Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas was wonderful. My mother's cream of mushroom soup outshines the finest chef's. But our holidays continue. Tonight it's back to Samsonville (kind of feel like we are on an elastic band like one of Ande's new toys, being stretched and snapped back on the Thruway). Tomorrow we are off to Long Island to see Bob's family; it's his mother's birthday today. We are going to meet friends and spend the night here. Yay! Indoor pool! Then back to Samsonville on Sunday. My brother is having a New Year's Eve party, and then on New Year's Day, we head back to Castleton. (So I'm not sure whether I will post, although I do have the resources to do it from Samsonville. But I rarely have the inclination.) Then, January is filled with birthdays so celebrations continue.

Monday, December 24, 2007

I probably won't post tomorrow so...

Merry Christmas

Christmas Eve! I have a short list of tasks to do today. Finish making a handmade gift that's almost done, wrap a couple of remaining gifts, bake two apple pies, and cook dinner.

For the first time in the 20 years I have lived in Castleton, I am going to be able to go to mass at Sacred Heart Church on Christmas Eve. The reason is that although we are going to Samsonville tomorrow (and then back here the day after), this year Bob decided to work today and instead of being on the road, we are traveling to Long Island to visit his family over the weekend. Usually, I go to mass for Christmas wherever I am - so that might be a church I have never stepped foot in before, or occasionally, to St. Augustine's, where I went as a kid, and where I go when I am in Samsonville. But since I prefer to go on Christmas Eve, usually I am either in Long Island, or we make a mad dash to be back in Samsonville by midnight, and I scramble to find a midnight mass somewhere (Occasionally, I go to St. Augustine's on Christmas morning - but usually they only have a 6 pm mass on Christmas Eve which I miss).

So I am so excited!! I don't consider myself "devout" exactly - although I do go to church every Sunday and it means a lot to me. I consider religion to be a private matter, and I rarely talk about my faith, or the beliefs of others. I don't judge or disrespect. However, I am turned off by what I consider to be the excessively materialistic focus of this holiday. It's hard to not judge or disrespect consumerism as God. Even movies that people consider Christmas classics such as Miracle on 34th Street have an offensively material message - yet pretend to be reverent.

Full disclosure: I am pretty anti-consumerist as it is. Separate from any religious discussion, I tell my students in Toleration class that a test of my tolerance is materialism. I disapprove of it, but I believe people have a right to that lifestyle if they want and so I must tolerate it. It is a good example for Toleration because students often get stuck by the idea that toleration does not equal celebrating diversity and that idea bothers them. I think this is because toleration has religious roots, and now is viewed as a sort of cultural/social concept. So my anti-material viewpoint is appealing to students and sparks them to consider that there are still many things in society that we may not like but should tolerate, although we do not have to "celebrate" them.

Anyway, back to Christmas Eve. Some years I am worn out, and go into the traveling and gift wrapping exhausted. It all seems like just one more chore. Oh, I still enjoy seeing family and going to church, but overall, the season doesn't do a lot for me. But this year is different. I got some rest. And I am psyched to go to mass here. The snow, the very modest but carefully selected gifts I bought, the lovely trees (I'll put up a picture of both after the holiday - we have a fresh cut one from the local boy scouts in Castleton, and a cedar from our yard in Samsonville), the wonderful cards (not a huge number, just enough for me to be able to exchange without it being an enormous task), the anticipation of seeing family, and most of all - Christmas Eve mass at Sacred Heart Church. It is really making Christmas extra special for me this year.

Those comments from my students helped too. I got two emails, by the way, from an A- student and a C- student, demanding a breakdown (which I always send, but I like to take a few days off, and wait until late in the month or early next month).

Friday, December 21, 2007

I am done with grades!! I finished at 8:30 last night (the deadline was 11:59 pm). Every semester I wonder why I have designed such complicated measures for evaluation. I know it works well, but it takes a lot of effort on my part.

One task at the end of the semester is that I tally up 11 peer assessment spreadsheets in my classes. I had 100 students between my 4 classes. Each student participates in peer assessment three times (for the online class, 19 students, it is twice). A couple of days ago - during a 14 hour stretch as I was power entering, looking up from the student's form to the screen (I am getting to the point in my life where I need reading glasses, after always having 20/20 vision, priding myself on it and considering the wearing of glasses to be a moral failing - I haven't a problem with grey hair, but glasses! I will forget them, lose them, drop them in the garden, sit on them, step on them, the puppy or kitten will get them, ...) I am wearing my glasses, and for paper with small type they are dandy, but they make it difficult to see the screen (my distance vision is still one of those 20s) after hours and hours of entry I am getting dizzy, nauseous, maybe even delirous. I try to not look through the glasses when I enter, but then I have to switch, because I can't see the numbers on the forms I printed out without them. The nauseous delirium turns into a touch of claustrophobia. This room is VERY small and it seems like it gets dark at about 3 in the afternoon.

So I decide to switch to a reading task instead. I don't accept paper from students and I don't print out papers or jounals, I read them off the screen. Don't need glasses for that. I start opening the journals and soon I find I can't see once again. I get to the end of each one, entry #14, and almost every single student has written nearly the same thing. They are gushing about how wonderful the class was, how they would take it over again next semester if they could, how they were sad on the last day, how attending it wasn't a chore, and thanking me in words so profuse and touching I am dumbstruck. Well, I am not talking to anyone at that moment, but you know what I mean. I have to blink away the tears, and I don't often cry. Could there be a better job on this planet? The assessment task got a lot easier after that. I think I will have to compile them in some way to read when I am feeling blue or frustrated in the future. I hope I can work the same magic next semester. With all the changes in the courseware arena, who knows? But I do have some new ideas boiling, so maybe!

Anyway, it looks like I am going to have to get bifocals over the break (with plain glass in the top) or else those tiny half-glasses like Marian the librarian.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Merry Christmas! I am feeling especially inspired this year. Maybe because my faith has been growing recently. Maybe because we are having wintery weather. Who knows?

I got the idea to do this from Elaine.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Well, he should have gotten the maximum (which isn't enough and should be increased), but I'm feeling pretty good about this outcome!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Two stories from the TU. First, this one is scary! That site always freaks me out when I see it. Then, here's this one, another example of how awful some people are to animals. Luckily, these dogs were rescued. But what's with the order forbidding this jerk from raising animals expiring? Does that make any sense?
Interesting set of coincidences yesterday. This is the last week of classes, and in my social foundations classes, yesterday was focused on educational technology. I spend some time talking about what it is, what are the pros and cons of the approach, and what teaching online is like. In all three sections, I solicit student feedback and thoughts on educational technology. Something I tell students is that afterwards, I remember the faces of on campus students, and the names of online ones. A student called me who took the evening section of the class in 2003, and later in the day he stopped by to talk to me about graduate school. Then, as I was waiting for the elevator, another student came up to me and asked if I was (insert my name here). She explained that she had taken the online section of the class during Summer 2006. I remembered them both. It was especially nice, because both told me how much they liked the class, and asked me if I am teaching any at the graduate level.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

It snowed a little tonight. And it is supposed to be a cold weekend. I spent the day working on the courseware transition. One thing I've been experimenting with is recording audio files of lectures.

I had a nice Thanksgiving. My apple pie came out perfect. I used Honeycrisp apples (usually I use Granny Smith) and it was yummy! I learned something interesting about Honeycrisp apples recently; they were developed by the University of Minnesota (through a long process detailed here); introducted in 1991, and the parents were thought to be McCoun and Honeygold. But the discovered that neither is the parent! One parent is Keepsake, and the other is unknown. Read all about it here.

I took four days off, which was tiring! I think my regular routine is easier to manage than having fun. Now it's the push to the end of the semester. Only three days left on campus. Grades are due 11/20 at 11:59 pm. The semester just flew by!