My Journey of Life and Learning (with occasional digressions)

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Yearly Archives: 2015

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Sometimes, it just seems…

I tried to post this last night from my “Smart-phone.” It didn’t work so well, so either my phone is smarter than I am, or *shudder* I actually believe that’s true. What a messed up world! But that’s another post.

What I wanted to post last night was this:

Church meeting…I’m there early…a lady I knew was there…I tried to make small talk…she was concerned because she was not in “Church clothes” for the meeting and I was there with my tie and coat…I reassured her that since she had likely just come from work, there was no problem…she had just come from work, so I asked what she did…she is a teacher…I said, “That’s great! I’ll need to talk with you and ask for your help because I want to teach and my Masters degree will be done by June”…she looked me up and down, asked me what I wanted to teach…”English,” I reply, like a good, optimistic scholar…”Good luck with THAT!” she says with a, too me, disheartening voice…

Here’s where the title comes in. Why is it that I try so hard to build others up just to have myself trounced? Regardless if she has had a bad experience teaching or not, regardless if she knows that English positions are hard to acquire, why pour rain on someone’s parade? Or, have I just been “brain-washed” through instructor training and in the Church that I need to nurture those around me? I don’t think that last one is true, because that would mean at the bottom of  it all, I’m just a “bad person” and I really don’t think that’s the case…I don’t think that’s ANYBODY’s case. So, the lady at Church likely just had  a hard, busy day in front of students…holidays are coming…Church meeting was early in the evening…she probably hadn’t had time to eat dinner…so she was maybe just cranky. As for continuing to build up others, maybe, someday, someone other than my wife, kids and family will think that I’m worth building up…so all my efforts won’t be in vain.

It’s so easy to tear a building down…a sledge hammer, bulldozer, maybe a crane…all too easy to use. Creating or repairing a building requires so much more…plans…planks cut just right…nails, screws…plywood, sheetrock panels, all those have to be cut to just the right size…

 

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Another One of THOSE Nights

Isn’t it enough that I can’t usually get to sleep easy? I guess not, because tonight, the Army is out letting the boys play with their “big guns.” I’m talking about the ones where I can feel the concussion hit the house and we’re miles away from the fort.

Ah, what is my sleep worth compared to the importance that they fire their artillery on the gun ranges? They are the keepers of our freedoms. I have already served to keep and preserve our freedoms and rights, only to live long enough to watch the precious document I swore to protect and defend shredded by those whose roles in government were delineated by it.

By this time next year, we will know who will become our next President. Will I be able to sleep nights safely then? When the enemy is inside the house isn’t the time to turn the artillery and big guns on him, is it? Each generation grows up, sure that they will be “the ones” to fix things, to make things right.

In the Cold War, we fought and won the intelligence battle. Western Europe was safe. “Ivan” never could get close enough  to TRY to breach the Atlantic. “The Japs” were held at bay by the Pacific. We had secured peace. Our children were never going to know the horrors of the threat of “Nuclear Annihilation,” or “Concentration Camps,” nor “Fascism” or “Communism.”

The 90s were fun…

Now weekly, fundamentalists and mad men blow each other or us up in public places. The attacks occur on our soil. Our sitting President and his political allies swear that by taking our rights away, we become safer. Some actually see Wisdom in that sentiment. They are wrong.

Each right that belongs to the people of this nation, the citizens of these United States, whether they choose to exercise their rights or not, have been BOUGHT and GUARANTEED with the blood of our young men and women. Whether spelled out in the Bill of Rights, Constitution, Declaration of Independence or any of the other Amendments to our Constitution, every right has been paid for in blood – American blood.

How dare anyone – citizen or not – elected official or misguided activist – righteous campaigner or wicked fraudster – view the rights we have and contemptuously sneer at ANY of them. Whether we agree with the right or not, it exists. It has been purchased. The snakes distort this fact and use it to set us against each other. We can only defeat them by standing together, exercising and prizing every single right and privilege guaranteed to each and every CITIZEN of these United States.

If they are not citizens, they may apply to become such. If they are not citizens, it has not been THEIR blood that has purchased any of these rights. This does not make non-citizens lesser people, it only means that the rights of citizens does not and should not extend to them. By even this much enforcement, many of our nations ills could be solved. Our children can learn the value of what they have. When they value it, they will prize it and defend it. When that occurs, despotism, fascism, nepotism, inequality will be greatly reduced if not ultimately vanquished.

Conclusion of ENG555

Last Journal Entry…Well now…let’s see if I can express this appropriately…

This is the end…I can feel it…the claws of savage certainty are clutching, grabbing at my skin, barely hanging onto my bones…

My mind has been ravaged by those deep thinkers of the European archipelago that is Greece…Plato, Gorgias, Phaedrus, Socrates…With a reminiscent smile I think of what I took from them; what they gave to me…Rhetoric…Persuasion…Exploration through questioning…The secrets of syllogisms finally revealed…The lapping of the waves on Santorini…The concept of whether ‘tis better to be a lover or an enemy…Though the sun still shines on the Acropolis, I sail westward…Farewell rhetorical fathers…

Between the billows of fog, I see a green land…sea birds whirl overhead…I pull my cloak closer ‘round me…As we pull in two men wait on the dock…My two companions, Sara and Liz, and I speak concerning what we expect them to reveal to us…They are obviously learned men…One wears the raiment of the clergy, the other a pure academic…

The Right Reverend, Dr. George Campbell explains the application of philosophy to us and enlightens us regarding how it was necessary to provide a deeper understanding to the natives of the island on which we stand…His view is that the art of rhetoric is the basis for all other arts; that one must be able to persuade by mastering English…He makes a point I have long held, that “Without communication, there can be no wisdom”…After speaking with Dr. Campbell, the fog rolls in heavier…

When the air lightens a bit, Dr. Alexander Bain introduces himself…Next to him, seeming to materialize from the very air is a very large bookshelf, quite anomalous for dock on a damp shore…Bain explains that the only way progress can be made is for English to be classified and standardized…He hands me a copy of English Composition and Rhetoric: A Manual…Within the pages of this tome I find the basis for what I have always been taught about my beloved English…To inform, persuade, and enjoy…What parts of speech are and how they fit together…How attention to these details ensure effective communication regardless if spoken or written…In stunned wonder I peruse the book, amazed that a mind could so precisely and analytically categorize utterances…I look up to compliment Bain…The fog has lifted…Bain is gone…I am alone…

I survey my surroundings…No horizon…No sky…I am standing on a flat surface…All is stark white…Not blinding or unpleasant; just white, barren, empty…I am alone…

Gradually, from nowhere, yet from everywhere, I hear voices rising and falling in tone and volume…I see a series of groups approaching me…They are not walking toward me, I am not walking toward them, but we move, drawn toward each other…In the first group, I hear one voice above the others first – a woman’s voice – explaining how wrong it is that so long has lapsed since any real innovation has occurred in the study of Rhetoric…Voices rise in assent and dissent among the crowd, “Truth is immutable,” “Outlining is part of the rhetorical process,” “Is what was valid then valid now?”…Some, clad in Cold War regalia speak of the importance to compete with the Soviet Union…I hear the name “Dartmouth” repeatedly ringing through the air…A group rises from the crowd and announce that they have seen where the problem with English composition rests…As this Dartmouth group descends back into the throng, the cavalcade speeds from my view and another appears…

Within this new group, three stand out from the crowd…One alone and two together…The first laments the pressure upon students to “write what they think professors want to read”…To present their thoughts in a foreign language known as Engfish…To overcome this, he says, “Good writers don’t waste words, their voices are authentic, they make the readers believe, they share experience with the reader, they create surprise, they build, ask something of their readers and reward readers with meaning”…From amid the crowd come many voices of agreement…Some disagree, insisting on strict adherence to formalities within the language, opposing free expression…

The two who have been waiting raise their voices and insist that pre-writing could eliminate many problems for English writers…Writing should be a creative endeavor, a journey of discovery, with the transference of the writer’s ideas being the most paramount concept…

The fog deepens…all fades…the sun sets…I await the next dawn…

I sleep…

I wake with the cool heat of the sun caressing my face…there…coming toward me…a large, round building and within it, a stage…I hear men speaking of taming shrews…Hermia and Lysander…Puck…a hunch-backed fratricidal king…Slylock demanding a pound of flesh…I have heard these voices before, but there are other strange ones among them…

In the other direction…women’s voices rise…sweet one moment…insistent the next…apologetic and nurturing one moment…demanding and accusing the next…

When these two groups meet, sometime around December 14, 2015, I will be in the middle…maybe some from previous classes will accompany me…maybe I will be alone…let me at least have another, or two, good, instructional professors…

Teaching Philosophy and Activity

So, things are drawing to a close in ENG555 and LIT 512. I’ll post this up here, if anyone reads it, feel free to comment. From what I understand, a teacher’s “Teaching Philosophy” changes and evolves with them. So, if my current philosophy seems naive, find a classroom for me to get into! It’s pretty hard to write about “being” a teacher when the door is constantly SLAMMED in my face when I try to “become” one. (Geez, here I go ranting…maybe I’ll post another blog in a bit and let my unleash my full tirade…)

Well, I’ll say this last bit, then post my Philosophy and Activity –

IF THERE IS SUCH A DIRE SHORTAGE OF MALE TEACHERS WHO WANT TO TEACH AND HAVE A POSITIVE IMPACT ON THE YOUTH OF THIS NATION, WHY AREN’T YOU ALL KNOCKING MY DOOR DOWN???

Okay, now for the Philosophy and Activity:

PHILOSOPHY OF TEACHING

“Learning is a lifelong process and I have as much to learn from my students as they have to learn from me – and each other!”

My students each come from a family and culture that is unique to them. My years of experience instructing adults and the travels I have made help me to respect and help others respect the individual learners in my class and ALL who enter my classroom are learners. Digitization and the common usage of English across the internet are only two reasons to explore our own expression within the traditional, conventional ideas of English studies while requiring us as world learners to reach out and develop understanding.

All have the right to know what occurs in my classroom. Each student has the right and expectation to have ample opportunity to share their voice. They will listen to and read the works of others. In this way, we will each discover new ways to express ourselves and also discover new ways to listen. My students will know what is expected and required of them. I maintain a door that is always open to all learners. Each class will have an individual website providing syllabi and class blogs on which students will provide each other feedback and discuss class topics.

I will provide ample material for students to apply critical thinking and discover how they can make projects meaningful to them and applicable to them as individuals. As we examine works of literature, my learners will progress as individual readers, critics and writers. I will mentor my learners as I encourage them to “take ownership” assigned texts and ask them demonstrate that by responding to assignments in a personal, insightful manner. As assigned tasks become alive to us as learners, our writing and creative expression will thrive.

TEACHING ACTIVITY
“Just because it’s been written before, doesn’t mean you can’t make it yours!”

OBJECTIVE: Empower students by helping them realize that “classical texts” are accessible, translatable to today’s speech and frame of reference. Students will rework an assigned piece through brainstorming, reflective writing and engaging in peer feedback. This exercise will be repeated with different styles or periods of literature, such as the Classicists, Romantics and Modernists. As the students become more proficient, we will use larger selections. The student writing will allow for creative flow and allow learning through peer feedback and participation.

BACKGROUND: Stylistic characteristics of the assigned piece will have been introduced and discussed before beginning this activity. Word lists will allow students to research, learn and assimilate any new vocabulary. By the time students begin this activity, they will have become familiar, through word lists and class discussions, with some of the language and imagery presented in a classic literary piece.

PROCEDURE:
1. We review as a class examples of the style specific to the piece.
2. We will identify and discuss any words that need further clarification. We discuss student expectations regarding the piece we are about to read.
3. As a class, we read aloud “The Tell Tale Heart,” by Edgar Allen Poe. (NOTE: I submit this work by Poe as an example. It could just as easily be “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, or some other work.)
4. Students make notes of where in the story their expectations were met or not met. We will pause as needed to clarify any points.
5. Each student will identify a section of 2-3 paragraphs that interested them.
6. Students will rewrite their sections using words, phrases, etc. that THEY would use to retell the story. These will be shared with the class and ultimately on the class blog.

FEEDBACK: I will review with each student the style and word choice they used. In situations where the student had difficulty, I will explore with them ways to paraphrase, letting them arrive at their ultimate solution. I will end my feedback always on a positive note.

Insomnia – Cure for Writer’s Block

I really don’t get this one.

I spend all day in front of this computer screen or with my nose in a book, reading, analyzing, writing. THEN, when my brain is about worn out, I go and do “other things,” like tonight was my meeting with my two Counselors for Elders Quorum. Despite my head feeling like it was filled with cotton, we had a successful meeting. SO, I come home, thinking I’m ready to go to bed and get some sleep. NOPE…AIN’T HAPPENIN’!

I guess, other than what I wrote in my personal journal, Ford’s novel, The Good Soldier (TGS), is messing with my mind, just as he intended it. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover (LCL) is still fresh in my brain as well. All the fun theory that goes along with Composition and Composition Instructional Theory is in there as well, competing for space among my congested, semi-gelatinous brain. What shocks me is that I’m exhausted from reading and writing, but here I sit…once again in front of the screen. Ugh…

One point I noticed in both novels is the repetition of certain words. Nothing in the prompts, so far, has even mentioned that. Is it an indicator that I’m (even more) insane that I notice that?

Each chapter in LCL had some nested theme. There’s a specific literary term for that, but I don’t have my Dictionary of Literary Terms before me this very minute. TGS does something similar, but Ford will repeat the same word incessantly within the chapter, I suppose to tell how Dowell feels about everything. The irony in that lies that for much of the entire first chapter, the word is “nothing.” Dowell also uses “I don’t know” frequently and while doing research I found many papers focusing on “what he knew or didn’t know,” “is Dowell’s ignorance or knowledge more important,” and the like.

Ah, I just remembered the one main point I wanted to make. Henry James crafted his novels so that there was “nothing random” in his writings. Everything was there for a reason. I feel the same way about these two writers. My meaning with that is that James liked to play games – he would use hidden metaphors, similes and the like just to play with his readers, kind of a “GOTCHA” moment when the reader catches it. Since he predated Lawrence and Ford and since Ford liked James, I would say that there’s a very strong connection and that’s where some of the technique came from.

Well, I’ve been here for an hour now – between my personal journal and this. I’m finishing my “Sleepy Time Tea” that I mix with “Chamomile” and sweeten with honey, then back to bed.

If you read this, thank you and, as always, feel free to comment and good night!

Richard

Week 8 – I have a TON to do, but I JUST GOTTA RANT!!

Already Week 8. So, just have this week and two more for this term. Should be excited, wouldn’t ya think?

Oh yeah, it would be so nice to be excited.  I’m not sure if I’ve named my university on here, and since I’m about to act like a whiney, little “Boo-Boo,” I won’t name the school in this post, especially cuz who I’m about to bitch about has totally been the exception. I’ve only got two classes this term. Seems as if two are all my old little mind can take anymore. So, two classes. Pretty sure I’ve made that clear.

One class, the professor works our (nope, gotta change that to MY, ownership and all that), okay, the professor assigns enough work that I feel like I’m working MY butt off to keep up, to complete readings, make posts and somehow try to absorb SOME of the subject matter. Back in language school, I had an actually HONEST instructor who admitted that they made a point of OVERLOADING us in order to get more to stick in our heads. Makes sense in a way. Since the Army was doing it, I’m sure there was a good amount of sadism mixed in, but I’ll admit it works to a degree. Another Army maxim, “If you throw enough shit at a wall, some of it will stick!” As usual, I digress. The professor I’m talking about right now, if he’s reading this he knows I’m talking about him, but this has been a great term! I mean I really don’t even care what my final grade is, and I mean that in the best possible way. If a student actually cares more about what they have learned and the journey they have ventured; that is immeasurably worth more than an “A, B, C, or F.” If you ARE reading this, I know I must sound like a total suck-up, but I believe in feedback. If I take time to tell you you’re a GREAT instructor, it’s real. I stopped kissing butt LONG AGO.

The other professor, here comes the rant, I know, you’ve been waiting for it like the “drop” on a “dubstep” tune, is, less than optimal. (Yes, I re-edited my post. Name calling isn’t appropriate regardless of the situation and I should rise above it.)  Don’t give me a syllabus, a reading list, an announcement that YOU apparently haven’t read yourself, a Discussion Board prompt that ISN’T BASED on what the Module allegedly addresses, mark me down for not writing what YOU wanted me to SAY, dock me ten points on a GOOD ESSAY without TELLING ME WHY…(There was originally a whole bunch of angry words here and I shouldn’t put down what I can’t or should ever HAVE to take back) Let me step down from my “rant-box,” become reasonable and try to explain myself. I believe that it’s wrong to bring an issue to light without offering a solution.

Okay (breathe, Richard, breathe.) Here’s the deal. I understand the school uses syllabi and course materials and assignments that are standardized and (from what I understand) given to the respective prof to use. I’m sure the profs have SOME allowance or wiggle room for how they teach, and that’s fine. I believe, though, that they have a DUTY to themselves as EDUCATORS and to us as STUDENTS to review what is given them. What I mean here is that there is a set rubric for many assignments. That set rubric, I believe, is a skeleton because I’ve seen other profs add information to it, not to the scoring system, but offer explanation of the assignment. This guy has just “pushed out” into the Rubric Folder the SAME SKELETAL RUBRIC HE LIKELY RECEIVED. Whenever I submit an assignment, I EXPECT FEEDBACK. I don’t care two cents if the “System had a malfunction.” SEND ME AN EMAIL TELLING ME WHERE MY POINTS WENT – TO ME, NO FEEDBACK MEANS A PERFECT PAPER, NO LESS. Whenever I provided feedback to my students, fellow military instructors I was mentoring, even Commanders and superiors I had to brief, I ALWAYS addressed, “What went right, what went wrong, what the result was and what we could do differently next time.” Hell, I learned that as a “drunk punk,” young sergeant in Germany. At the time, I didn’t even have my Associates Degree. Can anyone possibly justify or excuse a professor with a Doctorate in his subject from not doing that little? And NO, I will not accept, “He had a lot of students” or “He’s still learning the system.” No, those are not excuses. If I (or the Army) pay you to instruct me, I expect a return on the dollar.

(I deleted a paragraph here. I shouldn’t stoop to a level lower than I proclaim to be. And, again, name-calling is juvenile.)

Alright. I’m done. Sorry if I offended (most offensive words were removed on this edit) I feel I am legitimately working toward my degree. I have fear about what I’ll be able to do with it when I’m done. I’ve DREAMED of teaching for YEARS. Then I hear and read stuff about how terrible the classroom environment is, I get a prof that JUST DON’T CARE… Yeah….things that make me go “Hmmmmm….”

Back to the Anno Bib. I’m sure in “his” class I will do it wrong. Especially since the “example” Anno Bib is different from what I’ve seen in other courses, what I’ve turned in before and from what the MLA Handbook (HARDCOPY) shows. The “sources” I submitted with my “Thesis Proposal” should have appeared the same as on his “example,” but didn’t. Surprisingly he didn’t deduct or offer any comment on that. I guess he just had something better to do. It is so weird having two profs this term who are 180 degrees polar of each other. I guess that one that’s so difficult is teaching me twice as much, so I come out on top anyway. At least with “Student Surveys” coming up in a week or two I can state my case. I’ve been keeping notes PLUS examples. *devilish, self-righteous, grin*

I’ve Gotten A Bit Behind…

So for LIT511, I had to read Nietzsche then decide if D.H. Lawrence fit what Nietzsche considered decadence. I reckon I need to post it here, but my title for my Discussion Board post should be an indicator: “According to Nietzsche,  Decadence Cannot Exist.” I like to think I give my profs headaches or at least return the favor of making them think as much as I had to!
Here is my point on Nietzsche –
Essentially, religion evolved because mankind became “civilized” and began living in communities. If groups of people have to live together, they must suppress their instincts. As an example, just remember the last time you were stuck in traffic or got cut off. What did you do about it? Nothing! Now, because of that suppression, you internalized that anger. Where does it go? We can’t rage against ourselves, so we “surrender it to God.” Okay. No problem. And so we develop a belief system. It’s “bad” to want to hurt someone else, lie, steal, etc. If we do that, we feel guilt. Is it healthy for that guilt to build up? No. So, we have a diety who can alleviate that guilt.
Now, all these feelings are self imposed. God is merely a coping mechanism. So, if these feelings are self inflicted, we can “ignore” or not inflict then upon ourselves in the first place. By doing that,  there exists no need for laws or rules or government. Decadence, by definition, is the opposition of existing rules.  If rules should not exist, there is no way to act against them. Therfore, according to Nietzsche, there can be no decadence.