Friday, October 30, 2009

Today I registered to be in an apple pie contest on 11/7 sponsored by a local bank, at an orchard. It is open to 50 contestants, and all must be amateurs over age 17. The apples have to be "real" but the crust can be store bought! How lame! Naturally, I will be making it all from scratch, using this recipe. First prize is $450, and 10 runners up will get $50 each. I think I can win!

I have had an account on facebook for a long time, but only recently started to use it. I was skeptical, but it is fun. I downloaded the "app" for my blackberry so I can easily access it from there, too.

My classes are humming along. I'm behind in assessment (what else is new?) but overall they are going great. Next week is presentation week in all the on campus sections. I get to sit and just be a spectator! Early in the semester I joked (to myself) that I should whip out the b'berry during the presentations of groups with the most egregious texting violators. But in reality I would never do that. Also so many students have smart phones on their desks during class that I have decided to accept it as part of modern culture. It is as common as a notebook, and there is no use fighting it.

One other thing that seems to have accelerated this semester is the number of students who use my first name without asking me. Not just to my face (where maybe it could be explained by my having a hard to pronounce last name?), but in emails as well (is that because I have a hard to spell last name?). I don't think that is it, I think it is more a combination of modern times (again) and my personality with students (open and easy going). I don't think it makes me a snob or unapproachable to prefer to be called Professor or Dr. I've never indicated that I didn't mind the use of my first name, and on the syllabus and the first day of class, I make it clear that I use Dr. But like the smart phones, I ignore the familiarity, except sometimes in email I respond by appending PhD to my name.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Even though I have many other things to do and the deadline isn't until 1/30 - I couldn't resist. I trimmed my story to 1200 words as they requested, and sent it to Kaatskill Life. Watch for it in the "Kaatskill Sketches" section of the Spring issue.

Monday, October 19, 2009

My story, "It's a Wonder We Didn't Get Drownded" will appear in the Spring 2010 edition of Kaatskill Life!

Yesterday we went to Cooperstown to visit Hyde Hall. This is the view from the front of the house of Otsego Lake. Afterwards we went to Brooks' BBQ.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

When the sidewalk was redone during the summer, it was about a foot above the old one and as a result, we have a major step down all around. Our trash can sits on a little deck on the side of the house, and was impossible for me to haul up to the new sidewalk on garbage day. So, here is the new little deck that was finished yesterday.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Our front door's condition had really deteriorated lately. Most significantly, it was completely out of alignment, needed to be re-glued, and dragged so bad it was nearly impossible to open. It must be over 100 years old (the house is about 107), and has magnificient hardware - the hinges in particular are stunning. So here it is - restored and in all its glory!

Coincidentally, yesterday the village poured a new stoop from the door to the sidewalk. That's the end of their street renovation project.

All this improvement makes the trim needing to be painted all the more obvious, though! Next Spring, we'll have to have the flower beds on either side of the house raised to be level with the new sidewalk. But maybe we'll be able to get the painting done before then.

Unrelated: On Friday, I was talking to a woman who asked me what I did for a living, and when I responded, she asked me what I taught. Her reaction: "I don't mean to be offensive, but isn't that just bullshit?"

Friday, October 02, 2009

I decided to write a post here on this subject rather than a direct comment. I have to react to two aspects of this post.

First, on the writing skills of students: I think five years ago, I would have agreed with the post completely. However, for the past few semesters I have noticed an improvement in the quality of my students. Granted, I have been teaching 9 years, not 46. And this is a new semester, so I'm not able to judge my current students' work yet. (I have not read the most recent batch of essays, since they were only due this week.) Also, the improvement in quality that I observe is not only (or maybe even primarily) in the area of writing. Finally, it is quite possible that the improvement is (at least partially) in me...I know I have gotten a lot better at engaging students. In fact, in recent days I have been doing a lot of thinking about how great my classes are. Sure, there have been semesters that were uneven, and individual classes that were particularly memorable (in a good way), but I haven't had a truly disappointing class in years.

But I guess I could agree that there are a small minority of students even now who have terrible writing skills. I'd say excessive television viewing, doing very little reading (not just what is assigned for class - I detect a lifelong deficit in pleasure reading, something I find very sad), and an abundance of communications technology (email, texting, social networking, cell phones) all contribute to this problem. I point this out as someone who appreciates communications technology a lot. One of my challenges is figuring out how to co-opt it into meaningful learning, because it isn't going away.

Next, on the subject of the SUNY System implementing something to rectify the problem: 15 years ago was the heyday of MAP. I've no doubt the then-Chancellor responded that System was working on something. There were hints of expanding the program to reading and /or writing. That idea died, even sooner than MAP. Until recently, there hasn't been a shred of academic leadership in the System. Will this change now that there is a new Chancellor? I hope so.