Monday, February 28, 2005

The Wind is Out There!

Zippity do zest!
Sprightly flightly joy!
Wind flavor up my nose—
Kite spice grins my soul.

About 18 months ago, I took up stunt kiting. Me! I can’t sing and clap at the same time. My most athletic event is walking, and I often trip myself even doing that. While I can’t articulate all the reasons I’m attracted to kiting, I can say that I took it up as a deliberate move to do something for which success depends upon shutting down my mind. To good flying, analysis is anathema. I took up flying because it relies on intuition, muscle memory, and creativity. Oh, yeah—it’s also great fun!

I’m an over-thinker.

Roberta’s monologue: “Should I submit this blog post — naw, it could be better. Good gad, I’m including a poem. I can’t write poetry. Heck, I don’t even like poetry. Nobody else posts such drivel. They all sound intelligent. I should have forty references and observe something profound. How could I express my thoughts better? Speaking of what could have gone better, what about yesterday’s tutor seminar. What should I have done differently? I bet if I had Xed, Y would have turned out better. Maybe next time I should Z."

Windpixie’s monologue: “Hm, there’s a slight gust! The wind window has shifted! Should I try a double axel or practice my flic flacs? I want to do both! Oooh, look at that — what do they call that move? I’ve never done that before. Dang! I crashed. But cool! Now I can practice my edge launch! Ooops, crashed again. Sokay. I wanted to look at the bay anyway. Whoa, get a load of that sunset. Yipes, is it sunset already? Heehaw, this is fun!"

How do you cultivate kite spice in your writing and teaching?

“Windpixie” Kjesrud

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Say Yes to Writi...erm... Play Groups!

Goofmongers alert! Female academic of uncertain age seeks other adult kids who will whimsy at a moment’s notice. Slumguzzlers, gollygatherers, and weazelsniffers preferred. If interested, timber me shivers — I’ll find you!

I have always felt odd about declaring in writing centered company that I hate writing. But I do. And I especially hate my process. I’m so bound up in perfection that I just can’t commit to words on a page. Daniel Lochman, in the F/W 1986 issue of WCJ, sheds light on my problem. In his article exhorting writing centers to restore play to writers, Lochman distinguishes between games and play — games are rule governed; play has no rules. As children, we play — no rules, unhampered learning. But in a bluster of sophistication, adults abandon play and invent games. Obese with intricate “shoulds,” my writing mind becomes too fettered to start. So it is with many students in our writing centers.

Coincidentally (not!), in the weeks since my WCJ review of _Writing Groups_, some staff in our writing center joined forces in a group that reflects Lochman’s recommendation. Okay, we’re probably technically still a writing group, but we’ve abandoned their rules — we don’t necessarily write; we don’t necessarily share what we do write. Rather, we share process. We play.

In one session, I, The Boggle Queen (yes, I’m throwing down the gauntlet!), brought my game. After a three minute round of word-making, we used the collective word list as a springboard for composing gibberish. In another session, we each free-wrote for fifteen minutes about a burning question. Afterward, we each drew each other’s drafts to convey our Elbow-esque “movies of the mind.” Last week, we composed to music, switching often the musical genre — from Chopin to Dylan, country to show tunes. Always we reflect on how play frees our creative selves to explore, to laugh, to learn.

What do you play?

Roberta Kjesrud

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Last night at around midnight,

I raced up the bedroom stairs and flung myself into the bed and under the covers, where my husband was hovering in that zone between sleep and waking, trying to finish just one more page (you know that feeling) before calling it a night. He eyed me sideways with a smirk. “You know there’s nothing down there,” he said. He knows—I’m scared of our basement. Ah, the tension, the tug. Our home computer is down there and lots of lounge space—the nice stereo, the DVD player, a great sectional. But no matter what we do to it, it is still a basement. I love to stay up until all hours of the night. There’s something compelling about the deep, deep dark. And then, all of a sudden, unexplainably, the chill, the shiver—“Someone just walked over your grave,” my dad says to me, and I pop out crying—and I am up the stairs like a shot.

Growing up in Louisiana, I never knew from basements, you know? Hell, we bury people above ground. All I knew of basements, I learned from the movies. And when do you ever see basements in the movies? That’s right—when there are ghosts in them. Now, for the first time ever, I have a basement of my own, and I can’t say it’s a terribly comforting thought.

I will admit that I come by these fears quite honestly. My mother, for her part, played musical beds with her five siblings for the better part of a decade, all because she was too scared to sleep alone once the nuns told her she had a guardian angel. Sounds like your own personal ghost, doesn’t it? I can relate.

I bring this up because, as I read Susan’s note about her professor committing suicide and as I linked to the NPR piece Tamara suggested, I also clicked on a link about an attorney’s old “haunt” being renovated to house the writing center at ASU. (As it turns out, it’s really going to house the creative writing program’s events, but you take my point.) It set me to thinking about the ghosts that inhabit our own writing centers. The student I wrote about—the one who committed suicide--is certainly one of our writing center’s spectral presences. To return to teaching after his death, I had to commit on some level (though I couldn’t have quite articulated it then) to a pedagogy of hope at least parallel to, if not wholly in place of, a pedagogy of critique. I came to see the culture of critique as more than just an academic exercise, to see it instead as a pedagogical practice in need of an exorcism.

Ghosts are culturally complicated figures. They guard and protect. They strike fear in our hearts and yet they bring us together in ritual celebration. This is the appeal of the extracurriculum. Let it permeate the boundaries of the discipline as ghosts transgress the here and beyond. Inside-outside binaries be damned.

Beth Boquet

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

An Ode to Tamara

Having successfully completed all 19 items on my response-avoidance list (and #20, posted by our anonymous blogger), I turned today to my student essays, refreshed and invigorated.

I opened them randomly (#2 on the list of 19) and read the first line of essay #1: "If you really wanna please me, you've only got to cheese me."

As Devin writes his Ode to Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, ostensibly for an Anonymous reader but really with one reader in mind—that is, me or She-Who-Must-Grade—so too I write An Ode to Tamara, a blog ostensibly for my Anonymous readers but really with one reader in mind—that is, Tamara or apeppermintygirl. (See profile.)

Yes, that’s right, I dedicate today's blog to Tamara, who is well in the running for the WCJ Blogger of the Year award. (I know, I know, we hadn't technically announced that award yet; we're currently in talks with Development about endowment money.) And so, today, I resolve to respond to all the questions Tamara has posed over the past couple of weeks that have not yet been answered. (Several questions did receive responses, so I am omitting those.)

I do this in recognition that Tamara, dear reader, you are my audience. So I write to you. And to whoever else may be reading, of course—but not directly, since I don't technically know you're there, Anonymous, or what your questions or observations might be.

So, play theory, from a post way back in the days of Kevin Dvorak. I'm assuming Roberta is referring to some manifestations of activity theory and, while I have some ideas about activity theory, I won't venture them here, since I know other readers, who shall remain Anonymous but whose initials (as Pat Hartwell used to say) are Neal Lerner, could answer this question better than I.

Next, the observation that writing centers might be "parentheses in the academic sentence." What a cool way to think about it, especially if you're a parenthetical lover (and by that I mean a person who loves parentheses and not the other kind of parenthetical lover; for having been both kinds, I have to say I prefer the former and don't have much good to say about the latter.) But, Tamara, I want to spend some time with your concern that Gardner and Ramsey's extracurricular learning places certain kinds of student populations in parentheses—a potentially problematic placement, as you point out. Specifically I’m going to wonder why we value the curricular so much and why we would presume the extracurricular represents some sort of demotion. Anne Ruggles Gere published a terrific piece in CCC a few years ago entitled “Kitchen Tables and Rented Rooms: An Extracurriculum for Composition” (or something very close to that). (Pretend to insert hyperlink here.) In it, she briefly traces the history of women’s literacy groups and, in so doing, she reclaims this term “extracurriculum,” wresting it from the patriarchal grip that until recently left the term synonymous with fraternities and secret societies and the like. She basically says, what happens when the extracurriculum exits Harvard Square and hits the streets? Or, even more to her point, when it winds up around the kitchen table? It’s pretty powerful to think about. Claiming an extracurriculum for writing centers may potentially be a way to think again about the central/marginal tension that has taken up so much discursive energy in writing centers.

Finally, to the questions posed to my own President’s Day post: censorship and troubling student writing. A little truth-telling here: I worry. . .

. . .about figuring out how to talk with my students about Nabokov’s Lolita. Half-assed solution: We read Gatsby together as a class. Lolita becomes one of several options for novels they can read on their own and discuss in small groups as part of their final anthology projects.

. . .about a freshman student I taught years and years and years ago, who committed suicide shortly after the end of our semester together and whose writing assignments were gathered as evidence/explanation. Of what, I still don’t know. Half-assed solution: I hand over every scrap of paper he ever turned in to me and leave teaching altogether, albeit briefly and for more reasons than just that one, but that is a big one. I miss teaching and return a couple of years later. (Anybody else read Nancy Welch’s article in the new CCC yet?)

. . .about a recent student of mine, a guy who sounds very similar to the one you describe in your post, to whom I never quite had the presence of mind to say, Speak. I will listen, even when we don’t agree. And I am sorry you are so angry/sad/frightened. Half-assed solution: Still pending.

Beth Boquet

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

19 Things to Do When You Should Be Grading Student Essays:

1. Read the Blog
2. Check on the tutors. (They're fine.)
3. Open your favorite student's essay and read it, but don't write any comments yet.
4. Close the essay and remind yourself that you're always sorry when you read your favorite student's essay first.
5. Try to write a response to Tamara's post on censorship and responding to student writing, which was really interesting and posed an important question.
6. Check email.
7. Check regular mail.
8. Go to
9. Answer the phone. Every time it rings.
10. Put the finishing touches on that article that's due by February 28th and send it off. Yay!
11. Check on the tutors again. (Still fine.)
12. Call maintenance about the really annoying buzz coming from the heating vent in your ceiling.
13. Check email. Respond to several that are decidedly not time-sensitive.
14. Check out
15. Consult with several people who have been to see The Gates recently to determine whether it makes sense to try to go on Sunday, the last day of the exhibit, when there will surely be hoards of people and it will no doubt be ridiculously cold.
16. Meet with the tutors about the upcoming NEWCA presentation.
17. Check email. Yes, again.
18. Finish up the five letters of recommendation that are sitting, in various stages of completion, in your inbox.
19. Go home. It's late. You're hungry, you're tired, the ceiling buzz has left you with a headache and it really wouldn't be fair to try to grade any essays in this state of mind.

Beth Boquet

Monday, February 21, 2005

Reading Lolita in Tehran on President's Day

In her Wednesday, February 16 entry, Anne writes of attending the Muslim wedding of one of her work-study students and coming to understand the way time unfolds at that event.

Today we have a snow day. Technically it was a holiday anyway (President’s Day), so I had already planned to stay home. But the snow changes the pace even more. I padded downstairs later than usual this morning, my copy of Reading Lolita in Tehran tucked under my arm. We begin discussing it in my Intro to Lit course next week. I have been frustrated at times by how slowly the book proceeds. Nafisi lingers for paragraph upon paragraph on small points about The Great Gatsby and quotes extended passages by Henry James. I lose patience. But I love the moments Nafisi brings readers into her living room to meet Mahshid, Manna, Mitra, Azin and Nassrin. I follow along as she prepares the tea, sets out the creampuffs, and peels the oranges in chapter after chapter.

There’s a sense in which, as I read Reading Lolita, I begin to understand that some of what I appreciate about the book is its recognition of the value of epochal time, particularly in learning to be with others whose politics, backgrounds, and beliefs challenge our own. It is in this sense that Neal and I saw Anne’s article and Julie Bokser’s article (on pedagogies of belonging) speaking to each other, and we were intrigued.

Nafisi seems less successful in capitalizing on epochal time in her classrooms, at least as they are portrayed in the book. I find myself looking for points of entry as I consider how to access epochal time with my own students in our discussions of this book. I grinned as I flipped to the last few pages of the Random House edition, which contain “A Reader’s Guide” with “Questions for Discussion.” Take question 2, for example: “Yassi adores playing with words, particularly with Nabokov’s fanciful linguistic creation upsilamba (18). What does the word upsilambamean to you?”

What must Nafisi think when she sees her memoir--about the power of literature to transform and transgress, to subvert and affirm, to comfort and to displace—stripped down to these twelve essential Random House questions. What kind of statement is this about the power of imagination that is at the heart of her own experiences? And what does it say about our own readiness to listen—really listen—to each other?

Beth Boquet

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Oh, no wonder we see so many last minute writers!

“We're better at allotting money than time”

Lee Bowman’s article summarizes “Resource Slack and Propensity to Discount Delayed Investments of Time Versus Money,” by Gal Zauberman, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and John G. Lynch, Jr., Duke University, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology (February 2005).

Bowman notes: “The researchers probed people's expectations with a series of seven questionnaire-style experiments involving groups of graduate and undergraduate students at the University of North Carolina and Duke. They found that respondents generally had more expectation of time ‘slack’ to complete a task down the road than an expectation of money. Participants believed that both time and money would be more available ‘in a month’ than ‘today,’ but believed this more strongly for time than money.”

And, Bowman also adds: “In other words, people optimistically see their time pressures working out better tomorrow or next week than they have today, no matter what the demands that might intrude on their time later on. Even with a constant stream of evidence that overly optimistic schedules won't work, ‘it is difficult to learn from feedback that time will not be more abundant in the future,’ Zauberman and Lynch write.”

What do these findings mean for us, the people most likely to complain about last minute student writers, the people who tell student writers (over and over again) that they should come to the writing center earlier in their writing process and not the day before the paper is due?

The final paragraph before the “Conclusion” of the article raises a point writing center directors should think about (especially those of us who take on everything we’re asked to do). Zauberman and Lynch note “We may curse ourselves in the long run for saying yes to many small professional services that provide momentary approval from those who ask us to undertake some task but provide no particular satisfaction in long-term retrospect. This is a fascinating issue for future research on self-control” (36).

The article is available on-line here. See “Articles in the News.”

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Yesterday, I spent an hour with my friend and colleague Sarah Michaels. Watching video of her newest research -- elementary school students in the South Bronx studying the Junior Great Books -- what struck me was how squirmy and full of movement the students were and how slowly the shared inquiry and discussion moved. The two classroom teachers featured had so much patience. They listened so carefully and so thoughtfully, ignored all the wiggling, and waited to speak until they could say something that would encourage the students to talk to one another in meaningful ways or could push the class’s thinking about the text forward.

I am a rusher, a New Yorker. A whole part of what was first my Cs talk and then my essay considered that, but much was later cut out. Originally, I told stories about IWCA in Savannah, where Jon Olson and I talked about what it is like for people who like to move fast and talk fast to live with people who move slowly and talk slowly. I wrote about the time three of the female grad tutors and I went to a work-study’s wedding (the only-women party of the Muslim wedding), and after drinking fruit juice and waiting hours for anything at all to happen, Rita finally said, “Oh, I understand, this is like weddings in Uganda. Everything will be late. Hours late. Like Africa time.” Suddenly we understood why no one seemed bothered by the wait. The wait was an integral part of the party. If you expected the party to pay off quickly, and you were hungry, you were disappointed. If you knew the party had not yet begun hours after the time the invitation said to be there, you were filled with the very best kind of anticipation.

I’ve been reading In Praise of Slowness: How a Worldwide Movement is Challenging the Cult of Speed. In a way, it’s not a very satisfying book. It’s too easy, too easy to accept that slow food, slow interactions with doctors, slower work and slow sex are answers to our fast lives. And yet yesterday, as I watched the fourth graders sit patiently and listen deeply to their peers struggle through the text, I came up with a new interpretation of why students crave more time in the writing center. Do we underestimate how few chances students have for sustained conversation, how seldom they have the opportunity to think their way through their thoughts without the pressure of all the other raised hands in the classroom? How seldom they get to say to a classmate, "I don't know what you mean, can you explain?"

Sarah's edited research video had captions pasted between sections. I noticed that again and again, those captions said “And this discussion goes on for twenty-five more minutes,” as if she herself couldn’t believe how much those fourth graders had to say. My friend Heather Roberts recently sent me to Thoreau’s “Walking.” I need to think about the way he resists the commodification of time, she says, the way he embraces the luxury of wandering.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

I forget that one of the best side effects of publishing an essay (knowing it's really finished is, of course, the best side effect of all) is hearing from those who read it -- on this blog, through WCenter and in email. Thanks all. This morning I woke to an email from a colleague. She had attached a paper written by a student who brings "Tick-Tock, Next" together with Nancy Atwell's "Making Time," a connection I wouldn't have thought of and am thrilled to see. The student writer quotes Atwell, who writes "I’ve made some discoveries too. I have learned that by giving students more time to learn reading, I’ve given myself more time to teach reading."

Yesterday, on WCenter, Karl Fornes posted the blog where he and his staff write. I loved looking at that blog which is more like a discussion or a journal with occaisonal pleas for help to nobody in particular (but obviously to everyone else in the writing center). The tutors describe great writing center rhythms from right within them -- being the only tutor on with a number of waiting students or being in the midst of a conference that will likely be long. I'm intrigued most of all by its Seinfeld-esque not much is happening but everything is happening feel. What would we all write about, I wonder, if we took the time to think about those periods when nothing at all seems to happen in the writing center? What's happening, I might ask in that open-ended qualitative way, over these first weeks of the writing center when almost no names fill the appointments? Something, but what?


Here are two "time" journals I've learned about:

Time and Society

Monday, February 14, 2005


Mondays are often busy; today is no exception. This morning, the high school literacy coaches. Today we meet at VOKE (the Worcester Vocational High School). Always good because the restaurant/hotel program has a restaurant where we eat lunch. This afternoon, class -- three hours (in a room that I've noticed has a wall clock with no hands). It's tough teaching a three hour class. In fact, I never have before this semester, but my co-teacher and I decided to teach this writing class, Writing Out Loud, as a studio course. We "teach" for a bit at the beginning of class, and then students read their work out loud. Takes a lot of time (and energy) to listen. We never hear as many aloud as we'd like to.

On Monday mornings I'm always left thinking about unresolved questions from the week before. Here's one of this morning's. Last week, I was in a meeting where someone from information technology services talked about "just-in-time information," the information you get, I assume, right when you need it. Researching it, I got as far as "just-in-time learning"and "just-in-time" teaching, which seem intriguing. But last Monday morning, when I got to my office, I found a note one of the grad writing consultants had left for me. It was a handscrawled thesis sentence, and on a yellow Post-It note stuck to it was another note. It said "Anne, thought you might enjoy this. Out on Saturday night and drunk and talking about my thesis, a friend asked what my thesis for my thesis was, and I thought, why not try writing it? A drunken burst of inspiration? I thought we might use this in the writing center meeting to talk about process."

Was that "just-in-time learning"? "Just-in-time teaching" on his friend's part? I'm still trying to think it through. Anne

Happy Valentines Day

The past, my past and my present. This is an Esther Howland valentine. Esther Howland went to my alma mater, Mount Holyoke, when it was Mount Holyoke Seminary (class of '47, 1847). But only recently did I learn that she was originally from Worcester, MA where I now teach. After the seminary, she returned home to Worcester, where her family owned a stationary goods business. The story says that when a family business associate sent a valentine from abroad, Esther decided she, too, could make and sell valentines. Enterprising women's college graduate! Anne Posted by Hello

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Tangents & Parentheses...Are Just a Couple of My Cravings

Because I Believe Tangents Are Great

To reply to—or simply further—something Tamara made reference to in one of her responses, I am fascinat’d by the rhetoric of the parenthesis, or parenthetical rhetoric.

Corbett & Connors, in Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student (5th ed. 1999), offer a solid foundation for the use of parentheses. They write

A parenthesis abruptly—and usually briefly—sends the thought off on a tangent.
Although the parenthetical matter is not necessary for the grammatical
completeness of the sentence, it does have a pronounced rhetorical effect.
For a brief moment, we hear the author’s voice, commenting, editorializing,
and for that reason, the sentence gets an emotional charge that it otherwise
would have not. (385)

& for any of you etymology lovers, the OED Online claims that the term “parenthesis” was 1st used in 1568:

Check it out:
1568 GRAFTON Chron. II.
811 The Duke somwhat marueylyng at his sodaine pauses, as thoughe they were but Parenthesis, with a high countenaunce sayde.
That's 437 years of ( ) !

A book that employs a fair number of parentheses very effectively is Beth Boquet’s Noise from the Writing Center. (Nothing like plug’g the WCJ Co-Editor’s book, eh? :)

One of the most effective attributes of Beth's work is that the reader is (hyper-)aware of the author’s presence, of how she works w/—and plays w/—language to the point where read’g it b/cs almost like a game (in a positive way, of course). The appearance of the language is a NOISE! of its own ("appearance" thus reflect’g/project'g "content").

I think parenthetical rhetoric is a grand part of (my) play theory (which Tamara & I are, I believe, hoping Roberta D. Kjesrud will discuss during her blogmeister party).

(But How Does Parenthesis Relate To… This?)

I'm think'g about Gardner & Ramsey's "The Polyvalent Mission of Writing Centers" & Bokser's "Pedagogies of Belonging: Listening to Students and Peers" as I write about these little grammatical symbols that can have such a profound effect on readers, on the way s/thing is suppos'd to be read (both literally & as a physical property).

What's in b/n the symbols, as suggest'd by C & C, does not necessarily have to be there--but it does. W/o it, the author wd be, in some great way, lost. (I said lost, not dead.)

& maybe (if it's not too much of a s-t-r--e--t---c---h) that's a space where WCs sometimes are. Maybe WCs are the tangential curriculum of education. Maybe WCs are not "necessary for the completeness of an education" but, whoa, do they "have a rhetorical (and personal) effect."

Writing Centers can briefly--and abruptly--provide students w/ a space where they can dually "resist hegemony," as G-n-R suggest WCs are all about, while, @ the same time, help'g them assimilate into an academic conversation (see Bokser's article, too). G-n-R offer a list of Hegemonic & Counter-Hegemonic qualities/values of the university on p.33. WCs can, conceivably, find themselves operating in the center of each of the parentheticals.

For example, just imagine "regulatory" (hegemonic quality) being left parenthesis, while "liberatory" (counter-H quality) is right parenthesis. What's in-between is the writer's voice (the writer being both writer and tutor--& WC). Maybe WCs are the parenthical space where writer's can comment on & editorialize their academic voices--as well as their own, everyday voices.

(I mean, parenthetical comments are often the most honest comments in a piece of writing.)

Heh. Blog'g.


Entertainment Recommendation:

Coffee and Cigarettes (2003)
It's a Jim Jarmusch film, so be prepar'd to feel weird (& wired?) @ times. But where else can you watch Iggy Pop & Tom Waits talk endlessly while indulg'g in c & c's? Where else can you see RZA & GZA (of Wu-Tang) have tea while conversat'g w/ their caffeinat'd waiter, Bill Murray?

A visually dynamic, creative flick to make you feel slightly (insert emotion here) while watch'g.

Sing'g of Combos:

Rufus Wainwright's "Cigarettes & Chocolate Milk." Rufus visit'd IUP this past fall--w/ little fanfare, I must say. & I don't think he was pleas'd by it.

& I don't smoke. But I (occasionally) drink coffee.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Day the Third, Virtual (Un)Response, Tao Tutor'g, & Utah in NoCal During Cs

It' officially Day the Third & I'm present'g Blog III...

but where are the comments, the feedback, the virtual social out'g, the blogtail party conversations? I'm absolutely enjoy'g this (perhaps too much?), but my blogs feel they are suffer'g from responsivis limitus, which is another form of commenticus minimus.

(Sigh) & (Sniff) Won't someone share a blogtail today? :)

Act I

So... I did it today. It wasn't the 1st time ever, but I virtually respond'd to a student's paper .

Context: my research writers are diligently(?) writing research proposals & 1 of my students ask'd me if I cd look @ a draft of his work before he turn'd it in. So, being Mr. Niceperson, I suggest'd that he email to me. So, he did. &, rather than handwriting a few constructive comments on it & discuss'g it in person w/ him during class, I went directly to the "add comment" feature in MS Word & litter'd his paper w/ constructive feedback--& sent it back to him. Luckily, by the time class start'd he hadn't open'd his email; so during class, he open'd his return'd document & we discuss'd what I had suggest'd. & he seem'd to enjoy the comments being right there on his computer where he cd work on each one invidually & knock them off 1-by-1 as he work'd through them.

For some reason, it seem'd so much cleaner b/c it didn't involve paper.

I keep think'g that I'd like to get my students in ENG 101: College Writing to start doing this, but... hmm. I'm just not ready for that. I'm sure in time I will be, but for now, I'm just not sure I want students to write comments on papers when the other individual is not sit'g in the same group as the writer. My 1st reason: my 101 students are not in a computer classroom often enough to practice virtual peer review in-class. When we do mosey over to the Writing Center for an hour to use the computer lab there, it is usually mad-dash to get the writing done. We then peer review in our (state-of-the-art) desk lab/classroom the follow'g class period.

Personal Goal: become savvy enough to get my 101s into a computer classroom full-time next semester.

I like the idea of virtual peer review... in most ways. It's cleaner. It seems to be easier to manage for some people (like my researcher who went through the comments 1-by-1. My suggestion for that wd be to save the draft-con-changes 1st, then save the revis'd piece as another doc.). But, for some reason, I'm stuck on the notion that w/o a person right in front of them, writers are apt to say more (mean/ambiguous) things the original writer may misinterpret.

Act Taos

As I said on Monday, I 've been conferenc'g w/ writers this week. & w/ all of these new Crayola clocks hang'g over our heads, I've return'd to my old idea of... The Tao of Tutoring.

For starters, if you've read The Tao of Pooh, you'll really know where I'm coming from. If you've not read it, it's a recommendation. It's... simple. It's very theoretical, yet soooooo easy to read. (And, yes, there are "problematic" areas in the book, but... overlook them for me. Plz.) The book is just what it is... and that's exactly what it is suppos'd to be! (And plz don't think this book has been my only interaction w/ Taoism. I mean, I'm not a Taoist, but I've read a bit about it... or like to think I have.)

I like to think of tutor'g sessions & conferences from a particular Taoist ideal: to be exactly in the moment. Do not regard the past, do not regard the future... just be.


What if I cd just sit down, wait for a writer sit w/ me & let a session go in the direction it naturally goes? What if I cd work from my experiences as a tutor, but disregard my experiences in tutor'g? What if I cd just allow Student Writer to present his/her problems/wants/desires (as a writer, mind you) & not think back to my previous session(S), where we focused mainly on sentence structure? Having work'd for 45 minutes on sentence structure w/ Previous Writer, sentence structure is soooo on my brain--now I'd like to let it go & start this session tabula rasa.

What if we scribbl'd over fungible Crayola clocks & creat'd mosaic epochal timepieces in which time merely flow'd like a river. (Russian River? See below.) What if wu wei (Taoist principle of "action through inaction") were our canoe & we just went through the writing as if this were the 1st time we were look'g through a writing, find'g things we may not have found wear'g horseblinders?

I say this b/c there have been times when my 1st meet'g of the day focuses on Writing Topic A & in each subsequent session, I see part of W.T.A. in there, even if it's not a main concern for the writer or myself. Or, if I've met w/ Writer A before, I bring bits & pieces from Previous Session(S) back into this session with us, wonder'g what future session(S) my be like too. Hmm.

So... to quote an early 90's song by The Sunday's...

"It’s that little souvenir of a colourful year
Which makes me smile inside
So I cynically, cynically say, the world is that way
Surprise, surprise, surprise, surprise, surprise
Here’s where the story ends
Ooh here’s where the story ends"
("Here's Where the Story Ends")

Enjoy! (ahem, & respond, perhaps?) :)

Best Email I Received this Week:
A ENG 101 student email'd me Monday morn'g apologiz'g for sleep'g late (b/c his alram didn't go off... again) & miss'g class. His email reach'd me @ 11:34am.

Class start'd @ 11:45am.

Having read this email @ 11:42am, I respond'd to him by tell'g him that I was sorry to hear of his trouble but that he still had time to get to the class he miss'd... & on time, too.

Music for the Masses:
If there are any Utah Phillips fans out there going to CCCCs next month, here's a possible road trip you may want to take while in SF: Utah's play'g/perform'g @ The Blue Heron Inn in Duncans Mills on Thursday, March 17th. The show is schedul'd to start @ 8pm. Duncans Mills is a small town of about 400 people 90-120 minutes N of SF (depending on traffic on the 101--which is usually bad) & is one of the most beautiful places in the country (dare I say world?). You'll get to drive through Sebastopol, Guerneville, & along the Russian River. So, if you've got some time to get out of the city for a bit, this is one fun thing to do. & if you see Drea Moore there (dancing w/ a feather in her hair--as promised), tell her I said, "Yo!" & if you see me, there... don't tell the group I present w/ on Friday (afternoon)!

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Day Next: TIME (again), and Space!

Blog the Next

I start this blog with a confession: yesterday, I was a 1st-time blogger. Today, then, I am only a 2nd-time blogger. And now, I like blog'g. I even like the word "blog."

Ahh, personal emancipation. So much easier when yr audience is "virtual." I do know quite a few of you, & I can see yr faces in my mind as I write, but I realize that, at least for this moment, as I write in virtual space (or in my own epochal time), I'm not constrict'd by potential conversational obstructions.

(I'll discuss this "virtual" issue a bit more later in the week as I discuss Kastman-Breuch's Virtual Peer Review & my ideas regard'g it.)

Today, though, I am still swim'g in this conversation about time. I've been re-read'g a few lines from the From the Editors section: "...what if, rather than making writing a low-priority during the academic year, we made it a high priority--not to the exclusion of our other duties, but instead as a parallel activity? How would writing enable us to do the work we do better, whether that's gaining a more complete understanding of our writing centers or putting ourselves constantly in the spaces we offer to our students--as writers discovering new knowledge? How can we place our own writing in epochal time?" (3-4).

What a great series of questions! I've been think'g about these types of questions for a long time now, wonder'g specifically how we can bring more writing into our writing centers. The 1st--and most fun--way I've found is by bring'g creative writing into our centers more--not as written texts, necessarily, but by offer'g creative writing workshops where writers visit the center to engage in writing activities. I've present'd how-to workshops regard'g these writing-center-housed-writing-activity-workshops at various conferences (& will be again in SF next month) & they have always seem'd to be met with great fanfare. But while these workshops have, for the most part, target'd student-writers, I wonder how we can use the writing center as a space where we can bring faculty to write: in solitude, in pairs, in groups.

Writing can be a lonely activity. So what can we do to bring ourselves together to temporarily remove this (occasional) loneliness?

TIME... and Space

If time is the 4th dimension, I wonder how I can consider it w/o recogniz'g the 1st 3 dimensions, the ones that constitute space. Space, in many ways, dictates how we use our time. So, if we are try'g to get ourselves closer & closer to work'g in epochal time, how do we construct our space so as to allow ourselves that freedom? When my space is pressured, I feel time is more constrict'd. I often feel a need to get out of constricted space as quickly as possible--or even that I am in a constrict'd space b/c my time is crunch'd. (Here, I keep think'g of Manhattan subways @ 5pm--certainly not epochal for most.)

There was a recent discussion on WCenter about design'g a writing center--creat'g the best available space for tutors & students to work. I haven't look back at it, but I wonder if time & space were ever considered together in think'g about design'g a writing center. Because, as I think now, a wait'g student placed in a space close to an epochal session wd probably put more pressure on that session to end. So, shd we think about how close our wait'g section is to our work'g section? Do we even have enough space to consider that issue?

Hmm...I think I like this blog'g b/c it is making me write more, making me consider writing as a high priority (of course, my dissertation shd be mak'g me do that, but it just lacks a certain charm... :)

More, of course, later...


Today's musical suggestion (for the hip-hop, dance-hall reggae, funkdified, socially active dancing freak in all of us) : Michael Franti and Spearhead.

"... because everyone deserves music, sweet music"

Monday, February 07, 2005

our first feedback!

I just read Kevin's first entry and was ready to comment, but Ididn't have TIME to set up a name and password for yet one morething! Some of us are off to our regional writing centerconference, so TIME has indeed become a factor. Also, as much as Ilike blogs, wanting to read and comment on this one has becomeanother TIME problem with my own students' blogs to commenton, plus all the listservs, student conferences, and regularadministrative stuff. Then there's WCJ, which hasn't arrived yet andother professional journals to read as well. As Kevin said, TIME is aproblem. And since we have drop-ins, referrals, andscheduled appointments in our writing center, I can't answerKevin's question about one being better than the other. Yikes! Iwould love to post this comment on the blog, but I just ran out ofTIME!Good luck with the new WCJ blog. Pam

Blog Leadoff, TIME, and Inaudible Melodies...

Wow! I get to bat blog leadoff!

Hello! It's a pleasure to be here starting off this conversation, this new virtual realm of Writing Center talk, where we can continue the conversations we have daily with each other. I think this is also a great place where we can discuss the immediate volume of The WCJ--almost as if we have been told to "talk amongst ourselves" and the WCJ is our topic.

So...? An issue centering on time...

It feels appropriate to be writing in here today because I, too, have been thinking a lot lately about time, both as quantity and quality, trying to make the most of both, professionally and personally. This is Week 5 at IUP, which means for me that I have had a lot of one-on-one out-of-class conferences with students in both my ENG 101: College Writing and ENG 202: Research Writing Courses, and it occurs to me, time and time again, how I wish I could sit with many of them for more than 15 minutes per session because there IS SO MUCH to talk about, to learn about, and to, dare I say, teach. And since the other night, when I read Anne Geller's "Tick, Tock, Next:...: in the WCJ, I have been imagining these Crayola-drawn clocks hanging over my conferences, floating and melting, which brings me to Dali's "Persistence of Memory," which makes me think: the memory on my computer has gotten extremely low since the tech people installed this new printer-fax-photocopier (could they have not included a coffee maker to that mix?) and now my computer is running s-l-o-w, which takes up more of my TIME.

I love the idea of encouraging people to draw out their experiences as tutors. I'm wondering how I can translate this into a classroom practice. (Do I have time right now to figure that out?) There's just something about breaking away from words for a moment and allowing pictures to be our texts--isn't that where we came from?

Having worked at one Writing Center that used a half-hour/hour scheduling system and a second Writing Center that was primarily drop-in, I'll say that I'm still not sure which way I'd rather use time when tutoring. Drop-ins sometimes work great during weeks when business is slow, but during mid-term and finals, the pressure of a line always seems to intimidate--and stress out--both tutors and students, especially when students want to have MORE TIME. The scheduling system, at minimum, seems to even workloads, potentially training (or conditioning) people into how to use time.

There are just times when I wish I could slow down any session, student-teacher conference or peer tutoring, and look at it objetively, as if from a narrator's window, and recognize more available options at critical points. Because, in time, afterwards, a new option is almost always bound to spring up.

Ugh. We even have a magazine named TIME.

It brings me to a line from a Jack Johnson song I wish we could all hear... and live by:

"Slow down everyone, you're moving too fast/ frames can't get you when you're moving like that..." (from "Inaudible Melodies")

So... that's it for now.

In time, be it later or tomorrow, I will return...

Enjoy blogging, enjoy living,

Oh, and here's the last verse of "Inaudible Melodies:"

Well Plato's cave is full of freaks
Demanding refunds for the things they've seen
I wish they could believe
In all the things that never made the screen
And just slow down everyone
You're moving too fast
Frames can't catch you when
You're moving like that
Slow down everyone
You're moving too fast
Frames can't catch you when
You're moving like that
Moving Too....