated to my cause, and I get a t-shirt, or something. I mean..isn't that like, retail experience? I'm trying to work this out in my head. Somebody help me out here.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Pop Up

You know what I wish? I wish that adobe acrobat would leave me the hell alone. Honestly. I can't count how many times I try to do something on my computer while Adobe tries to get me to "make it better." I'd like to enjoy it the way it is, thank you very much.

Another thing that keeps popping up in my life, and in my mind, is this sinking feeling that I have no say in my future. I suppose that's a little fatalistic of me. I try to take control of situations, only to feel, invariably, that I have no say in what happens next. I'm becoming what Emerson became: a cynic. C'est la vie.

I can never pump myself enough to sit down and grade papers. I suppose I should find some way to enjoy this if I want to continue my career in this direction. I have to sift through a ginormous pile of papers for a pretty long time this weekend. I feel overworked and underappreciated. It is also magnificent outside. I'm rested, and the sun is shining, but instead of going on outings, I've got to sit in the back yard and grade papers. If only I could pay someone to do it for me...If only I had the clout of a true professor.

I'm currently waiting for the kitchen floor to dry. It might be almost there.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Three Weeks Left

I have been teaching Developmental English at Southwest Tennessee Community College for twelve weeks now, and I have just recently discovered the key to getting the attention I have been battling for. As much as I hate lecturing and turning my back on my audience, I have started writing everything I say on the board, and the classroom has never been more quiet. Someone in their study skills class must be telling them the old truth that you should write down everything that the teacher puts on the board because it is probably important. Maybe I just didn't think that everything I had to say was important until now. They sit on the edge of their seats, their pens and pencils poised in their hands, with baited breath, awaiting the next nugget of priceless information about how to successfully conclude an essay.

Then, of course, their are those that are texting. Next semester, I'm going to be a hard ass about the phones. I'm pretty good at ignoring it, but there are some students that just get under my skin. I'm going to start taking their phones, just quietly walking up to them and taking their phones. I've spent too much time this semester getting my feelings hurt. It's difficult teaching a DIFFERENT class every damn semester. I never get a chance to improve my strategy. I figure out what works by the end of the semester, and I have to learn a new class. It makes me want to shave my head, set myself on fire, and run around laughing hysterically. Okay...maybe not. It pretty much just makes me want to drink a lot of whiskey. That's about it.

I have recently rid myself of an annoying skin problem. I feel like a new woman. I am now going to finish my coffee and look over my lesson for today. What's going on with you guys?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Once a month

Have you ever stood at the edge of a cliff, or on the roof of a tall building and been terrified? I'm not afraid of heights, but I do, at least once during a visit to the top of a mountain or a rooftop, get a quick flash of terror as I contemplate my capabilities. It wouldn't take more than a slip of the foot, or leaning forward a little too far to send me tumbling to my death. This is what makes me tremble. This is what makes me catch my breath and take a step back. As much as I enjoy life, enjoy the rise and fall of the days, it doesn't take much to send me tumbling down the mountain, and it's rarely a slip of the foot. It's almost always a lean just a little too far. I arrive at the apex of a situation, lean forward because the view just isn't quite good enough, and I'm gone.

I feel fine. I am fine, but I feel like I'm tumbling down a mountainside. I don't feel so much as if I'm in a free fall, I just feel like I'm tumbling, bumping things, scraping myself up, praying that I don't hit my head. There's more time to think while tumbling, or maybe there's less time to think. Perhaps there is more time to think when in a free fall. I imagine myself holding my breath, thinking of all the ways I could have avoided leaning too far forward, looking back up at the roof-top, waiting to make contact with the earth. I say I'm tumbling because the fall may not be as hard. I am in contact with the earth as I fall, and I may find a small plateau to catch me before I do any more damage in tumbling, a precipice that will allow me to dust myself off and continue up the mountain. It's almost humorous in my mind, like Homer Simpson falling off a cliff and slamming into everything trying to find something to grab onto. I've done this, I've looked too far, and now, as I should have known, I'm tumbling.

I've been in a free fall before, I know what that feels like. I know that terror. This is less terrifying, and I don't know why.

We are all just one step away from tumbling down the mountain. We are all just one inch away from a free-fall. I guess that's what makes life so exciting. I guess that's why we climb mountains or visit the roof-tops of the tallest buildings. It gives us a clear picture of our capabilities.

Dude, do not slip.