Friday, May 9, 2014

Self Evident Truths

An Incredible Job Opportunity!

UPDATE:  I had to edit this, since it turned out I'd inflated my normal annual income quite a bit (I had a "temporary" raise this year.)
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Matt Forney is now in the enviable position of supporting himself entirely through his own writing.  If you too are an aspiring writer, contact Matt immediately.  He'll show you how to throw off the shackles of working for the man nine to five.  If you've got a sample, go to the head of the line! 

300 words will net you up to $10.  That doesn't sound bad at all.  I write at least 300 words per day on my blog, just for fun!

Hmm, let me do the math here...  It will take a few minutes cuz remember, I'm a teacher...  OK, got it!  I currently support myself on $35,000 a year (sad, true, and easily verifiable since I am an employee of the state). To maintain this modest income, I would need to write nearly 3000 words per day -- three or four standard length college essays -- every day of the year, with little time off for holidays, church, or good behavior. 

And, yes, that does put my endless whinging about marking student essays in an entirely different perspective!  In other words, I'm pretty sure my head would explode after about one week.  I'm no Stephen King, that's for sure.  And although it's said that Hemingway dashed off three short stories in one particularly inspired morning + afternoon, he wasn't that productive every damn day.  (He had to squeeze in all that shooting, drinking, and womanizing after all.)

What kind of writing is Matt Forney doing, one wonders.  Could it be this or this? I'm dying to know, but if I send him an e-mail query, he's bound to claim I'm "stalking" him again, and thwarting an enterprising young chap like himself from making an honest living.

What's To Be Done?

If you are a teacher or work in education, kill yourself. It's the only way to save your fuckin' soul.

Hey, if I thought it would help, I'd seriously consider it. But then who would teach my classes?

Learning that I taught in community college, a smart-aleck I once dated snarked, "You mean 13th grade with ashtrays?"

Yeah, in retrospect, he was "negging," wasn't he?  But it worked in this case.  And he wasn't far off the mark, although the ashtrays are in danger of disappearing thanks to a push to ban all smoking on campus.

This morning I devoted to "professional development," attending a series of informal talks and workshops designed to share "best teaching practices" as well as to acquaint faculty members and administrative staff from disparate disciplines with one another.  After a luncheon sponsored by the Foundation (burgers consumed on bleachers) there will be a variety of engaging activities, including an opportunity to roll around the floor of the gymnasium in "human hamster balls" (and yeah, the metaphor is not lost on me either). 
So very much... not me.
Actually, I get a lot out of these affairs.  I have learned more about teaching from watching other teachers (especially in the role of a student) than I ever have from classes in pedagogy.  I often admire their creative techniques, their classroom innovations.  I am always impressed by their caring and commitment, by their boundless optimism that seems to feed on thin air.  (Whatever one says about teaching as a refuge of the mediocre, most instructors care a lot -- at least the ones who show up for "professional development" sessions on a Friday.)  And since I teach remedial classes, it's helpful to be reminded what it is (and for whom), I am preparing my students.

The most interesting workshop addressed the problem of "under-prepared students."  Since the majority of my students will freely admit that they have never read a single book in their lives, and my objective is to prepare them to be successful in their college-level English classes, this hour promised to be highly relevant.  Ah, the eternal question: How do we get these students from A to B?

The session was heavy on statistics and predictably short on answers, because when it comes to education, I think we're all flummoxed -- especially the instructors, who are like soldiers sent forth to vanquish the enemy (of ignorance) by generals and a public at large who, far removed from the front lines, lounge comfortably in their barcaloungers, endlessly carping about the crap job teachers do.
Metaphorically, of course.
OK, here's a fun fact: 58% of students who enroll in community colleges in my state do not place into college-level classes.  They spend their first quarter or possibly first year struggling with the basic skills that you and I probably mastered in eighth tenth grade.  Except this time around, they are paying for the privilege (usually in the form of financial aid) to study "Fundamentals of Algebra" or "Vocabulary Development."  Because they cannot place into core college level classes until they demonstrate proficiency in high-school level math and English, they must supplement their schedules with electives like physical education or Introduction to Ceramics -- for which many must also borrow the money to pay.*

Of these under-prepared students who enroll in remedial classes, only 25% go on to earn either a certificate or a degree.  Those under-prepared students who decide to enter college part time have virtually no chance of ever graduating at all.

What accounts for such a low success rate?  We can assume that whatever roadblocks stood in their way as children continue to impede learning:  poverty, alcohol/drug abuse, chaotic families, mental disorders, or just plain PPP.**

Looking at various factors (race, age, etc.), the most salient one appeared to be gender.  Male students are significantly less likely to overcome the hurdles and wind up graduating (with either a transferable A.S. or a vocational certificate).  In other words, a single mom has a better chance of graduating than a single man with no dependents. 

We were invited to discuss why this might be so.  It was hard for me to discount the anger of certain manosphereans who claim education has become "feminized" to the point of disenfranchising the boys, but no one else was suggesting this as a possible factor, not even the several male faculty members present -- although one male math instructor interpreted the relative (modest) strides of women in obtaining degrees as "a positive sign."  

And complaints of "under-prepared" students are by no means confined to teachers in the humanities (which may be dismissed by manospherean sages such as Captain Capitalism as "feminine" or "fluff" fields).  In fact, the Construction Management and Information Technology instructors are equally vexed by students who are unable to read a manual or write a set of coherent instructions.

I have observed in my classes that the "under-prepared" women do seem to be more compliant: more willing to do what they are told they must do in order to pass my class, for example.  They exhibit a certain dogged persistence in pursuing their goals in comparison to the men, who are more likely to express impatience or "give up" (or "blow up") when faced with frustration.  

Female students, regardless of their degree of preparedness, are more likely to seek support (to approach instructors for help, to identify and consult with advisers, to figure out how to navigate the byzantine system of higher education).  Being a student, especially one with academic deficits, is humbling.  Before we can learn something, we have to admit we don't know it.  Is this something that women are socially more conditioned to accept?  In other words, is it possible that their typically "feminine" behaviors serve them?

I don't know what the solution is.  I'm not even sure what the problem is.  I've been known to piously intone that "College isn't for everyone," or that "Students deserve the opportunity to fail," but such sentiments are not only sacrilege in my circles, they seem like terrible cop-outs.   

*For profit colleges and technical colleges often lure such students with the promise they will not have to meet these pesky prerequisites, and indeed will often push students through their programs, but their rate of success in subsequently placing graduates in jobs is abysmal.
** "piss poor protoplasm"

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Get A Load of Those Shoulders!

Whether perusing the manosphere or more, uhm, mainstream masculine spaces, a woman might conclude that men are just slaves to women's asses.  Or tits.  Or legs (which are always supposed to "go up to there," wherever "there" is). 

These standard criteria for judging feminine beauty have always troubled me.  In my winsome youth, I was the girl for whom the expression "Such a pretty face...!" was coined.  Seriously, from the neck up?  I was gorgeous.  But, sadly, full-length photos (or mirrors) were never my friends.

Although my face (even pushing sixty) is assessed as "attractive" by a few, and "pleasant" by most, my ass has always been mediocre at best.  My tits, though once bodacious, are well past their expiration date(s) -- although I can still summon formidable cleavage with adequate support.  And as for my legs?  Let's just say that there was a reason I was called "Stumpy" by a few of my crueler grade school peers.* 

What with my calcaneal bone spurs and ever-falling arches, I can no longer even flash what Victorian gents might have wistfully referred to as a "well-turned ankle."

So I hardly need tell you that I was downright thrilled to read on Julian O'Dea's website that there are men out there who are most enthralled by a pair of shapely feminine... shoulders.

Finally!  A category of Feminine Beauty Olympics I can compete in!

Because, folks, I don't mind telling you:  I have awesome shoulders.  First of all, they are rather narrow (which makes fitting clothes, at 200#+, a real bitch).  They are lightly muscled (yes, I can still bench press my own weight), but smooth and plump, with no discernible underlying bony structure.  My skin is flawless, thanks to a life-long scrupulous regime of Jack Daniels, minimal UV exposure & motel room soap.

My exceptionally attractive shoulders compelled me to seek "cold shoulder" fashions long before (and after) this style enjoyed its brief heyday.  My greatest frustration in life is that acceptable professional attire does not include strapless dresses or halter tops.
* The upside?  "Learning to fall" in ski bunny class was a lead pipe cinch, given my extraordinarily low center of gravity.

Listen Up Ladies!

Women who wear yoga pants in public disgust me. I don't care how good it makes your ass look, you still look like a lazy slob in them.

A pair of well fitted jeans, on the other hand...

Humor, Teaching, Therapy

My therapist suggests I "intellectualize" my emotions, and she's absolutely right. My question is, What's wrong with that?

My therapist also suggests I use humor as a shield, and she's right about that, too. What else have we got with which to defend ourselves against the casual cruelty and endless stupidity of others?  As Mel Brooks proved in "The Producers," nothing cuts an enemy down as effectively as biting mockery.

But I use humor in other ways, too.  My students consistently report on student evaluations that "Teacher is funny."  I like to make students laugh at least once an hour because I think there is something inherently rewarding about "getting a joke" in a second language, and because the physical mechanism of laughter at least brings a burst of oxygen to the brain. 

But sometimes I wonder if this is too much of a good thing.  Am I sacrificing clarity of purpose for cheap laughs?  In other words, do my attempts to keep students engaged through humor obscure the teaching points I have been entrusted to communicate?  Are my attempts to make others laugh a gift to them, or just a way to prove to myself how clever I am?

Argh, there I go over-analyzing again, a propensity that makes me a very good therapy patient but a chronically exhausted (and occasionally exhausting) human being. 

Friday, May 2, 2014


Seattle now has the highest minimum wage in the nation.  I can almost afford to quit teaching and get a "useful" job (as a bartender, perhaps?) and finally quit being such a social parasite.