Archive for May, 2010

I know there are some professors who see attending graduation as a chore. I like it, though, because it is exciting to commemorate years of hard work. There are so many success stories — stories of people overcoming great challenges to earn a degree.

Take James Graham, for example. It took this man about 15 years to earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in film and television.

James earns his B.F.A.

He works full time for SCAD and could only take classes here and there. Every so often, he’d have to reapply because it was taking so long. And that would mean he would have to take different classes because he was now bound by a new course catalog.

And I felt such pride to see so many of “my” writing students walk across the stage: Andrea, Rachel, Daniel, Tiffany, Elizabeth, Elyse, Holly, Jacque, Sarah, Maggie, Ashley, Victoria and Travis.  (Note to them: Now we can be Facebook friends!)

After the ceremony, we held a surprise graduation party for James at Patrick’s house, where Uncle Eggy tried to light everyone on fire. See Uncle Alex guard the children.


Fortunately, there was a hose handy.

James enjoys the show

Except for minor smoke inhalation, there was no damage.

It was a good day. Congratulations to all graduates!

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We have a winner!

A phone call changed the trajectory of my whole week. Where I had stress, I now have joy.

Today’s awesome voice mail

Yes, that’s right. I am the Member of the Month for June for the Microbrewed Beer of the Month Club. With my honor, I receive a free month (that’s 12 beers!) AND I will be featured in the newsletter.

I’m not going to lie: I did a little dance in the kitchen.

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I’m bogged down in a grading morass, so a short, grammar-related post will have to do for now. Thank you to Morgan, a fashion student who is taking my Writing for the Web class, for providing this image:

It’s a little hard to see, so let’s focus the eye.

Yep. Those are quotation marks around the city’s name. (And there may be an orphan quotation mark before “of” also. It’s hard to tell.) Is the name in question? Is it the so-called city of Savannah? Whatever it is, it is All-American, by golly.

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I genuinely love my job, and I love the students who take my classes. (I don’t want to call folks “my students” because I don’t own them.) They are bright, inquisitive and funny, and make me glad I get to hang out with them for a living.

I’ve been surprised and honored by their generosity as well. When my mom died, Kristina gave me chocolates and told me that’s what helped her get through her own tragedy. When Trish the Chicken died, Kristina, Claire and Jason gave me a chocolate muffin and a latte to show that they were sorry for my loss. Today, Becca gave me a Snuggie (a Snuggie!) monogrammed with my initials because I once said I needed one because the classroom was so freakin’ cold.

And just moments after that awesome gift, Charlotte — who isn’t even taking a class with me this quarter — brought me red velvet cupcakes from Back in the Day Bakery (the best kind of cupcakes).

So it’s been a pretty awesome day, filled with surprises.

Jenny, of the rabid weasels, asked me once if I actually liked all “my” students. I think she was surprised to learn that the answer is “Yes.” (Disclaimer: Jenny once gave me a latte and a muffin because I helped her help a friend with her résumé).

The qualifier is that some are more high-maintenance than others. Also, some students don’t like other students, and that makes for tough times in class discussions.

I can group many of the students into a few categories:

The Overachiever
This student already has an A, but is always looking for extra credit. She will redo a project if you let her, even if she got an A the first time around. (Yes, Deanne, I’m talking about you.)

The Shocker
This kind of student defies any preconceived notions. It may appear that he doesn’t care, and isn’t paying attention, but then he turns in the best work in the class. (Yes, A.D., this is you.)

The Tester
This student is suspicious of you from the get-go, but you will slowly win her over if you do, in fact, know what you are talking about. And then she will try to push you to see how far she can go. (Hello, Amber!)

The Hater
This student may appear to hate your guts during the class, but he will surprise you later on when he tells you that he learned so much from you. It is an unexpected, but joyful moment. (Whit, do you still read my blog?)

The Liquid Center
This student sometimes seems confrontational, but that behavior masks a deep-seated vulnerability. This student just needs some reassurance that she really does have talent. (No names here; no need for that exposure.)

The Personality
This student often is the most challenging because she has created a particular persona, and may resist your efforts to get her to think about anything/anyone other than herself. The trick is to help her figure out how to make assignments interesting enough to her so that she will enjoy doing them. (I think we all know whom I’m talking about here.)

The Lifer
That’s not a great title for this type of student, but it will have to do. With this student, you know early on that he/she will be in your life forever — and that is a good thing. You “get” them, they “get” you, and it is a lovely, symbiotic relationship. You start out as professor/student, and morph into colleagues and friends later on. Some people in the aforementioned categories will end up in this one, and that is a lovely thing too. (I’d like to name names here, but I have a little bit of a liquid center, and I worry if my feelings are reciprocated.)

So, to all my past and present students, I’d like to say this:

Yes, I really do like you.

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Once upon a time

Deanne, who is a student taking two of the four classes I teach this quarter (lucky her), tweeted a link to this video of an adorable French girl with a vivid imagination.

Not to be outdone, of course, here is my equally adorable Dominic “reading” to his brother.

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There was a rumor making the rounds that the Dow Jones industrial average nosedived 1,000 points in 15 minutes because some fool mistyped “billion” instead of “million” for an order to sell.

It appears that wasn’t the case, but it was nice to see people pay attention to the power of the error. Even CNN’s Bob Greene weighed in on the subject.

I guess I’m one of those “stodgy, ancient, out of touch” folks who become visibly upset over things like grammar and punctuation errors.

My friend Angela Murphy Hendrix knows it. She’s the one who sent me the link. Thanks, Angela!

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I may need to stop reading the paper. It’s not good for my blood pressure.

This time it is not because of a Savannah Morning News error, but rather an article that is printed on page 12A. It was a small piece, but it had a large effect on me.

Warning: If you are Catholic, or a pope supporter in general, you might want to stop reading now. I’m about to write some not-so-nice things about the pontiff.

According to the SMN article (The New York Times has a larger, better overview), Pope Benedict XVI told Catholic social workers, health providers and some others assembled for a Mass in Fatima, Portugal, that abortion and same-sex marriage were two of the most “insidious and dangerous” threats facing the world today.

Really? Happy gay people are a threat to the world?

Not child abuse? Really?

Ben, let’s talk. I know you are in a world of hurt trying to pretend that you don’t need to deal with your big, fat scandal, but you cannot throw us off the scent.

I know you don’t have kids, so you might not get it, but children are sponges. They soak up all the good and bad that they see, hear and feel. So if a bishop is letting his little bishop run free all over 10-year-old hide, there is a problem. And that is going to affect that child forever.

If you believe that killing children (even still as a fetus) is wrong, then how could you not see abuse as one of the biggest threats to the world? There are thousands and thousands of children who have been abused by priests and others in the Catholic Church and likely will suffer psychological, emotional and physical effects. According to the American Psychological Association, children who have been abused have an increased risk for:

  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Dissociative and anxiety disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Somatization (the expression of distress in physical symptoms)
  • Chronic pain
  • Behavioral problems including sexualized behavior, school/learning problems, substance abuse, destructive behavior, sexual dysfunction in adulthood, criminality in adulthood
  • Suicide

Barbara E. Bogorad, Psy.D., founder and former director of the Sexual Abuse Recovery Program Unit of South Oaks Hospital in New York wrote:

Abused children are 53% more likely to be arrested as juveniles, and 38% more likely to be arrested for a violent crime. During preschool years, abused children are more likely to get angry, refuse direction from teachers, and lack enthusiasm. By the time they reach grade school, they are more prone to being easily distracted, lacking in self-control, and not well-liked by peers.

But it is same-sex marriage you choose to target as the problem?

Yes, there is a problem. And he is wearing a pointy hat.

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“Grizzly” turned me into quite the bear this morning. In fact, I felt compelled to write to the “compiler.”

Here is the story now:

I’d like to think someone changed it because of me.* But my buddy Arek did not reply, so I don’t know for sure.

It doesn’t matter, really. I’ll keep on defending the English language’s honor, one heterograph at a time.

*Note for Rachael and Deanne: No one fixed the hyphen or modifier issues, though.

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Yes, I know I just posted an entry last night, but I had to post again. Please feast your eyes upon this:

Grizzly? Seriously? They think a bear attacked the man?

No. They meant “grisly.” Come ON!

The good folks at the Savannah Morning News should be ashamed. It appears Arek Sarkissian II compiled the information for the article. I seem to recall he also enjoys putting in an ampersand in the college’s name.

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I need a vacation. I’m perpetually wearing a pinched look and I never have time to do what’s on my “to do” list. The hamster on the wheel in my mind wants a potty break.

Two more weeks until the end of the quarter. Dozens of papers and projects to grade. Thesis projects to evaluate. And so much more. Then I can breathe again, and enjoy a day of reading some trashy novel on the beach.

Until that time, I will remember that this too shall pass. Today, I made myself stop and savor the smell of the jasmine growing across the street from Arnold Hall, and thought how sad it was that I had to force myself to take note of the natural world. It took 30 seconds, but I felt better for hours.

I will take a cue from Dominic, who notices everything. “Mama,” he said.”The chickens are starting to have tails.” I hadn’t noticed.

Now I will.

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