Sunday, June 29, 2008

Thinking of Big Sur

I've been watching the news about the Basin fire in Big Sur with great sadness. I love that area. The region is the most beautiful place I've ever visited, and I sometimes think that my love of nature comes from childhood trips to the sea, particularly this region. When I left Sacramento earlier this month, I took the coastal route back down to San Diego and took a few photos. I hope you enjoy and send positive thoughts to the firefighters, not only in Big Sur, but in all of California, battling a fire season that has started too early and unprecedentedly aggressively.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Nobody's basement

Last month, much beloved Kirsten forwarded an article from The Atlantic Monthly to me to get my opinion, and it has been a recent topic of discussion on Female Science Professor's blog. The title of the article is "In the Basement of the Ivory Tower" and supposedly is about the "destructive myth" that college is for everyone. It is written by an anonymous part-time instructor (Professor X) at a "college of last resort." First of all, I agree with the notion that not everybody needs a college education. I think a good debate about society's attitude towards higher education is in order. I think a discussion of how institutions of higher education continue to take money from students who need remediation without providing them such is warranted. However, that isn't really what this article is about, and it horrifies me that people may read this article and agree with the author. I'm going to highlight some of the comments from the article and address them with my experiences.

By colleges of "last resort", the author means a small private college and a community college that he teaches at. He describes the student population: "Mine are the students whose applications show indifferent grades and have blank spaces where the extracurricular activities would go." Because we all know that university students are NEVER like that. Let's see... in my community college experience, I've had students who volunteer at clinics and emergency rooms, work as tutors, are members of national honors societies, etc... And I'm particularly proud of those with "indifferent grades" who come in and live up to the expectations I place upon them.

Another quote from the article:

"Ms. L. had done everything that American culture asked of her. She had gone back to school to better herself, and she expected to be rewarded for it, not slapped down. She had failed not, as some students do, by being absent too often or by blowing off assignments. She simply was not qualified for college."

Why isn't she qualified? Especially for Professor X's discipline of English, which Ms. L. would have been required to take in high school, it seems to me that Ms. L. was let down by her K-12 education. Is that necessarily all her fault? Perhaps she didn't put in appropriate effort in high school, true, or perhaps she was just funneled along like so many of the students I see with math deficiencies.

And then later: "I knew that Ms. L.’s paper would fail. I knew it that first night in the library. But I couldn’t tell her that she wasn’t ready for an introductory English class. I wouldn’t be saving her from the humiliation of defeat by a class she simply couldn’t handle. I’d be a sexist, ageist, intellectual snob."

So basically Professor X doesn't want to do his job. He could have referred her to a remedial English class, one that doesn't count towards a degree, but would have prepared Ms. L. to then take his introductory English class. I've had this discussion, and it isn't pretty. I've had to tell students, "No, I'm not teaching the class too hard. YOU don't have the math skills necessary for this course. Come back when you have made up your deficiencies." It's an awful confrontation, but I've had a few cases where I've seen these students later, after they have obtained the necessary remediation, and they've thanked me for it.

But for me, this is the statement that demonstrates that this article is NOT about whether college is for all.

"Our presence together in these evening classes is evidence that we all have screwed up."

I think I've made my feelings clear about my evening classes. Being in my night-time classes does not mean any of my students have screwed up. And, I haven't screwed up either. I have often weighted my schedule towards teaching in the evening, even while full-time and tenured. I'm sorry that Professor X is so miserable, but I'm even sorrier that he takes it out on his students. How can he possibly give the students the education that they are asking him for, when he is full of self-loathing and despises them?

I just want to make sure that my students know this: we are in nobody's basement. And, if you feel low, I will do my best to bring you higher and will never resent making the effort.

Monday, June 23, 2008


I had my first teaching anxiety dream for the Fall semester last night. The anxiety always boils down to lack of preparation, so I guess it's time to buy a new teaching planner and get ready for fall. I do wish my subconscious would have waited til July, though!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Lakers are Losers!

Hee hee hee! I'm so happy! Go away, Kobe!

Congrats to KG for his championship, to Ray Allen hitting all those threes, and to Paul Pierce, who really won me over during this series.

I'd also like to point out that the owner of the Phoenix Suns traded away the rights to Rajon Rondo, and I've never been more upset about that.

Kobe lost, yay!!!!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Don't ask...

And, from Jackie:

Okay, if you must know, I'm the blue one, and K is an absolute genius costumer.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Sacramento moments

Summer gold coastal range to the west, lingering snow dusting the Sierra to the east, old shady trees, large meandering rivers.... Sacramento.

I accompanied my mother to my father's grave on what would have been their 52nd wedding anniversary. He passed away almost nine years ago. She said, "I didn't think I would live more than a year after he was gone." I told her that I was happy she was still around. She said that she was, too.

I had an interesting discussion with my newly-diabetic brother about his, um, qualms about injections. I'm glad he's doing well so far.

My almost-three-year old grand-nephew is acquiring a good vocabulary, but still doesn't string together many long sentences. He did, however, look at my car and then said to my mom, "Her car is dirty." Yup, I inspire educational leaps in my own special way!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Home cooking

Mom's house

In attendance:
3 nieces
1 toddler grand-nephew

The food:
baked beans w/ham
baked beans w/o meat
potato salad
macaroni salad
caesar salad
green salad
au gratin potatoes
rosemary potato bread
dinner rolls
peach pie
lemon pie

This is why I shouldn't go home more than once a year.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

No bandwagon

By rooting for the Celtics, I have not jumped on a bandwagon. I have always despised the Lakers and have always had a little lust in my heart for KG. Just so we all have that straight.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Vacation Day

Woke up this morning at a decent hour, around 9 am. Not too bad for vacation. We went to a bookstore, where we spotted SarahP's book in the wild! The Magic Thief was released today. I've read it, loved it, and heartily recommend it for kids and adults alike. Have food nearby while you read it, trust me.

Then we had a nice lunch, eating grilled mahi tacos at a bar by the beach. To walk off the tasty tacos, we ventured out onto Sunset Cliffs. There's a storm front offshore, so the waves were big and billowy.

Greg was enjoying himself.

Me, too.

We ran some errands. I spent the afternoon drinking hot chocolate and doing sudoku. I exchanged a few emails with a student from this past semester who is thinking of becoming an astronomer. (Bwah ha ha!) Later I decided that I needed a few more things for dinner, so I walked to the grocery store. Here's the view on my walk back home:

Can you tell I like living near the water? And I really like vacation.