Books to Read

I am nearly a full week into my four-week-break from school, and already kind of bored. I have the great fortune of getting to house sit for a friend of mine who lives down town, which is nice. Though I can only watch so much Netflix before I turn into the couch itself (by the way, I’m currently wathing the Netflix version of Borgia and it’s awesome). 

So I set the goal to read. After all, reading is part of the reason why I wanted to be an English major – I wasn’t reading nearly as muh as I used to. However, the last book I read that didn’t involve me being graded was The Exorsist, which I read this time last year over the break. 

After being introduced to some Russian literature during my World Literature class, I have decided I would like to read War and Peace by Tolstoy, a copy of which I have yet to acquire. In the mean time, my mom recommended a really meaty book that I’ve so far really been enjoying by Ken Follett called The Fall of Men, the first book of The Century series. It’s proving so far to be really interesting, taking place at the beginning of World War I, watching a mining family in South Wales, the earl and his sister that own the mine, a German foreign affairs officer, two Russian brothers trying to escape the tyrany of the tsar, as well as an American Law student in DC. It’s a really wonderful book and I’m so far only a few chapters in.  It’s presenting to me the kind of literature I can only hope to write. 

My goal is to complete these wo lengthy books by the end of the break, and hopefully get myself stuck into the second book of the series as well. 

If anyone has some reading recommendations, I would absolutely love to hear them. .

Reflections of Online Classes During Summer Quarter

Finally, I’m done with the quarter, I think. It involved creating a 15 page document in which I posed as a potential chef for a restuarant and compiled a meal plan for four with all local ingredients for under $35 (including an entry, a starch side, a vegetable side, a salad, a dessert and beverages), as well as outlined all the nutritional information of each ingredient per serving; a 36 page report on my experimental mentorship course last quarter; and a paper on Jorges Borges for my World Literature class (though that was the easy part). 

To be fair, today is Thursday and I finished it all on Sunday. I have my grades for everything except fo the mentorship course, which is about what I expected due to the odd nature of the learning contract for that class. I am happy to say that I returned to my usual 4.0 status (which hasn’t been the case for the last two very stressful quarters), bringing my over all GPA to a 3.94–up from the 3.90 it was last quarter. 

As a reminder, for this year’s summer quarter, I opted for all my classes to be online. I wanted to be able to work as much as I could in teh Writing Center, which I did. At first it was a struggle, trying to keep on top of things. But after the first week and a half realizing that my usual system of waiting to be told what to do before doing it wasn’t working, I sat down, made a schedule for each class based on the modules listed on Canvas, and listed and highlighted everything in my calendar, day by day. 

This worked out quite well. It meant that on Friday, when all my discussions for each class was due, I wasn’t freaking out becuase I had yet to read the 120 poems and two short stories for my literature class (that did happen on week), the chapter and three essays for my philosophy class, and the excruciatingly long chapter in my nutrition text book, as well as whatever it was that Michael Pollen had to say in his book, In Defense of Food

That is the biggest key I have to say in taking online classes: make a schedule and stick to it. It makes life so much easier. I can also say this is applicabble to in-class classes, however, there’s generally (not always) a teacher there reminding you when things need doing. 

Also, if you can, get ahead. The benefit of taking online classes is that most assignments open a week or two before they’re actually meant to be assigned, which means you have some tiem to get ahead and even finsh a week or two early if you do it right. The schedule I designed didn’t allow me to do that (though it could have easily been altered to do so), however, I wish I had simply so that in the last couple days of the quarter I wasn’t freaking out about the 800 things I suddenly had to do within 36 hours (that might be a slight exaggeration). 

I really did enjoy the online aspect, and I actually looked to see if there were more classes I could do online next quarter (though sadly only the initial online class I have planned is available). I really appreciated the freedom I had to design my own schedule (around my other obligations), and the freedom of being able to go over teh lectures in the car (some teachers offered video lectures), at a coffee shop, in the park–whereevver. I also really liked the discussions being online. 

Ok, well, there is a little bit of a tangent that goes along with this. To ensure an adiquate participation grade, most teachers requre the student not only to respond to the discussion prompt, but to then read the otehr students’ and respond to at least two of them. The problem is that sometimes there can be a very large collection of everyone saying the same thing. When that happens, the inspiration to respond runs dry pretty quickly–especially since you can’t quite get away with cutting and pasting your answer as a response. However, the upside of this is that you can take your time and read what each person has to say, unlike in class, where you sometimes have to guess at the meaning of someone’s workds, or if you heard them correctly to begin with. The down side again, is  you miss out on the energy of the discussion. In my philosophy class, I would have loved to been a part of an active and lively discussion regarding the concepts being presented. However, being able to read them and examine them before answering them proved helpful as well. Another benefit of the online discussions is that every student gets an opportunity to say something, to be heard.  In classroom discussions, due to time limits, this is’t always an option. 

I really appreciated the online classes, and I would do them again – though for classes that involve the humanities. There were a few hickups regarding communication between my nutrition teacher and I, and as soem readers may remember, I didn’t do well with my online math class either. However, for things regarding the humanities, I think that online classes are a fun and fantastic way to go. 

Blogging your way to a PhD?

The Thesis Whisperer

Calvin Ho (@calvinhyj) is a PhD student in Sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles. He researches skilled labour immigration policies in Western countries. Through the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program at UCLA, he also mentors minority students planning to pursue doctorates in the humanities and social sciences.

Calvin is an avid blogger and in this post he will tell you how blogging can help you with your PhD writing. If you want to see how PhD students blog, have a look at our page of PhD blogs. Take it away Calvin!

Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 3.37.05 pmAcademics don’t often talk about how they write. By how, I mean the nitty-gritty how. Sure, you may set up your laptop in a coffee shop and open up a Word document, but how do you go from blank page to finished thesis?

One strategy is to write blog posts. Many academics are wary of…

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David Foster Wallace, This Is Water

Last night I took a coworker of mine out from the Writing Center, for a belated celebration of his 21st birthday. It was good. We had four of us in total, and we debated feminism, talked about the BlackLivesMatter, the republican debates, and so on…then we just got silly and I kind of lost track of what we talked about because the gin took hold.

However, this morning I found this email in my inbox that he sent me, and it was a link to this video. I think it’s extremely applicable to this blog, and well worth a listen to, especially if you’re pursuing any of the Liberal Arts.

Teacher’s Assistant

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve picked up a few extra hours a week as a Teacher’s Assistant. I’m not quire sure how I found myself in this position, and other than simply wanting more hours, I’m not quite sure why I found myself in this position, especially since I have no desire to make a career in education.

However, here I am, about to go off to one of my two morning shifts a week to help the ESLA classes. This class is filled with the brand new transfer students to Whatcom Community College, coming from Iran, Vietnam, China, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and so on. My first day was two weeks ago, and four students had only just arrived the day before. Some of them can barely understand what’s going on, and I wonder how much study they’ve had prior to hopping the pond.

My job is a little more than grading papers. In fact, I don’t touch anything to do with grading, unless it’s peeking over a student’s shoulder while they grade their own paper. My job is to listen out for individual students, to make sure they’re understanding the instructions in the class, that they’re trying to pronounce things correctly, and so on.

It’s interesting, to say the least, however I do have some qualms.

I’m getting pretty tired of singing Row, Row, Row, Your Boat with them. I don’t agree with her manner of teaching (though I suppose that’s pretty rich of me to say after just writing that I have no intention of going into education). We start each day by standing up and singing children’s songs. The tone with which she talks to them is similar if she were addressing preschoolers.

I understand that perhaps Row Your Boat can act as  good pronunciation exercise, however, these are college students. My French teacher never taught us children’s songs, but showed us simple, yet extremely famous poems, and had us listen to them on YouTube. These are poems we would be studying if I were studying Literature in France, things other college students would study.

I feel embarrassed not just for myself, but for the class when I have to lead the beginning rounds to Row Your Boat to a class of grown students, that are obviously smart, or they wouldn’t be in this exchange program. The majority of them are here to study sciences or business, and while these songs might be unfamiliar to them, the tune of these songs greatly suggests the juvenile nature of them.

I appreciate the opportunity, and that I get paid more to TA than I do as a writing tutor, but I don’t appreciate the way this class is conducted.

Believe It When You See It

It was a friend of mine who brought to my attention how little time I’ve spent on this blog over the last year. Actually, it was two of my friends, in separate circumstances, though I don’t think that either of them realized that they were having any influence over me in those moments.

It’s in part that I have been busy – after all, I thrive off stress, I eat it like there’s no tomorrow. But really, the heart of it is that since Toby and I split up last summer, I haven’t really had it in me to write. Sad are the days when a former significant other can still hold influence over one’s creative outlet, even when a year has passed.

I keep saying that as soon as I’m on break, I’ll write more – I’ll do this, I’ll do that. But usually I’m just recovering from the stress I put on myself during the quarter. Last quarter’s finale was particularly stressful due to a few changes that came to light within the final 36 hours of my course.

This quarter, I’ve managed quite a bit better. I’ve found myself content with the online work load, so much so that I’m considering moving as many classes as I can next quarter to being online. As soon as i was able to figure out how to divide all my classes and assignments into days, instead of allowing them to all be done on the day they’re due (everything is always due on Friday, and it threw me for a loop the first few weeks), my life got easier.

Part of this too is that I have regular work hours in the Writing Center. most quarters I work different hours every day, and the adjustment from day to day was somewhat exhausting. But because I’m just working 10-2 every day, the consistency is good for my productivity. That being said, I did pick up a few hours as a Teacher’s Assistant, though that can be left for another blog entry.

I think in the last year, I’ve written more entries regarding how I’ve neglected my blog than anything useful. I would say that I intend on resolving that, making it better, and being a better blogger, but you, I’m sure, dear reader, if you haven’t already given up on this, will believe it when you see it.

National Conference of Peer Tutors in Writing – I’m Presenting!

A while ago I might have mentioned that I was working with another staff in the writing center on creating a presentation for the national Conference of Peer Tutors in Writing, this November in Salt Lake City. We submitted our proposal at the end of May. Since it’s on the idea of multi-modality, we created a multi-modal presentation:

I am extremely excited to say that we were accepted! So, come November, I’ll be getting up in front of a bunch of people to raise questions regarding the role of Writing Center staff with multi-modal pieces of work.

This is something huge for me. I’ve been working with my boss all this morning on how to approach the college for funding. I applied for funding from the conference, however, was only able go get $150 from the Travel Grant committee. Registration alone for the conference was $120, and apparently, because I’ll need a projector for my presentation, it’ll be another $20. I still have flights and hotel to consider, as well as food.

Oh well, those worries are for another, closer day. For now, I am happy for this opportunity to meet with people from Writing Centers across the country, and for this amazing (though terrifying) experience to talk about the future of Writing Centers.