Tag Archives: academia


I just discovered the Ideas blog on the NY Times website while procrastinating the inevitable: completion of “Element K” a series of technology tutorials and assessments all teachers must complete for a teaching credential.  It’s estimated the tutorials and assessments amount to approximately 14 hours of un-fun screen time.   

I love the randomness of “Ideas.”  The first post I found, called “The Doctorate is Out” [lol], contains a link to an article reporting the horrendous state of the job market for humanities PhD’s.   So far there’s one comment from reader Phed up with higher learning.  

With that I suppose I should begin my tutorials on MS Office keeping in mind that my teaching credential actually qualifies me for a job (albeit low paying) with health and retirement benefits, unlike my PhD counterparts.  

waa waa waa…

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I Never Thought I Could Love an Economist

Talk about love at first sight.  

Listen to Mr. Fryer’s words.  

The achievement gap is the number one civil rights issue in this country.  

AND the man is funny–he schools Colbert!  Beautiful.  Please watch this.  

Roland Fryer on The Colbert Report

I’m in love.


More links to learn more about Fryer and his project to address the achievement gap through paying Black students for high grades:

Click here for his contact information at Harvard.

Click here to view the project website: Edlabs.

Click here to read a Wall Street Journal article.

Click here to read an article in the London Times. 

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Written December 5, 20008.  Published December 9, 2008.

This post is in regards to November 28-December 5

Note to my readers:

I have been reticent up to this point on the blog to 1) say I am married 2) say I have a husband 3) explicitly identify with a gender. It is time to come out of the closet on points 1) and 2). I am happily married to a man. 3) will be left to your imagination, unless you know me personally, as many (most?) of my readers do.

Also, as the foregoing information suggests, this post is uncharacteristically(?) intimate in nature. But I think justifiably so.


The Constants:

Monday marked my first wedding anniversary to my husband. It is a sacred day. I have been overwhelmed with my emotion of love for my husband, remembrances of these days and weeks as we lived them one year before when we were marrying each other, committing for life in front of all our loved ones, and I take that so seriously. And it isn’t easy. Marriage is damn hard and I love that man so much. And I take that commitment incredibly seriously. And it is overwhelming to think about the fact that this is my life, this is OUR life, and we WILL be together for the rest of our lives because we promised each other and everyone else in that church and GOD. It is NOT easy AND I LOVE that man. These thoughts, feelings, and emotions infused my everyday experience this week.

symbiosisSymbiosis by Cameron Michel and Vashti Windish

Other factors that affected daily life this week:

-We currently have no heat in our house and somehow it is most of the time colder inside than it is outside. We have two space heaters that are somewhat effective but by nature of being space heaters don’t heat evenly and often leave you too hot in the smaller rooms because no matter where you put them they are blowing on you in some way. Alternately they leave you too cold in the large open living and dining areas because the space is far to big to heat with space heaters.

-I am THRILLED to be flying to NYC on Friday 12/5 to celebrate two of my best friends’ thirtieth birthdays at a 500 person bash in lower Manhattan AND visit all my other loved ones there. Thoughts of my weekend in NYC, the impending party, and my two best friends for whom it is thrown hung over me all week.

philippe_and_ed_bdayParty Flier

-I have been sick since Friday, 11/28

-I teach three periods of 6th grade Monday-Friday and attend Mills College in the afternoons/evenings Tuesday-Thursday.

Friday-Sunday: sick to the point of constant need for horizontalness

Saturday: So sick I flaked on working at the flower shop and felt like such a douche bag about it.


Sunday: My laptop became non-operational. Reasons unknown.


I had a wedding anniversary.

Had a family emergency in the afternoon.

Had a draft of a paper due Tuesday that I had only vaguely outlined on Sunday (very not my style, I always do my work in advance, it’s the only way I stay sane. I’m not one of those people who regularly waits till the night before something is due to write it–that would make me crazy and compromise the quality of my work. Just speaking personally…).

I had to create and prepare to teach a lesson for Tuesday of my own curriculum (I most often teach a scripted curriculum that I am required by my district to teach due to an agreement between Alameda USD and the University of Kansas. Alameda USD has adopted this curriculum and is providing data for research being conducted on the effectiveness of a curriculum KU designed called “Fusion” to remediate reading for struggling, under-performing urban students. While creating my own curriculum is in fact ideal, doing so the night before is not, but I simply could not move I was so sick over the weekend).

I had a hard time planning/writing my lesson and my paper because my laptop was broken. I had to use my husband’s computer, which has some kind of fucked up version of Word that corrupts the files and is not connected to a printer so when I would email the files to myself to print elsewhere they would not open. His computer is new, snazzy, and has a 30″ monitor. He does big important arty shit on it and has a million external hard drives. But you know what, the copy of Word is fucked. Word is my life. My husband (and many other people) constantly make fun of my 2005 12″ PowerBook G4, but the machine has never died on me before and is perfectly suited to my Internet-obsessed life and word processing habits.

Went out to dinner for my anniversary (to Oliveto obviously) and was spoiled by my husband. It was so lovely, SO many flowers. Honestly.


Taught in the morning, went to class in the afternoon, having managed to get everything word-processed and printed. Submitted draft of aforementioned paper.

Ran to the Apple store after class, couldn’t get help because I didn’t have a Genius Bar appointment because when I checked they didn’t have any and usually when that happens I just go there and wait and someone doesn’t show up for their appointment and I get helped. Not so this time. Some asshole was trying to blow me off. So I just bought a new power cord thinking that the fact that my machine wouldn’t power on had to be either the power cord of the need for a new battery.

Went home, the power cord made it all better!!! I had a working computer again!!!

I cooked a big dinner (something I don’t do every weeknight especially when I’m stressed with schoolwork, but it was part of…

Anniversary week month celebration. (Monday night was a lot about my husband celebrating me, and Tuesday night it was my turn to celebrate him). He loved it, I even got his favorite scotch-mallows and molasses crisps at See’s across the street from the Apple store at Bay Street. It was great.




Woke up amazed that I was still sick, so I committed to flushing my system. Within the course of the day I drank approximately 5 liters of water, a carton of tangerine juice, and a bottle of 100% Pomegranate juice. And multiple cups of Yogi brand Ginger tea and Honey Lemon Throat coat tea. My stomach managed the whole thing incredibly well.

Taught in the morning…

Was in class at Mills from 1-5:45PM straight. Wednesdays are a bitch for me. Had a paper due Thursday (again that I hadn’t started due to my sickness) and a second draft of the paper I wrote for Tuesday. I also had to write a lesson plan and prepare to teach it on Thursday (again, similarly to above). And I had to prepare for an important meeting with a professor on Thursday.

When I got home I had a family emergency that had to be dealt with before starting my papers. It was a long night.


I woke up in the morning to the electricity we paid 12K to get entirely redone in August on the fritz. I went outside in the cold to the box on the side of the house (it’s 6AM) and I switched the fuses on and off, but only half the power went back on.

On my way to work I called the electrician and left a voice mail, a kind, urgent voice mail.

Along with my early morning realization about the electricity I was still ridden with mucous and remained intent on my flushing mission. Again I drank 4 or so liters of water over the course of the day, a lot of Yogi tea, and a “magnum” size bottle of Cran-Apple juice from Trader Joe’s. My urinary tract should be extraordinarily healthy this week.

Got to school.

I taught a great lesson–a great fucking lesson. I wish I had videotaped it. I was on fire, the kids were on fire, they were teaching each other. It was so fucking beautiful. YES! That’s my art baby.

I left school, picked up my prescription that I had to have for Friday. While I was waiting for my prescription to fill I made a to do list for the rest of the day and made a packing list for NYC that was very thoughtful so as not to look like a Bay Area schlumpy bumpkin in NYC.

During all this, there was a man that I had hired cleaning my gutters at the house. He’s a great guy and I had told him about the electricity issue. He figured out the problem–the switch of one essential fuse was stuck and wasn’t really switching on and off–it was stuck in the middle (I didn’t notice this in the dawn’s barely light after my sleepless night), we just had to push it harder, then the electricity went back on. Problem was fixed by noon. And I got to call my husband and tell him and he was proud of me, even though I didn’t solve the problem at least I found someone to solve it for us. He calls me his frontier wife. My skills are akin to using EVERY part of the bison–wasting nothing.

My meeting with my professor was at 1PM.

At 12:15PM I arrived at Bloomies and made a flower arrangement for my professor because she has admired my designs before and I thought it would be good to soften the blow of what I was about to tell her: that the faculty’s and her program to prepare “teachers for tomorrow’s schools” with a clearly articulated heavy social justice mission is in my view falling incredibly short of accomplishing that mission and I’m not going to sit around and be quiet about it. Do you know how much this shit costs??? And do you know how much teachers get paid??? I ain’t going get a buck twenty five like fucking associates out of law school you know? So if I’m paying this money you better bring it. And even if I wasn’t, this is my education at stake and I’m supposed to be a fucking educator! MAN, sorry guys, I get heated about this shit. Someone made the mistake of giving me a T-shirt in high school with an Adrienne Rich quote that said “we will not live to settle for less” and I never looked back. Then my fucking husband goes and gives me a necklace that says “I’m Worth It” in diamonds so yeah, this is it, and it’s never going to be any other way. Some wise people told me “do you” and I’m doin it.

The night before I had managed to revise the paper from Tuesday to turn into my professor (not the one I was meeting with) in his box prior to my 1PM meeting.

By 1PM I arrived at Mills. There was ABSOLUTELY no effing parking because everyone gets there around that time. Risked it and parked in the 10 minute zone in front of the School of Ed. building.

I had an hour and a half long meeting in which I described to my professor the various and major issues that I see as compromising my graduate program. The constructive criticism was very well received. It was a major triumph. I’ll be partnering with my colleagues and the faculty to continue a dialog about improving the teacher preparation program at Mills.

I didn’t eat a damn thing the entire day. I forgot.

I went to the library after my meeting and finished my paper for my 4:15PM class. I went to class thinking that I hadn’t done the reading and found out when I got there that I had done it–two weeks ago when I was working ahead. Blessed. What a day. I was a bit high on me and the way everything was going so well.

Class ended at 6:45PM and I raced home–but stopped to pick up a bottle of wine at Paul Marcus. I had to celebrate surviving the week. I got one bottle for me for the night, a more expensive bottle of Nero D’Avola than I usually buy, to treat myself, and a bottle of Txakoli to bring as a gift for my dear Basque friend who I am staying with in NYC.

I got home and having memorized the list I made earlier in the day, I laid my clothes out on my bed and carefully folded them (I love being a good packer) ready to put in the suitcase. I readied hors d’oeuvres for my friends and family who were coming over to see me off. I lit candles.

I had my weekly Thursday night meeting with The Triumvirate: EPK, MDM, and RCR. We are a group of Mills students who enjoy each other’s company, respect each other as intellectuals, are committed to supporting each other as we embark on exceedingly challenging careers in public education, and have a damn good time.

I rehashed my meeting with my professor for RCR and MDM, who are equally invested in improving the condition of our graduate program, and heard their stories of the day. As usual we yelled, screamed, laughed, and gestured. Hands flying, interrupting, taking turns.

Rimpletide and Alice came to witness it.

My husband didn’t get home until almost 10PM.

He injured himself fairly badly on the film set–it involved a finger and either a drill or screwdriver and a loose flap of skin and that’s all I’ll say. I got him hot salt water baths in finger bowls so he could soak his finger. I fed him food. He went to lie down and read.

Rimpletide and Alic borrowed my car for the weekend and took off, subdued by hangovers from the night before and pleasantly tired by the spectacle of The Triumvirate in action. Thursday night is our night and we never hold back. Once RCR and MDM come to Rockridge all hell breaks loose in the most glorious way. Usually my husband likes to watch and throw something in here and there but the injury and set construction exhaustion had him down for the night.

I fucking baked my husband, RCR, and MDM chocolate chip cookies. Yes I ripped that shit up whipped that shit out! I was on fire yesterday. I could do anything. I could write papers, argue my points, say things I was scared to say to people who are above me, laugh with my friends. I could do it all. AND I knew exactly what I was taking to NYC and remembered to get the wine as a hostess gift dammit.

I loaded the dishwasher, I cleaned up the kitchen, I left minimal mess. I hate to leave for a trip with a messy house. It’s just not right.

My guests trickled out but the last didn’t leave till midnight.

Off to bed.


I woke up at 5AM with a splitting headache from the Hendricks (the Triumvirate drinks Hendricks exclusively) and wine and so much excitement the night before—unbelievable excitement anticipating my time in NYC.  NYC is like home to me.  It’s going home dammit.

So I got in my Weleda Rosemary Milk Bath (so fucking great it deserves its own post and will get one) and took some headache medicine and downed some water and read Perez Hilton in the bath on my iPhone and emailed my people telling them how I couldn’t wait (to be even more intimate and detailed I will tell you that a bath like that with the concurrent Internet browsing is quite habitual in A Rockridge Life) I finished all my packing, I set my hair.  I made coffee for my husband and me and I let him sleep as long as I could.  I was all ready.  I forgot nothing.  I got it all.  I just had to get on the Bart and get on the plane.


My husband told me he would drive me to West Oakland to make my trip shorter.  It was great.  I love him so much and I was excited to spend more time with him before I left.  I am not sad he’s not coming.  It will be the good kind of separation.  I will have a chance to experience my NYC loved ones as I should from time to time, just them and me, and husband has art to do.  Some serious art and “making things” as he calls it and that’s what it is and he loves it.  And I love it that he loves it.  And I love IT too—the “making things” that he makes.  It’s all really fucking great.  So we’ll miss each other but it’s cool. 


So, I’m the type of bitch who never carries cash because I never have two seconds to take it out of a machine because my life is crazy hectic and it just isn’t what’s going on, trips to the ATM, I can barely get around to filling my car with gas and that is something I HAVE to do because my ass is driving all the fuck around to schools teaching and to a college learning and home again repeat.

SO I get to Bart, I’m on time, it’s COOL.  And I’m on the escalator up to the platform and I realize I left my fucking purse in my husband’s car with my cell phone.

This nice lady on the platform let me use her phone to call my husband but he didn’t pick up because my man is always on the phone with important people in LA and Paris and shit and he’s not so down with unknown numbers so basically I’m fucked

I run down to the station level and get on the pay phone.  Still no pick up

Repeat that 4 or 5 times.  Finally as I’m about to call again he calls the pay phone, says he was trying to pick up but there were some issues who knows?

He comes back.

I get my purse.

I get on Bart.

I make it to South San Francisco but I’m on a fucking Millbrae train so I have to get off and wait for an SFO train.  It works, it comes, but I’m dizzy, nauseous, gassy, and think I might throw up.  I had pain pills and coffee and water and no food and I feel fucked.  I’ve got nothing on me to imbibe or consume in any way.  I was looking at this kid like 20’s listening to an iPod and snacking and I thought about Literally ASKING that motherfucker for some food that’s how much I was dying.  Like hello crazy!  Like my privileged-ass Rockridge-living self begging for food in my nice clothes jewelry and ticket to NYC on Virgin America.  Goddam.

So I get to the airport and I think I’m fucking made.  Because I’d been scared I wouldn’t make it–but I did make it.  I’m like fucking Joe Pesci in Goodfellas going to get made–all puffed up with my good suit on just so ignorant that right now shit’s really hitting the fan and my ass is going to get knocked off!!!


I make it through security and I’m just like OK all I need is some fucking yogurt you know? All I need is some yogurt.  Those live cultures are going to settle my stomach.  So  I grab some Yoplait, it’s cool, I indulge in some BS fashion mags, and get on that PLANE!!!

And I’m putting my shit in the overhead and I realize I fucking left my computer in the bin at security.

I’m sweating.

I tell the flight attendant.

He said to tell the women at the desk at the gate.

I run up there.

They tell me to run to security and get it.

I do.

I run.

I’m panting.

I tell the TSA guys, it’s cool, early morning at the International Terminal and not too busy.

I know it’s going to be cool,

But the running made my stomach crazy and I’m worried I’m going to throw up on the TSA guy’s shoes.  They get my comp, make me sign something and I’m off.

I get on the plane.

I eat a yogurt.

I feel better.

I start reading the December issue of Bazaar (Lindsay Lohan really randomly soothes me).  It’s the best issue of a fashion magazine I feel like I’ve read in about 5 years.  Amazing shit.


I’m starting to chill and I see a jacket that makes me think about my best friend Mrs. Jubbison.  And ooooooooooh shit Jebbison’s birthday was yesterday and I fucking forgot.






Jubbison is a seriously tough lady and the most loving person I know.  She’s a third year law student at one of the highest ranking law schools in the country.  She’s a star there.  She already has her high paying job all lined up and this girl is a SUPERSTAR.  She is just so hardworking and smart it’s out of this world.  AND she is the most loving Christian I know.  This girl is dil-I-gent.  I mean for REAL.  You just don’t know.  And I LOVE the fuck out of her.  And she is the most thoughtful person, you know she emailed and called ME on MY wedding anniversary.  Because she is in love with me and my husband and our love that she wanted to celebrate us and make sure we knew it.  And she doesn’t give a fuck about her birthday or presents.  She thinks it’s silly at the age we are to have to have some big deal about your birthday every year.   All she cares about is the people she loves, taking care of them, working really unbelievably fucking hard, and praising the Lord.  And if someone she really cared about cared about his or her birthday she’d care about it.  But she doesn’t care about her own birthday.  But I forgot her birthday.  I couldn’t believe myself.  I knew it was coming too, I planned it out, I knew I would write, would call, would do it all.  And I didn’t even stop long enough yesterday to realize it was December 4th.  We’ve been close since we were 12 YEARS OLD.  Man, I felt dumb. 

So there you go.

Onwards and Upwards.

Thank you.


You’re welcome.




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Where is the Rockridge Life?

These days there isn’t a lot of life being led in the Rockridge sense.  Saddleshoos is busy at Mills College and at a middle school in Alameda, and shuttling between the two along High Street.

Several course meals have been replaced by readers, midterms, and lesson plans.  The questions are why teach?  how to teach?  what is an educative experience according to Dewey’s concepts of continuity and interaction?  how do we combat contextual factors that render experience miseducative for students?  Design a unit plan that includes: “performances of understanding.”  Tests are out, understanding is in.  In teacher preparation programs that is, until you get back to the district (where Saddleshoos incidentally has already been) and you find out that it really still is all about the tests.  And no one is interested in your performance of understanding.

Unless you can squeeze yourself into a context that buys into that stuff.  Like a progressive private high school that costs as much as it did to go to college in the late 90’s, or a charter school, that while functioning as a beautiful laboratory does little, as far as I can tell, to serve all children the way public schools are meant to do.  They try though, they do, and maybe I’ll end up there, but perhaps not without feeling like I gave up the fight a little.

So where teach?  In the dysfunctional district, the elusive charter, the exclusive private school?

Recently all I want to do is throw in the towel and kick it to Europe.  Perhaps Rome (I. and I did just watch Roman Holiday), or maybe Madrid or Barcelona.  Or Paris.  A great European city.  I’ve always wanted to live in an Almodovar film, somewhere where my nervous breakdowns and flair for the dramatic can be most fully appreciated.  Any takers?

There it is.  The explanation for thin and far between posts, lack of writing, and focus on the pretty pictures.

But all is not lost.  I told a colleague last night when she asked me how I cope with it all (since we all face these same dilemmas, since I am not unique, and teachers just might be the most endangered of species in our world), the only way I get through is by waking up everyday and showing my students all the love and knowledge and energy I have for them.  And that’s a lot.  I love the kids.  And they make it all worth it.  You’ve got to love the kids.  

Tomorrow night for the first time in my three years in education I will visit the home of one of my students.  I’ve been strictly instructed that entrance is only granted to those who call the parent by their first name, and those who come with an empty stomach.  I’ve agreed to the terms.  And so as not to offend the culinary expertise of my host, I plan on bringing an arrangement, so perhaps I can squeeze a flora post out of that tomorrow.  

Here’s to another day with the youth.  Bless them all.

And don’t forget, Obama is a teacher. Put down the hatchet, pick up the scalpel, and start excising the sickness.


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It’s More Than a Decimal System

I’m spending a lot of time with John Dewey these days.  While I had read about him in text books many times before, now is the first time I am becoming acquainted with the man through his own words.  It’s a pleasure.  I’m reading “Experience and Education.”

I also appreciate the man for his use of the term “in toto,” which I originally learned from my Southern mother.  She used to say things like, “you can’t reject the idea in toto!”


in toto: Totally; altogether: recommendations that were adopted in toto.

I like the way the phrase “in toto” sounds ridiculous and completely pretentious at the same time. !

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2 W’s, 1 H

Why, What and How You Teach

Why do I teach?  I teach to learn.  I became a teacher because I am a life-long student.  My goal, for the rest of my life, is to be a part of a community of learners.  I have a picture of this learning community in my mind.  This community is made up of individuals interested in academic pursuits.  This is a community in which teachers are students and students are teachers.  In this community everyone is called “learners.”  It is a community where younger learners are supported by mentorship and advisement of older learners.  It is a community where learners of all levels are expected to learn from each other.  It is a community where academic inquiry and practical skills are synthesized. 

That is my learning utopia.  But we do not live in a utopia, which brings me to the other reason I teach, a reason so large that it looms over all my other reasons.  I am teaching to politicize and empower learners.  This reason assumes an imbalance of power in our world that we must fight together to even.  We must bond together as a community of learners to put it right.  I am teaching for peace.  I am teaching for justice.


As a young child I was aware of myself as an advanced student.  I knew my success in school was due to my knowledge of reading and words.  I knew reading was my power.

Over time, my relationship and feelings towards reading and words evolved, and by the time I was a young adult I realized that books, writing, and talking about books and writing were my passion.  Words became important to me as agents of change. 

I teach Reading, Writing, and Speaking.  My interest in teaching Reading, Writing, and Speaking (RWS) comes from the role this content and these skills had in my own experience of learning.  RWS comprise the throughline of my life as a learner.  Other people call what I teach English or Language Arts, but I like to call it RWS because it grounds learners and me in a practice that is definable and observable.  I prefer RWS to English, because I don’t think what I teach is limited to English by any definition.  I prefer RWS to Language Arts, because very few people can grasp the concept of Language Arts. 

I teach RWS because it teaches us how to communicate with other learners.  Communication is the key to constructing new knowledge.  Knowledge is not created in a vacuum.  If there was only one human living on Earth, I would argue that it would be impossible for her to be as knowledgeable as a community of humans living on Earth.  Knowledge is socially constructed, which is why we need to be able to communicate.  Communication occurs through RWS.  Without RWS, we have no way of communicating.  If we can communicate by learning RWS, then we can construct new knowledge across content areas.

I teach RWS because it teaches us how to manipulate language.  The manipulation of language through writing and speaking is how we gain access to power.  Again, if we learn to manipulate language by studying RWS, we may manipulate language to gain access to power across content areas and disciplines.


The way I envision the study of RWS includes challenging students to answer the following essential questions.  These might be considered my answer to E.D. Hirsh’s “Critical Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know.”

Who Am I?

What is this world?

What is justice?

How do we work for peace?

What am I to do, given my knowledge of my world and myself?

How does RWS help me answer these questions?

How does RWS help me understand different voices and different perspectives?

Beyond these questions, there is a specific skill base I hope to teach students.  Through RWS I hope to teach my students the ability to read any text, to write any type of document, and to speak with authority about any subject.  Within the discipline of Reading, there is specific content and skills that I hope my students will come away with.  I hope to teach students to be able to make meaning from texts, both narrative and expository.  I hope my students will be familiar with the Western canon of literature.  I hope my students will be critical of this canon and its dominance, and respond by seeking out different voices to read.

I will teach Reading by exposing my students to a variety of narrative and expository texts.  As a part of this process I will ask my student to reflect on their knowledge and where it comes from.  I will teach my students that their knowledge is key to their understanding of texts they read.  Then I will teach students the context and history of the texts they read.

Within the discipline of Writing, there are also specific skills I hope to teach.  I hope to teach my students to convey their ideas in writing.  I hope to teach them to write academically. I hope to teach them how to construct an argument in writing.  I hope to teach my students how to be creative with writing. 

I will teach Writing by requiring my students to practice the discipline of manually recording their thoughts, at first casually and autobiographically.  I will teach them how to construct a proper sentence, paragraph, and essay.  I will teach them how to understand words better, and skills with which to teach themselves new words.  I will teach them how to manipulate words and the structure of their writing to elicit emotion from their readers and to convince readers of their arguments.

Within the discipline of Speaking, I hope that I will teach my students to communicate with others in conversation.  I hope that they will learn how to listen.  I hope that they will learn how to talk to people who are different than them.

I will teach Speaking by ensuring that every student’s voice is valued and heard in my classroom.  I will teach students speaking by teaching them the value of learning from each other, and thus how to speak and converse constructively.  I will teach students that it is every human’s right to have a voice. 

How will I teach?  I will teach with care that extends beyond subject matter.  This starts by approaching each of my students as an individual.  By looking at each student in terms of their individual strengths, needs, likes, and dislikes, I hope not only to ensure their success in my class, but in their lives.  I hope that I will be able to help them find and excel at something they love regardless of whether or not it falls in my content area, or in an academic discipline at all.  I hope give my students the opportunity to be analytical, critical, and solve problems.  I hope to teach my students to take responsibility, because we are citizens of the world.  I hope to lead them to be connected, active, and contributing members of their community.

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Don’t you want to know why I want to be a teacher? Part II: REVISED

Reading and writing are important because they are the roots of power in the modern world.  We as individuals and communities can use reading and writing to obtain power for ourselves and to challenge power structures that are currently in place.  Reading and writing are the major tasks of the discipline of English and Language Arts.  The third component of English is speaking.  Your voice, in addition to your power to comprehend words and put thoughts into writing, will empower you in ways beyond your imagination.  To be “literate” in English is to be able to make meaning from texts, both narrative and expository.  To be “literate” in English is to be able to convey your ideas in writing.  To be “literate” in English is to be able to communicate with others in conversation.  Schools as systems do not take into account our individual differences and the many cultures we as learners bring to the classroom.  Schools as systems have not traditionally given us opportunities to express ourselves, and to get closer to realizing our individual passions.  In this class we will approach reading and writing as tools to do the work that schools too often fail to do.  Through our reading of the world and our writing of ourselves, we will get closer to our true selves and each other.  This is progress. 

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Hare or Hair -Brained?

When I was writing “Smells Kind of Fish-y,”  and characterizing Stanley Fish as “hare-brained,” I had to look up the word harebrained, because I don’t really know it.  If “knowing” is to have the capacity to use a term to create meaning, then I, in this sense did not know “harebrained.”  It was not because I had never used the term “harebrained,” and not that I had never looked up the term.  In fact, I had.  But it was so recently, and so few times, that the meaning hadn’t really sunken in.

I reflected on the fact that I have never fully understood or employed the term “harebrained.”  The fact is that to this day I have been confused: is it “hair” brained (as in a brain full of hair, and therefore little brain matter?) or “hare” brained?  The latter would make no sense to me…but why?


Why? Because this is the image of a Hare that I grew up with:

Now, it would be nice if I had a larger image, but this will work.  That is a hare, specifically Brer Rabbit.  Brer Rabbit is cunning, Brer Rabbit is smart, Brer Rabbit outfoxes his predators, and Brer Rabbit protects his family.  In this publication and related ones in the same series he is given to smoking, sitting at a dinner table in a chair, and wearing overalls and suspenders.  He is a hare.  “Hare” or “hair” -brained people are supposed to be lacking in cognitive abilities right?  Sort of irrational right?  Well, here is a hare who cares for his family, models correct dinner table manners for the youth, and wears snappy outfits.  Now, given these realities I find it perfectly reasonable that a woman with a year of post-graduate study under her belt and more in process would be confused over the odd and colloquial term, “harebrained.”  Based on my observations of Brer Rabbit, and my observations of “hare” or “hair” -brained individuals, I deduced that the term “harebrained” for dense individuals couldn’t possibly be correct!  You must mean HAIRbrained!  As in a brain the size and thickness of a shaft of HAIR!


Brer Rabbit comes down to us through West Africa, the Gullah, Black slaves, the white man Joel Chandler Harris who published his stories into a book, and the Disney studio, who in 1946 made the stories into a motion picture called Song of the South.  The different tellings and different tellers have all added layers to this melting pot of a story, and I do mean melting.  Because these days, our image of Brer Rabbit is not dictated by one or the other, but is rather a creolization, a cycle of imitation, reflection, and reiteration.  Now, I was about to say, as dictionary.com says, that “harebrained” is to be giddy or reckless, and that Brer Rabbit is neither of those things.  But, perhaps in the imaginations of the youth more exposed to cartoons than Joel Chandler Harris, Brer Rabbit is a fool, though he was never one to me.  But I digress.  To clear things up I felt the need to go beyond the internet crutch that is dictionary.com and Google the term.  [I know, you’re thinking, well what did that take, an entire click of the tab key?].  But I did, and I was enlightened.  For “Bartleby,” [like the Scrivner?  I love Melville] the online version of the American Heritage Dictionary, lays it all out for us.  

Their definition is “foolish; flighty,” which is consistent with dictionary.com BUT interestingly enough, ADH provides some historical context:  

USAGE NOTE: The first use of harebrained dates to 1548. The spelling hairbrained also has a long history, going back to the 1500s when hair was a variant spelling of hare. The hair variant was preserved in Scotland into the 18th century, and as a result it is impossible to tell exactly when people began writing hairbrained in the belief that the word means “having a hair-sized brain” rather than “with no more sense than a hare.” While hairbrainedcontinues to be used and confused, it should be avoided in favor ofharebrained which has been established as the correct spelling.


It appears that the term hair/hare -brained PRE-dates our furry friend of the middle passage.  According to AHD, my Scottish ancestors, who immigrated to the New World in the 17th century, were still using the spelling “hairbrained” well into the 18th century! AND they may have believed that the word means “having a hair-sized brain!!!”

I am vindicated of my ignorance.  Saddleshoos triumphs again! [Draft version…Saddleshoos to explore European/white/Scottish ancestry, intersection with African cultures, creolization, narrative, etc. to follow on a non-school night]


Please investigate the Gullah, Joel Chandler Harris, the book called Jump! The Adventures of Brer Rabbit, Jump! the album by Van Dyke Parks, and the illustrations of Barry Moser.



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It smells kind of Fish-y

Squeezed in between the radio’s incessant squeaking about Palin, Fannie, and Freddie, (barf, barf, barf), Neal Conan gave Stanley Fish air time on Talk of the Nation to promote his new book: “Save the World on Your Own Time,” and an opportunity for him to tout his devil-may-care devil’s advocacy.  On the show he argues that liberal arts colleges are under no obligation to promote good moral character, and that professors should leave world-changing agendas out of the classroom.  In fact, Fish says that to do so, is a decidedly UNacademic pursuit.

Of course I take great issue with this, as most people will.  That’s probably what Fish wants us to do.  Without knowing every inner thought of Fish’s mind, I can safely say based on a lengthy reading of a profile of him in the New Yorker 5-10 years ago*, and casual following of his inconoclastic bon mots ever since (see his NY Times blog), he likely wants us to all disagree with him.  Maybe it’s all part of his agenda, or maybe he’s just plain annoying; that kid in seminar who had the most harebrained ideas yet WOULD NOT shut up.  But every man serves a purpose.  It’s all part of the great design.

I of course would not be a teacher BUT to POLITICIZE my students.  I have no interest in indoctrinating my students, BUT: to teach them to be analytical, critical, and problem-solving, ie. academic, cannot for me, be taken out of the context of where we are and who we are as citizens of the world.  Colleges are not fortresses, and hasn’t the academe itself been fighting against that notion for years now?  AND: to deny students the opportunity to apply academic inquiry to the world around them is to me, totally unethical.  

With that, and in the interest of POLITICIZING rather than indoctrinating you, I encourage you to listen to Fish’s interview.  

Listen here.

Now, could we get a fast and dirty debate going here?  Who’s for Saddleshoos? Who’s for Fish? 

*I wish I could locate this article!  It was brilliant, written in 1999 if my research and memory serve, when Fish accepted the position of Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  One of the New Yorker artists did a fabulous caricature illustration, but I just can’t find it on the web…

also, no star, but doesn’t Fish kind of look like the Grinch in the above pic?

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I read 3 lengthy articles, all with scintillating titles:

“Cultural Literacy”

“Critical Literacy”

“Literacy in Three Metaphors”

When grad school gets you down, blahghe!

But really, titles aside, these are important pieces of writing that debate questions that determine our American experience.  What should children know?  What is literacy?  Who gets to decide what is important to know?  

Deborah Meier would remind you at this point that this is ALL OF OUR (THAT MEANS YOU) problem to examine these questions and participate in creating solutions.  

The above-listed articles are good places to start informing yourself of the ongoing national debates over what to teach, and what defines literacy.  E.D. Hirsch actually lists 5000 facts he believes every American should know, or at least have vague knowledge of, in order to be have “cultural” and “mature” literacy.  It’s both hysterical and terrifying to think of this man sitting down to outline this uniform of literacy.  (Does he know that GHWB doesn’t know these facts?)  Hirsh might not be as ignorant as GHWB, but he certainly lacks self-knowledge, self-awareness, and dexterity as a writer; he goes on way too long and fails to win the sympathy of readers with culturally insensitive arguments.  Why doesn’t he just call the book “Systematic Oppression of Black and Brown People and Anyone Else Who Ever Had an Independent or Original Thought?”  He’d get the same support from the GOP and right wingers who love him anyway, without confusing unknowing grad students with such an innocuous title. 

More interesting is Provenzo’s polemic, written as direct response to Hirsh’s work.  Provenzo argues that his version, the iconoclastic, “un-American,” anti-canonical list of 5000 things Americans “ought” to know, is actually the path to the true Democracy that Hirsh and his cronies are so vociferously seeking.  To Provenzo, individualism, debate, and the imperative to be “critical” (read “dissent”) lead us to actualizing Democracy and the American Dream.

Alright, it’s the best I can do after teaching 3 classes, learning 3 class, reading 3 texts, and pushing Adolescent Development HW to the 5AM wake up call.  

Start a blahgh.  Tell us what you think.

Good night and good luck.

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