Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Oooohhh! About to explode!

I expect there will be an increase in my postings here. I am about to explode in rage over the intrusive interference of technology in the way I interact with the world. Facebook has hosed itself up so badly that I am not willing to wade through the crap that appears there any more. Oh for the days when it was a resource connected to academic accounts. Now it has become a cess pit of scams, emotive tripe, and general social waste. It is about to be sent down the crapper with the rest of the shtuff I am no longer willing to put up with. In fact, this may be the start of a personal revolt against techno-things I get annoyed by, to wit: Facebook, streaming video/audio, cell phones, and cable TV service as starters.

More later when I calm down enough to begin the hermitization of my life.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A quiet morning - Thursday 8/25

It's been a while since I posted. Sorry about that.

This semester is shaping up to be fairly interesting. I have several sections of my Honors Program seminars. I'll write more on those a little later on, once I have a better sense of how they are going. Right now, I'll just say that they are going well, and they have given me a few surprises.

My composition class (it's a Comp I section - the first semester of college writing) is relatively subdued. It is an afternoon class on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so that may account for the quietness thus far. Then again, it may be that it is still a little early for them to start opening up in class. I have given them their first writing assignment. They will be writing a literacy narrative. Basically, that means they will be writing an account of an event that was significant in their development of communication skills. The significance doesn't have to be positive, and that may prove to be fairly revealing. The introductory writing assignment (to get a baseline feel for what skills they bring with them) has shown that there may be some interesting writing to read this semester - in amongst the fairly common freshman writing that I normally get.

My other class, and in many ways my favorite class, is a section of British Literature I. The earliest 1000 years of British Literature offer a wide variety of literature and historical, social, and religious contexts. Of course, I start with Beowulf. I love to see their eyes when they begin to understand that there is so much more to this work of literature than the selections they read and talked about in high school. You see, most of them (though not all of them) have been dealing with literature in what I call "book report" style. That is, they have been reading and talking about what the material says on the surface - that is, what "happens." When we take that further, and I show them how to analyze a work of literature, and to make an effort to understand the context of that work of literature, they start to either get lost or get excited. The "why" of things can be difficult to figure out. That's especially true when so many of our students have lost that little voice in the back of their minds that always asks "why." I call that the inner two-year old. I'm not sure why our education system stifles the natural urge to ask questions, but it does - regrettably, often to the point that students have forgotten how to ask questions and just accept everything a face value. What a sad commentary on who we are as a culture and a society.

Well, I'll post more when I get a chance. I suspect that I will be posting a little more often, especially with regard to the literature class. I may even post audio snippets from my class discussions from time to time.

Monday, August 15, 2011

New Beginnings - Monday 8/15

I know how cliché it sounds to say that "Today is the first day of the rest of my life." Still, it is true. Anyway, today is the first class day of fall semester 2011 here at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College. That alway holds a sense of expectation. It's also one of the reasons that I love teaching. No matter how bad the previous semester may have been (and it actually wasn't all that terrible), each new semester begins with a new mix of students and a new set of circumstances and challenges to be encountered and overcome.

I've decided to approach this semester with a new outlook as well. Paraphrasing a line from an older movie, "What's always the same about every semester I teach? Me!" With that in mind, I decided that perhaps the sameness of the last few semesters isn't a result of the students and courses. Perhaps it IS me. As a result, I've decided to approach things differently, freshly, this semester.

Having come off a very enjoyable and successful summer, I am looking forward to exploring new ways to engage my classes in the material that I present this semester. I have a British Literature I class, an English Composition I class, two sections of the Freshman Honors seminar, and one section of directed study Sophomore Honors seminar.

I will periodically post my musings about my successes and the unsuccessful choices. Of course, there will be other things besides classes and readings to discuss as I go along - and I'll share those as well.    

Friday, August 12, 2011

Calm before the storm - Friday 8/12

Today marks the last work day that I won't be dealing with students for the next 3 1/2 months. Work today consists of finishing up syllabuses, updating my instructor web page, and basically getting ready for first class meetings next Monday and Tuesday.

Other issues in my crazy existence have been and will be keeping me busy.

I have just restored my internet access from home after having lost my laptop's hard drive to a virus. Now I have a new desk top computer with basic bells and whistles.

I am planning on auditioning for the local community theatre's fall production, so if I am cast, I will be busy with that for a couple of months.

I have a couple of writing projects on the horizon, but more about those as they get into the works.

I have started rehearsals with the local community choir, the Tifton Choral Society. We have some interesting music to work on - a requiem by Saint Saens and a choral work by Bach. Both pieces are challenging, but when we get them prepared, they should be quite beautiful.

On Sunday, the college is having its Freshman Convocation. It interferes with rehearsal for the choral society, but that is not the only objectionable issue with its timing. However, I won't say anything more about academic politics here. That would get me off on a tangent that I don't think I want to follow in this blog.

Anyway, I suspect there will be more frequent updates to this blog, though perhaps not daily, once classes begin next week. This has become an interesting outlet for my ideas about what I am doing, so I intend to keep up with it. I will also try to post pictures from time to time as well. They make the blog so much nicer to look at.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Back to work - Tuesday 8/2

I am back at work. It's not full time yet, but I did drop in to the office to get a few things taken care of. Hey, it's a way to keep from mowing the grass.

We were supposed to be wrapping up the filming this week on the movie project I am involved with. However, with the daily threat of rain and the fact that our filming is outdoors for most of the remaining scenes, all added to the fact that this is a film about people dealing with a drought, and you'll see why the rain in the forecast isn't a good thing - for this project, that is. It's a great thing for the area, and especially the farmers, since we have been actually going through a drought!

Now that my travel to England is done, my postings will probably be few and far between. Then again, perhaps not too far between. I still have a lot of musings that may find their way in here. In addition, I am sure that I will be including things about the movie once the final scene schedule is announced.

So, if you are interested, you can still join me in the library (the background picture is of Sir Walter Scot's personal library at his home in Abbotsford, Scotland) for a review of what is happening. Who knows, I may have some more travel related postings in the future. 

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Back in the states - Saturday 7/30

Well, the final craziness of the London Study Abroad trip is now beginning to pass. Wednesday was a blur of last minute issues, packing (how did I manage to get an additional 20 pounds of stuff while I was there?) and figuring out what to do with my last evening in London. I finally opted for a quiet evening of reading. That turned out to be a good choice. I had to get up at 4:30 on Thursday morning, so I turned in fairly early - once I finally sat on my suitcase to get it closed. Yes, I really had to do that!
Thursday was a travel marathon. As I mentioned, I woke up at 4:30. That's when I planned to wake up, but I actually woke up at about 3:45. I left the dorm room to walk the four blocks to the other dorm (where the bus was going to pick everyone up) for the ride to the airport. The bus left the dorm at about 5:40 and arrived at Heathrow about 6:30. I was a little surprised at how quickly we were able to get there. The check in process was also amzingly smooth and relatively short. I was beginning tr get a little suspicious at the way things were working out so smoothly!

The first leg of our flight home took us from London to Dallas/Ft. Worth in Texas. The odd stop over location is the price we had to pay for a flight with a group booking as large as ours. Anyway, we cleared customs in Dallas instead of Atlanta, and I am sure that was a great thing. The lines at DFW were relatively short and fast. Then all that was left was to wait about an hour to get on the plane from Dallas to Atlanta.

Ah ha! My string of lucky travelling DID have a cost. I was stuck in a middle seat from Dallas to Atlanta. I get claustrophobic in middle seats on a plane. Further, I was sandwiched between a type-A personality business type who kept elbowing be in the ribs as he thrashed around in his seat and a high school girl returning from a summer in Guatamala who apparently thought that talking non-stop about her experiences and her future academic plans to an absolute stranger on a plane would be a great way to pass the time. All I wanted to do was sleep, but that didn't really happen.

Finally, we arrived at Atlanta. It was 6:30pm EST. That meant I had been awake 20 straight hours by the time we landed. Oh, there had been a few cat naps on the flights, but nothing very effective at all. The luggage took about 40 minutes to get from the plane to baggage claim carousel. That seemed excessive, especially as all I wanted to do was to sleep, and not listen to all of the passengers greet their friends and families across the waiting area at full voice. My positive karma returned briefly when my suitcase was one of the first to come off the carousel. I grabbed it, wished a safe journey home to all of those around me within earshot of a quiet voice, and made a bee-line dash to the exit.

I spent my three hour drive from Atlanta to Tifton trying not ot fall asleep behind the wheel. I was successful. I arrived home, exhausted, 26 hours after I had woken up in London. The trip was over.

My cats greeted me when I got to the door. They both purred loudly from the moment I walked in, through a quick round of cat treats, and while I got ready for bed. By the time I fell asleep, our routine had been reestablished. I truly felt HOME from the five weeks of the London Study Abroad program.

Friday was a day to unpack, get some work done with end of summer term grades, share a few stories with colleagues at work, and rest with a good book for much of the afternoon.

I still have a few pictures to download from the camera and to post here, but that will have to wait until later this weekend.   

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

London, wrapping up - Tuesday 7/26

Tuesday was our last real academic day in London. After a morning of fielding issues with students planning their final day (Wed.) in and around London, I met with my class for the final time. They filled out class evaluations and took the final exam.

After the final exam, the faculty gathered one last time to have dinner. We took a our boat down the Thames to Greenwich. Once there, we shared a pint at the Trafalgar. It's a pub named for the famous and decisive sea battle won by the British national hero, Admiral, Lord Horatio Nelson, over teh combined French and Spanish forces of the Napoleonic Wars in 1805. After sharing some time there, we went to a great little restaurant in Greenwich. It's called Inside. We had a splendid meal and enjoyable conversation. 

I have to admit that I have really liked this summer, and especially my class. I have been impressed with what they have been able to glean from their reading and our discussions. I just hope that their final exams reflect that, too. The field trips have been a lot of fun, and judging from the general reactions each week, the students enjoyed them almost as much as I did.

This summer, as a co-site director, I have also had to be involved in the assistance and discipline roles with some of the students. I know that it is a necessary part of the program, and I am always happy to assist when there are problems. However, I think the discipline side of things - and we had some relatively serious issues with out-of-control behavior on occasion - is the part I like least. I won't say anything more about it here, because I don't want to spend an inordinate amount of time focusing on what is essentially the negative side of study abroad.

I hope this blog has been of interest. It has been a good way to journal about the experiences I have had on this trip with the class readings and in the non-academic times. Wednesday 7/27 will be a flurry of activity with packing, last minute issues, and a very short night. We leave our dorms at 5:30 am to get to the airport to leave London at 9:30 am. Consequently, this will be my last blog entry from London, but I will write a wrap up blog entry after I return to Georgia. I will also go back and add in some pictures here and there across the 5 weeks worth of entries as I get a chance to go through my downloads more carefully. 

I have had a great time, and I hope you have been able to share in it a little bit.