Sunday, December 06, 2009

Update, by request.

I have been thinking that I ought to update--the idea occurs to me from time to time, but I never seem to get a chance, or the motivation, or something. So someone posted a plea for blog update-ery, so here it is. And I promise to try to keep up with it in the future; regular posts on the way.
So text first, then pics. What have I been doing lately? Well, the first semester of my MAT has been interesting. I had heard many mixed reviews of the program / department, and I have to say that so far, some of it is true and some of it is less so. My instructors are wonderful; they are competent, intelligent, kind, and have extensive background and experience in the field. They are also fair. The work itself is less interesting than English, and I find myself wishing that I was still doing that--my papers read like English papers, even though they are more sociological in scope. I have ideas all the time about theses and papers that I could research and write, but then I have to do this other stuff that I'm not so terribly invested in. I mean, I've said before that while I'm not necessarily approaching this program in a mercenary way, I am doing it for pragmatic reasons; the certification will be useful, and it is the golden ticket to teaching public school. That said, I love teaching, but I'm not certain that I want to teach in public school, or teach high school in the first place. I'd adjunct, but I'd rather be able to afford food and other things necessary to life, and adjuncting does not really help that. Hyperbolic, yes, but there is truth in there somewhere. I have been tossing the idea of a PhD around--I'd really love to do it; there are multiple, overlapping fields that I am interested in, and my dream is teaching at the university level. I suppose I am a bit of a hypocrite--while my advice to everyone else is the clichéd "follow your bliss, do what you want to do and try to find a way to make a living at it," I am not following this advice, but rather focusing on finances, looking for a secure future. When I graduated, a professor (who I consider also a mentor and friend) said "James, congratulations! What's next, a PhD?" I replied that I wasn't sure, perhaps the MAT. She said "If you don't get a PhD you are absolutely crazy. Really. You have to." So maybe . . . it's a thought.

As far as the MAT classes, I suppose I have learned some things, but after having taught First-year Composition and Rhetoric for a couple of years, and studying a lot of Rhet and Comp theory, I feel like a lot of what I'm reading now is either reiterating that which I have already learned, or a watered-down version of same. The classes are enjoyable on the whole, but I feel like I might be putting my time to better use . . .

In other news, I have been working as a Graduate Assistant for the English Department here. The dept only supports students as TA's for two years, but I was rehired as a GA--same deal as the TA, but instead of teaching I work as an Editor for the dept newsletter (Works Cited), back issues of which can be found on the dept weblog (I'll try to remember to include a link in the comment section for this post). I interview people, from faculty and students to authors and lecturers, and write articles about them. I attend panels and talks, take pictures, and maintain the dept blog and facebook page (also try to include links to them) do graphic design work: PR materials, posters, flyers, whatever. I am also sort of a jack-of-all-trades, covering the dept secretary when she's out, all sorts of stuff like that. For all this, my tuition is paid for, and I receive a small stipend. It's a good gig overall, and I'm getting a lot of on-the-job experience, skills, bullet points to put in the Vita. It's also pretty time-consuming, but I'm not complaining.

I had the chance to cover a class or two this semester, including Jan's Creative Nonfiction class, and I was a guest lecturer for two sessions of the "Understanding Poetry" modular class, offered every Fall.

My poem "Life is Worth Living" was published in WaterWrites, an anthology of Hudson Valley poetry, fiction and memoir. I've done a lot of public readings for that, from The Newburgh Free Library, to Inquiring Minds bookstore in New Paltz. We also read at the UP class mentioned above. I also had a few poems published in the Shawangunk Review ("Prodigal," and "Now: Light Rain and Freezing Rain and 30° F") as well as an academic paper: "Epistemological Palimpsest: A Consideration of Subjectivity and Objectivity in Sir Thomas Browne's Religio Medici." The poems were deemed good enough to be featured in the 20th Anniversary special edition of the Shawangunk Review, and I read them at a celebratory reading along with a bunch of other wonderful poets.

I read at New Paltz Celebration of the Arts (COTA), and that was a lot of fun.

This year has been complicated by the ongoing problems that my mother has been subject to--she has been in and out of the hospital, and she recently lost a leg due to vascular problems. She's home now, but it's been rough--I have to go down to LI fairly often, as I'm the "manager" for my parents finances and health care. They have a live-in aide now, but I still have to deal with all the issues as they arise. It makes school a million times more difficult.

I haven't worked at the shop (refinishing and restoring antique and modern furniture) in a while, save to strip and sand this piece or that, though I would like to do more--perhaps over the break, and next semester might be a little more open. I miss doing that work.

I have been working as a tutor on campus though, and I am on a higher pay scale than most, as I have my MA already. Additionally, I am going to receive my CRLA certification on Tuesday, which will enable me to charge $30-$40 dollars an hour for private English tutoring--something I'm looking forward to doing. I really enjoyed working at this job, and I'm surprised at how "emotional" the last tutoring sessions were with my regular students-- you really do develop a rapport with the students, and the "Writer's Assistance" students that I have often request me for future appointments, so I must be doing something right.

I think I am going to apply to some local adjunct positions (Orange, Ulster, CIA, Vassar, Marist et al) next hiring cycle, and see what happens. I'm also looking at writing some papers/abstracts and going to some conferences--whatever I end up doing in the short-term and long-term, I want to stay current and involved.

Right now, it's white and crunchy outside--it snowed substantially for the first time this year, and I am sitting inside, toasty, trying to write final papers--I have an "adolescent interview" paper, in which I am applying theory to a personal interview I did with a former student, then I have to finish a monster of a paper I am writing for my Social Foundation of Education class-- I am performing a Critical Discourse Analysis (a heuristic of my own design, based on Bruce McComiskey's version of Habermas's CDA) on a collection of artifacts that are related to the field of teaching and education. I have about 25+ items, from tee-shirts and bumper stickers to hoax documents of rules for teachers, ca. 1872. It's pretty interesting and fun. Then I have another final paper for Adolescent Development, due on the 14th.

Malorie is amazing, as always, and she sits beside me as I write this, working on her own papers. The cat is on the couch, stretched out like a little sleepy mermaid (her back legs often overlap, giving her that distinctive look of a fused lower body).

I got a Blackberry phone, which has helped me immensely in terms of scheduling (and it's fun to take pictures with too).

There's a lot more, but I have to get back to work--procrastination can only go on for so long, eventually one must return to the task at hand.

One last thing: I watched a bunch of cops fry a dude with a taser in my front yard at four in the morning a few days ago. Evidently he had robbed someone at gunpoint (with an accomplice) on Plattekill Avenue earlier in the night.

bookstore reading; SR reading (at podium); Mal and I (and cat); me cradling Lily; Lily looking for some milk; Lily getting what she asked for.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Its been a long time, been a long time, Been a long lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely time.

. . . since I last posted. I realized the other day "what a depressing last post," and it's been sitting there for a while. Lots going on, new semester, holidays over (glad for that), taking the last two classes of my MA career. Thinking seriously of tacking on an M.A.T.-- the economy such as it is, and my love for school, I think it's probably not a bad idea in terms of future employability.

I'm taking Old English and American Lit after 1945, the former a requirement, the latter simply to plug a hole to keep my TA position. Both classes seem good so far.

I'm teaching First-year Composition, which is generally Comp. I in the Fall and Comp. II in the Spring. Comp I is the basics of rhet and comp, the second class is more focused on research and a longer paper. All of the Comp. II sections are themed, and I decided to teach metafiction again, though there's metapoetry and metadrama in there too. I'm enjoying class so far, and I'm teaching smart and engaged students--I've been very lucky in my classes that way.

Otherwise, not much going on, I keep meaning to send out poems for consideration, and instead I am sidetracked by all the other stuff that must be done.

I recently refinished an old night table that belonged to my mom and dad, I liberated it and now it's in my bedroom. It was light, now it's dark, but the grain is much deeper now-- pics interspersed, as well as new (grainy webcam) pic of Mal and the cat and I hanging on the couch.