zingerella: Capital letter "Z" decorated with twining blue and purple vegetation (Default)
( Jan. 19th, 2012 11:52 am)
For the past several years, I have taught Editing 101 (formally known as "Principles and Practices of Editing") at City College. This is the first or second course that most students entering the editing program take, and it provides an overview of How Editing Works. The students that I or the grammar instructor don't scare away from the program have typically left my nest, to go on and take specialized courses in various editorial tasks, such as copy editing, substantive editing, or proofreading, and topics, such as editing children's literature. I rarely see them again, though a few become LinkedIn contacts or DW friends.

This semester, I was hired by Polygnostic University to teach proofreading. Since PU pays a lot more than City College, I relinquished my position as the 101 instructor with CC—these are evening courses, and I really didn't want to be teaching for two evenings a week. I found another instructor for City College, and thought all was well there.

Of course, Polygnostic got in touch with me in early January to tell me they'd cancelled my course, because not enough students had enrolled (I'm still teaching the online version of the same course, so that's something). At the same time, the coordinator of my program at CIty e-mailed me urgently looking for an instructor for their proofreading course. So, figuring that some paid in-class time was better than no paid in-class time, I offered to take on the course for one semester. 

The first class last night was really neat! It's all students I've taught before, from about the past 3 years. Most seemed happy to see me. But the best moment came as one student walked in.

"Oh great," she said, "Now I know this is going to be hard!"

Poor little duckling. 

(Heh, heh, heh.)
From a history of a local high school that I am editing:

During the war, the Girls' Club had become the War Services Club; the Girls’ Club was not reinstated after the war. However, a "Baby Bawl” was organized during the First Form initiation party in 1945. During the day, the girls went to class with their clothes on inside-out, wearing one long black stocking and odd shoes and sporting signs around their necks stating they were Baby Bags. At night, they returned, dressed as babies, to an auditorium bedecked with lines of baby clothes; the stage resembled a nursery. The poor Firsts were put through the horrors of a witches’ den, made to walk the plank and forced to endure other pranks.

I kind of love the matter-of-fact way that this is reported. The author maintains the same tone in discussing
  • the school's football victories,
  • the fact that while before WWII, the cheerleading squad consisted entirely of male cheerleaders, while the post-war cheerleading squad was co-educational, and
  • the arrival of a new music teacher and the growth of the school's music program.
I am creating an online copyediting course. The convention of this course is that each week contains a Discussion topic about which students can post on the class Discussion board.

The topic for Week 3 is Punctuation. So, I get to come up with a punctuation-related discussion topic, for copyediting students.

The hallmarks of a good discussion question are as follows:
  • It must be open-ended, to allow for a variety of opinions. Questions that allow for a simple "yes," or "no," do not really provoke great discussion.

  • It must have sufficient breadth to allow for a variety of opinions. If there is only one right answer, there's not a lot of room for discussion, and the students who post later on in the week can really only say "me too!"

  • It must actually be germane to the topic at hand.

So, Internets, what do you think I should set as the week's discussion topic for punctuation?

The semicolon: marker of an outmoded elite or undervalued shorthand?

Who will save the apostrophe? How?

Who really cares about em-dashes?

All suggestions gladly welcomed. Suggestions that actually provoke discussion will be entertained.

ETA: Stuff like Emily Dickinson's Punctuation: The Controversy Revisited is alas beyond the scope of my course. I am toying with a "how do you balance the needs of your author's artistry with the conventions of punctuation"-type question, but I don't want to have to write an entire idiosyncratically punctuated ms.
Here's the backstory:

For a unit on Energy, my client requested like a feature that is an interview between a nominal grade 1 student and a nutritionist about what foods provide energy for school, sports etc.

I e-mailed my client and sad "I'm really, really leery of this. I think it borders on prescriptivism at the time when most kids are moving from being very intuitive eaters, to allowing external factors influence what they choose to eat. Scientifically, I think it poses a lot of challenges too, since pretty much all food will provide energy—energy and nutrients and a bit of water is pretty much what food is for. Can we maybe, instead, have an interview between a nominal six year old and an elite athlete, about how that person eats in order to have enough energy to train, compete, etc.? That way, we're being descriptive, rather than prescriptive, and we can still make the connection between food and energy. Also, it's kind of cool."

The client went for it. Hooray for good sense.

Now, of course, I need to track down an elite athlete. Pronto.

So does anyone know anyone who competes at an elite level, in some sport or other. I'm e-mailing members of the Canadian Women's Hockey Team, as well as the publicist for the Canadian Paralympic Athletes, but it's often easier to get in touch with someone if you have an "in." 

So, does anyone have an "in"?

On behalf of trying not to screw up kids' eating, I thank you.
I'm at the cool part of things again--the part where I come up with ideas about what's going to go into a resource. In this particular project--a literacy resource for primary students--we're using a lot of poetry. I'm rediscovering Dennis Lee, of course. And Raffi.

I'm also encountering a lot of poets whose work I've never read before.

There's a lot of bad kids' poetry out there, I can tell you. But, it is also amazing and humbling what some people can convey, using very simple words. Here are two that hit me today:

From Thanks a Million: Poems by Nikki Grimes, Illustrations by Cozbi A. Cabrera

I wish these walls were ours,
I wish this bed were mine,
that dinnertime meant just us three,
my brother, mom, and me.

I wish I had a room
that I was forced to clean.
I'd gripe for my best friend, then say,
"Come to my house and play."

Things could be worse, I know.
At least, I'm not alone.
My mom and brother hold me tight
when I cry late at night.

Dear Author

When my father died last year,
Somebody threw a switch and turned me off.
I couldn’t breathe. Or cry.
My family wondered why.

Months passed, and they figured
I must be okay. But they were wrong.
I leaked sadness everywhere I went.
No one seemed to notice or understand.
Until Lotus, the girl in your last book.
She was also drowning deep inside.
Some nights, I’d crawl between the pages
of that novel and hide for hours.

The two of you made all the difference.
I just thought you’d want to know.


The Q.H.M. magnetometer:

Pointy magnetometer

Developed for use in finding submarines under water, the magnetometer was later used to map magnetic activity in the ocean floors, providing support to the theory of continental drift.

But we can't print it in a grade 6 science book.

Some days it helps to have the mind of a 12-year-old )
Scientific knowledge is based on empirical evidence, and is appropriate for understanding the natural world, but it provides only a limited understanding of the supernatural, aesthetic, or other ways of knowing, such as art, philosophy, or religion.1

Here follows a very short rant. Maybe a rantlet.

This bothers me. It's a clear nod to the godbodies—we don't have apologia or disclaimers in the math standards, the history standards, or the geography standards. We don't have to say that an understanding of literary conventions in English will help you to understand and interpret texts written in English and literary traditions that share a similar cultural background, but may not be easily applied to an understanding of the narrative traditions of a non-literary culture (though perhaps we should!).

What do you all think of this?

1 From the Florida Standards for Science Education, Grade 7. It is, of course, not the only standard, nor even the most important.
zingerella: Capital letter "Z" decorated with twining blue and purple vegetation (Default)
( Sep. 10th, 2009 09:22 am)
The Uruguayan government just approved a bill to allow same sex couples to adopt children:

The bill was approved 17-6, with most of its support coming from legislators of the ruling leftist Frente Amplio coalition, which has a majority in Congress, and from two of the three senators of the opposition Partido Colorado. The measure passed the lower house in August and is expected to be signed into law soon.

"Whether the couple is gay or not should not be a matter of consideration," said ruling party Sen. Margarita Percovich, who sponsored the bill. "What matters is if the family is able to educate and stimulate the child to grow as a fulfilled human being."

The Catholic church, of course, does not approve.

Seems that Uruguay's government has made a lot of laws granting homosexual people more rights, ending bans on gays in the military, and legalizing civil unions (the new bill states that couples in a legal civil union would have equal rights when adopting children, so married couples may still be privileged in adoption, I'm not sure.)

via The Galloping Beaver.

Dear Internets,


I need to come up with a title for a short article for a science textbook for grades 6, 7, and 8. The article is about the strange and fascinating reproductive practices of seahorses (short version: females deposit eggs in males' brood pouches. Males fertilize and carry the brood of seahorse babies, eventually going into something that resembles labour, and the brood leaves the pouch).

Here are the requirements:
  • No personification: we're not allowed to assign human characteristics to non-human entities (therefore no gender-role jokes).
  • No overt raciness: this is for middle-graders in the U.S.
  • Should be kind of fun and cool—these features are supposed to be engaging.
  • Title should not be more than five words (or it won't fit)
Ideally, for design purposes, the title will include the word "Seahorse," but this is not a requirement.

Titles that have been panned:

Seahorse Reproduction—too boring
Making Babies, Seahorse Style—too suggestive
Seahorses: Sexual Rebels of the Sea—personification; too long

So, oh internets, I turn to you for assistance, because everyone here is scratching their heads and looking puzzled. Well, to be truthful, everyone here has gone home. They've already scratched their heads and looked puzzled.

So, give me a title! Do it for the fame! Do it for the glory! Do it for the LOLs!

Mating seahorses. The male's belly is distended.
I spent some time yesterday thinking about why I was so irked by my student's blithe request for Tuesday night's lecture materials—why I felt compelled to argue my own position, why I feel defensive, why I feel so very annoyed, why I went on and bloody on about it.

My hard-nosed nature and my pushover nature were at war with each other, you see.

And on my right shoulder, my hard-nosed nature argued )
My pushover nature tells me that earning a living is a basic need. I've argued for a long time that schools need to recognize the diversity of student needs and acknowledge the reality of student experiences. If we accommodate only a specific group of people—say people who don't need to work, or people who can work from 9–5, then we're excluding other students who might otherwise benefit from what we're offering. So, If I were really committed to a diverse group of students, I'd be working harder to make sure that I was accommodating them—after all, they're the ones paying the fees that make it possible for the college to hire me. And it's not like my student was off frivolling. She was working. So maybe I need to put my time-is-money where my mouth has been all this time.

Not everyone is privileged enough to have a job they can leave in order to go to class. And it's not her fault that I'm not organized enough to have typed notes for this lesson, to have powerpoints,* to do what some other instructors do. I shouldn't penalize her for that.

On the other tentacle, the offhand tone still bugged me, and I do feel that she's not living up to her end of the bargain.

So I e-mailed her back:

And, of course, part of my anger came from feeling defensive about the one lesson per semester that I teach mostly off the cuff. I should be more organized than that.

* I really, really hate making powerpoint presentations. I hate teaching from slides—irrationally, perhaps. In part, I don't like being tied to my plan—some of my best teaching moments come from taking advantage of teachable moments. In part, because fumbling from presentation software to the big-ass full-spread pdfs I project is cumbersome. In part, because my classroom is annoyingly set up, and I don't like being tied to the desk with the pc. In part because slide presentations are inherently one directional, and my teaching style is more interactive than that. And in part because I am old-fashioned and curmudgeonly.


zingerella: Capital letter "Z" decorated with twining blue and purple vegetation (Default)


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