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Location: Midwest, United States

I floss daily, brush after every meal, and trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

May I unload for just a moment?

Lisa of Lucky, Lucky Star fame was kind enough to give me some nice, juicy questions to answer a couple weeks back, and I have been chomping at the bit to get to them. In fact, the first one is so rich with possibility (at least for me, personally) that I thought it might make sense to devote a whole post to it.

Ironically, my insane busyness here at the end of the school year has been keeping me from getting to her question: "What is your favorite part of teaching English?"

Maybe it's a bad time for me to be answering that question, since my beloved job is wringing every spare minute of time and every spare calorie of energy (is that how you'd measure energy?) from me, and making me feel very, very stressed. The end of the year is always overwhelming, for every teacher (I think I can safely generalize here), but for various reasons it's especially packed for me, and never more so than this year. There are the usual teacherly activities of wrapping up the intellectual threads of the school year, chasing down students who owe me overdue work and may not pass my class (and in some cases not graduate), doing required end-of-year paperwork, and overseeing the various feats, potlucks, and/or teas that inevitably come up in each of my classes. And my independent study Gender Studies class, which so far this semester has been just a little extra work, has suddenly become a lot more work now that my eleven students have turned in their final papers. Then there's my job as head of my department, usually a fairly relaxed and even cushy affair. At the end of the year, this little post rears its fearsome head and demands its due. I have course evaluations to be sure all teachers compose and administer, summer reading lists to put together, and various other onerous projects and paperwork to see to. Then there's the once-yearly student publication I sponsor, where most of the work is done by the students themselves, but in the final push when details go awry, it's my turn to step in and make sure the publication actually comes out and gets distributed. And this year, there is the daunting task of finding suitable subs to take my place during my maternity leave next fall. As head of the department, I have the unenviable task of being the pregnant person and the maternity leave arranger all at once. And since I'm especially invested in who takes over my precious classes, I am intent on finding teachers who are qualified and have some actual background in the specific subjects I'm slated to teach. And finding qualified teachers with the appropriate background who just happen to be free to fill a temporary position is not easy, let me tell you.

And yet, it is a good time to be answering that question, here at the end of the year, as I watch a class of seniors I am especially fond of get ready to graduate, as I think back on a teaching year that has been particularly fulfilling, and as I look forward to my maternity leave, which of course I'm mostly very happy to have and excited to enjoy with my bambino when the time comes, but which I'm also a little wistful about because it means giving up a very cool new English class I was truly excited to teach (and also an old Creative Writing class that I've been teaching forever, but love).

So, I'll be answering that question soon. But now I'm too busy to write this post and too exhausted to remain upright.


Blogger Orange said...

So you have joined the "chomping at the bit" camp, eh? I suspect eventually only pedants and the persnickety will insist on "champ," and wonder if using "champ at the bit" now marks me as pedantic.

I heard an interviewer on NPR today use a construction along the lines of "with you and he." Ouchie!

What? I'm sorry. Nobody was talking about grammar. And I'm pretty sure you weren't going to say, "My favorite part of teaching is correcting my students' grammar!"

I'm tempted to delete all of the above, but instead will close by saying: Dang, I forgot to add that nifty floss gadget to my shopping list! It looks groovy and I think it'll facilitate more regular flossing of my son's molars.

And boy, are you busy at work! Compared with you and Doctor Mama, I am an absolute slug.

5:42 PM  
Blogger Orange said...

(I'm an idiot.)

Word verification: ymhyaof. Your mileage humbly your ass off f*ck?

5:44 PM  
Blogger E. said...

Oh, Orange, you minx. You send me. I had actually not joined a camp on this one; I just didn't know there was an issue and had never heard the verb "champ." I ran to my favorite usage guide, Bryan A. Garner's Dictionary of Modern American Usage to see if Garner had anything (hopefully witty) to say about it, but alas, no. But my Merriam Webster's Collegiate tells me that "champ" means "1. chomp," and "2. to show impatience or delay or restraint - usu. used in the phrase champing at the bit."

I'm torn. If champing meant something other than chomping, I'd certainly go with the original meaning. But since it's the same thing, it seems sensible to use the word that's actually recognizable in American English. (You'd know what I meant if I wrote to you that I'd "chomped on a pickle." Would you if I "champed on a pickle"?) Then again, I sort of prefer "champ" aesthetically.

In any case, I love knowing that it's an issue, so thanks. You really know how to lure a busy English teacher into pausing and frittering away a bit of time.

Some time I'll have to write a post about my ongoing struggle between my love of being correct, language-wise, and my disdain for phrasings that seem priggish or that sacrifice grace and clarity for some rule that's not even really a rule (like the supposed forbidding of prepositions at the end of sentences). Most of the time, it's an issue of context (written vs. spoken, casual vs. formal ... I'd say NPR should count as formal).

8:01 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Ooo,ooo! I got all distracted by E's comment about prepositions at the ends of sentences!! much as I hate the Utah way of saying such gems as, "Where's she at?" I certainly don't mind others like, "What did you get your degree in?"

And your end of year responsibilites makes me positively swoon, but I'm flattered you are still mulling over my questions! I'll look forward to reading about them after you'ver decompressed and are in full swing of summer vacation. :)

9:51 AM  
Blogger E. said...

Yes, I'll take "What did you get your degree in?" over "In what did you get your degree?" any day.

10:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Chicago Manual of Style (which in the Last Word in correct usage in academic press circles, at least in the field of humanities) says, and I quote, "The traditional caveat of yesteryear against ending sentences with prepositions is, for most writers, an unnecessary and pedantic restriction." They go on to quote Winston Churchill, "That is the type of arrant pedantry up with which I shall not put." So there.
End those sentences with prepositions all you like.

On another note --- sorry my absence is adding to your end-of-the-school-year stress. I miss you and O like houses, as the Brits say. Still, I'm happy to be in the Northwest for the summer...

yr ma

8:31 PM  
Blogger Orange said...

I am such a badass, I use the singular "they" (for gender neutrality) in my blogular writing without apology. My crossword blog definitely scores off the charts on the "pedantic nitpicky readership" scale, and yet my readers do not chastise me for my prepositional sentence-enders and singular "they" usage. I think the tide is turning among the smarter folks, at least.

And I bought the floss-o-matic gadget yesterday. I, um, didn't floss last night, but I'll use it...soon.

(e., that was the most gratifying comment response I've ever gotten!)

9:22 AM  
Blogger The Inkwell Bookstore said...

Would you mind posting a brief bit about what goes into making summer reading lists for students? What do you look for in the books chosen? What do you hope to achieve overall?

9:04 AM  
Blogger K said...

Hello E.,
First, I really enjoy your blog. You make me smile on a very regular basis. Also - if it's not too personal to ask, where do you teach? I may be qualified AND available... :) Would you prefer that I email you?

7:27 AM  
Blogger E. said...

K - Sure, email me. My email address is listed in my profile.

Inkwell bookstore - We mostly use summer reading as a way to get kids thinking about ideas or issues related to the class, or to give them some background in the specific course topic. They might read a non-fiction book to gear up for a fiction class. Sometimes a book will be something a teacher would like to include in the regular curriculum of the semester, but won't have time to. Occasionally it's just a way to jump start the class with a book already read and ready to discuss. (For example, with my Nineteenth-Century Novel class last fall, I had them read a novel so that we could begin substantive discussion right away and get one more book in. Since those 19th-c. novels tend to be so long, it's hard to do justice to more than three or four in a semester, and summer reading is one way to include another author or sub-genre.)

8:46 AM  

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