Monday, March 31, 2014

Second to last faith formation class. The kids have spring fever -- lots of energy to say the least! Tonight, we studied the art print "Good Friday" by Maggi Hambling (1989) and started the culminating project: banners that will be displayed in the chirch for Easter. These are the samples we made. The kids have the same burlap panel, bamboo dowel / rope hanger, and burlap cross. Aside from those elements, they will have free choice of design and decorations: felt, foam mosaic squares, fabric markers, artificial flower petals, dried flower potpourri, and pictures of flowers from old calendars. Tonight we looked at many design ideas and worked on sketches, and then they cut out shapes and letters. Next week will involve about a case of Elmer's glue as they put it all together.

 Teddy cat went to a veterinary opthamologist this morning. He's had clousy eyes ever since we adopted him, but after his third eye ulcer episode a couple weeks ago, our vet Dr. Tina referred us to a specialist. It turns out he has corneal dystrophy, a condition that is fairly common in dogs (especially boston terriers, chihuahuas and doxies) but rare in cats. There is no cure for it, but hopefully the eye drops he'll be on for the rest of his life will prevent the ulcers from developing, or at least reduce the frequency.

His right eye was bad before he saw our regular vet 3 weeks ago. It cleared up with the ointment she gave us (as it always does) so he seemed 100% this morning (excapt for the usual cloudiness). But the specialist was able to see a small ulcer in his left eye, although he was showing no obvious symptons -- surprising, as I know they are very painful. It's degenerative (and probably hereditary), so his vision is likely to gradually decline (he can see fine now). If he lives to be very old (he's nearly 9 now, we've had him since he was 5), he may go blind. She put a temporary contact lens in his eye to protect it!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Something I like to assign occasionally in class are 2, 3 or 5 minute free writes. So while the students were scribbling last night, I thought I'd do it too. Here is what I wrote:
Before class I was going from the education building to campus center. Don't students understand keeping right? Well, they didn't act like they knew -- they practically knocked me down as they streamed through the open door, the one on their left but my right, in their rush to get to class. I didn't want to get jostled or worse, have my foot stepped on, so I waited there until it was clear, but it must have been at least a dozen students who ignored me, did not let me through and also did not make any effort to open the door on their right! I finally was able to continue, but I felt pretty glum, to tell you the truth.

But on my way back from the bookstore (where I was buying cards for all the April birthdays in my family), a young man came up to me and said, "Are you Professor Giuliani?" (I said yes, even though my name is spelled just a little different from Rudy's). He shook my hand and said he has signed up for my class in the fall. Made my day! (He had "A" written all over him.)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Spring break is over and the countdown to end of semester begins. In faith formation on Monday, we celebrated spring even though it doesn't feel like it out there! The lesson focused on The Parable of the Sower. The art print was "The Flower Seller" by Diego Rivera, the saint handout was about St. Fiacre (Patron Saint of Gardeners), we studied the world map to locate France and Mexico, read the parable and the handout, and planted tulip bulbs and pansies in the flower pots. Snack was apples with caramel dip. Only two classes left in AY '13-'14, hard to believe. When we told them, the kids were disappointed that it will be over so soon. Last two weeks will be our culminating project, stay tuned!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Being a faculty member is a "good gig" for me, as I like to work independently. But there are occasions when support from someone else is helpful. Such is the case with finding academic materials. It's possible to locate whatever is needed without turning to others, of course, and that's my preference most of the time. However, when it comes to textbooks, there are incentives for publishers to sell their books, and no shortage of sales reps who (allegedly) are eager to lend a hand.

Not true. I have never been contacted by (or found on my own) a competent book sales rep. It isn't that I never hear from any; I am contacted all the time. But no matter the publishing house, the rep invariably disappoints. Check off another today! Sigh. Maybe it is a crummy job and so the rep puts in little effort, I don't know. That's really no excuse, though. Update your linkedin and get back to work, OK? On my own once again I guess.

Added: This has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of this post, but I didn't feel like creating a new one. I used to be somewhat interested in world and national events. Somewhat, not a news junkie by any means. I think that might have been before 9/11 and turning 40, both of which changed me.  Anyway, I find myself fascinated by the missing jet mystery. I've written before about my talent for detective work here.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Today I entered a writing contest. That's something I haven't done in a long time. There will be a ton of entries, of course, and I don't expect to win. But (I tell myself) the payoff is in the writing, and that really is the truth. I expected to spend today grading essays, and instead I spent the day writing. I'm pleased I resisted my tendency to put every task associated with "earning my bread" high on my priority list, while promising to write once each line was crossed off. The problem is that I run out of steam, and writing has to wait another day, when new priorities surface and claim top positions.

I'm referring to "serious" writing (though at times it is humor), not what I do here most of the time. I manage to find time to write here (almost) whenever the desire strikes me. But serious writing is different, it isn't journaling. With serious writing, although it often comes to me in a burst, I craft every sentence, contemplate every word and study every comma. I listen to the voice to find just the right note.

"It's spring break after all," she said. Was that an excuse or a challenge? "Others are increasing their carbon footprints so they can lay on beaches." I deserve my guilty pleasure.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Tomorrow's faith formation theme is St. Patrick. We're going to study the art print St. Patrick by  Jan Tillemans (1955, stained glass window at Basilica of Our Lady of the Cape Shrine in Quebec), read about St. Patrick and watch a couple video clips, find Ireland and Britain on the map, make rosary beads and learn (some of) the rosary, and have shamrock sugar cookies for snack.

Friday, March 14, 2014

On March 13, several students from both classes emailed me in the morning, worried over road conditions. Although classes weren’t delayed or cancelled, the cold, icy & snowy conditions (and that St. Patrick’s Day break was looming) persuaded me that this was a perfect opportunity to use Collaborate.

In the afternoon class, what was on the agenda was handing out and explaining an assignment to prepare for a classroom activity on March 27, and small group meetings, where students work on presentations they will give on April 22. 10 (of 22) students logged on at 1:15, one appeared late in the class, and another emailed me later to say she'd tried to log on, but was unsuccessful. I did not hear from the other ten students. I used audio to explain expectations, and powerpoint to share the assignment (which is in PDF on blackboard as well). This took 15 minutes. Only one student used the mic while in the main room, the others used text chat. A couple added emoticons etc. to my powerpoint on the whiteboard.

I then sent them to breakout rooms. There are 5 groups in this class. Group 3 had full attendance (4 members), Groups 1, 4 and 5 had 2 members each (out of 4 or 5 members). Group 2 had no members present, except for the student who came very late. The group with full attendance had a lively conversation (with audio, video, white board) and they stayed until 2:30, when class is always over. One of the other groups, with two members, also stayed until 2:30. The remaining two groups stayed for a while, then exited.

For the 4:15 class, the syllabus has a one hour video, a half hour lecture, small group and all class discussion (it’s a 3 hour class). 10 students (of 26) logged on at 4:15 (several were there at 4, right after I finished setting up). One more came late. Two more emailed later to say they tried, but were not able to log on.

I knew I couldn’t show the video, but I asked them to watch it before next class (3/27). I still gave my ½ hour lecture and showed my powerpoint. The midterm was due last night, and after my remarks, a few students asked me questions about that assignment, using both audio and text chat. There are also 5 groups in this class. Every group was represented (one by one member, two by three members, two by two members) but I just divided them into two groups of five (the 11th student came too late) and had them develop discussion questions. When they came back to the main room, each group wrote their discussion question on the white board, and we had a discussion using audio and text chat.

One group developed a question about the delivery method, web conferencing and collaborate, one developed a question about last night’s material. It was outstanding! Very reflective and enriched. Class ended at about 6:30 and I think would have been willing to go until 7 (but my dogs were getting antsy and so was I).

In both classes, students here & there would suddenly vanish, then reappear, always reporting technical issues. One student in the 1:15 class was in the library, and sound had been disabled, so he could not hear my remarks, but he did use text chat when in the breakout room. I emailed the 4:15 students to warn them about the library computers, but after class received emails from two students using library computers that have sound enabled who could not log on. (No matter how many times I remind students to test things and contact the help desk, they invariably email me when it is too late.)

One student in the 4:15 class commented that his roommate was sitting on the bed, marveling at him participating in class, wishing he had this opportunity.

Attendance in both classes was much less than it would have been on campus, but there is always a lot of absence the Thursday before a break. I recorded both sessions and put the links in blackboard.

All in all, both classes were fairly successful. The design of the 4:15 class was probably more suited to this delivery, mostly because it is hard to make progress on the presentation assignment without at least 75% of the members. But I couldn’t just switch the agenda, as I had promised them this time for the project, and at least one of the groups was able to use it effectively.

I learned from the 4:15 class that it is quite possible to have a good all-class discussion this way. In fact, there may be fewer distractions than in the classroom, and as a result it was quite in-depth. There was no social pressure from the slackers for the speaker to “shut up.” Of course, these are self-selected groups of 10 – it is possible they are the strong students & if the others were shed from the roster the class would improve dramatically no matter how it is delivered.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A commonality I notice with both 10 year olds & college students is that they get up and leave the room for 5 minutes or so constantly. For the little kids, it is ostensibly to go to the bathroom, and they always ask first. For college students, I have no idea, but I suspect it is to check their phones. Why is it young people can't sit still for an hour without needing to pee or wash their hands or send a text?

Monday, March 10, 2014

Faith formation tonight will focus on St. Kateri. We're planning to look at the art print "Kateri Tekakwitha" by Robert Lentz, find Fonda on a NYS map, watch a slideshow of pictures Robert Schmidt took at the Auriesville Shrine the day of Kateri's canonization, read tha play "Lily of the Mohawks," make mosaic wood crosses, and have cornbread with maple syrup (made by my brother) for snack.

 Our samples
 St. Kateri

Friday, March 07, 2014

I went to a scholarship event yesterday in the science library, and came across the Great Dane Project.

Monday, March 03, 2014

I planned to write a post about journaling in public for the past 12 years. I thought I'd review my "most popular posts of all time" and craft something. But nothing jumped out at me, except "I wonder why these are the most popular?" So I didn't come up with anything.

After "baking in the sun" (or freezing in the snow), my comments about the Gully Brook Press experiment are that my participation and engagement in the online world has shifted. At first I read a lot of other personal blogs. I was never much of a commenter, and the 6-10 daily reads shifted over the years, from blogger-recommends in the early days to national A-listers in the middle years, and then to locally well known a few years ago. At present I read the personal blogs of others only occasionally.

I have spent very little time promoting Gully Brook Press over the years. I have not been interested in generating hits or links or fostering a commenter community. I have continued to write here, for myself and the others who visit, sometimes less, sometimes more, and I have never announced I was taking a hiatus, or taken one quietly. I have not changed the name, or very often, the look of the blog (and I have used blogger for all 12 years). The website design has changed three times, due to being forced to use different hosts (AOL to verizon to google).

Since 2009, when I started using facebook (I joined it a few years before, but didn't start using it until my 30-year high school reunion), I've spent more time in the social network, than at Gully Brook Press (both the blog and the website). I don't use facebook to promote GBP, but keep them separate.

It has served the purpose I intended in March 2002, which was to give me a place to post published works, and to write a journal. I wasn't sure whether I would abandon the journal quickly or eventually, as I have with every other journaling tool since I was big enough to pick up a pen. Well, I guess after 12 years you might say this has been the most successful of all those endeavors. It doesn't, and can never match Elwyn's diary in consistency, but it has been a rewarding effort for more than a decade. Bravo Gully Brook Press.

Saturday, March 01, 2014