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When I'm not here, you may find me wandering the pages below. (If I'm a regular visitor to your site and I've left your link off or mislinked to you, please let me know! And likewise, if you've blogrolled me, please check that my link is updated: thisroamanticlife.blogspot.com. The extra (a) makes all the difference!)

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Body: in sickness and in health

I won't lie; this body and I have had our issues with each other for many years. Body image -- sure. Physical and mental overextension -- comes with being a Type A kind of girl. I still struggle with these things, so they show up from time to time in my writing.

More recently, illness, pure but not simple, has added itself to the mix in a multi-system sort of way. And the challenges in figuring out exactly what's gone wrong are many. As problems have revealed themselves in the last few years, beginning with reactive hypoglycemia in late 2008, I've documented them here, partly to gain a little clarity on managing complex conditions but mostly to give voice to vulnerabilities I feel but don't normally share with anyone face to face. Better out than in, they say, right? (Oh yes, humor is one way I deal.)

The links below cover the different angles I've examined (and from which I've been examined) within that experience.

Travel: neither here nor there

When the person you're married to lives two time zones away, you log a fair number of frequent flier miles. And if you blog about commuter relationships, you log quite a few posts en route too.

Since we're no longer in separate places, I blog less often from airports. But we do travel -- together now! -- which is much more fun to write about. So in addition to thoughts on our years of commuting, the links below cover the places we've been as a pair and, in some cases, the adventures that have happened on the way.

Writing: the long and short of it

Why do I do it? Good question. Maybe it's not so much that I like to write but that I have to write, even when the words refuse to stick to the page. Believe me, I've tried doing other things like majoring in biochemistry (freshman fall, many semesters ago). Within a year, I'd switched to English with a concentration in creative writing and wasn't looking back.

After graduating, I taught English for a few years and then worked as an editor, which I still do freelance. In 2007, I applied and got into an MFA program at a place I like to call Little U. on the Prairie. I finished my degree in 2011 and have been balancing tutoring and writing on my own ever since.

The following links cover the writing I've done about writing: process, content, obstacles, you name it. It's not always pretty. But some part of me loves it, even when it's hard. And this is the result.

Heart: family and friends

I'd have a hard time explaining who I am without being able to talk about the family I grew up in as well as the people I've met beyond its bounds. But even with such context, it's not easy! In the simplest terms, I'm a first-generation Asian-American who has spent most of this life caught between cultures. That, of course, doesn't even begin to describe what I mean to, but there's my first stab at the heart of it all.

That's what this group of posts is reserved for -- heart. The essential parts of my life whose influences I carry with me, for better or worse. The links below cover what I've written as I've learned how these forces work within me, for me, against me, in spite of me. They anchor me even as they change me, and they keep life interesting.

Recommended reading

What do I do when there's too much on my mind and my words won't stick to the page? I escape into someone else's thoughts. Below is a collection of books and articles that have been sources of information, inspiration, and occasional insight for my own work.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Grading jail


Yes, that's where I must put myself this weekend now that last week's work crunch for my own classes is past. Sigh. Letting the grading go during that crunch was absolutely necessary, so I have no regrets per se, but these papers -- oh, these papers. I've been working really hard to teach my students how to formulate arguments and sustain them throughout an extended piece of writing, but it seems they need a great deal more practice. What I'm reading from them, even after an in-class workshop and mandatory revision, is not up to snuff yet.

Positive feedback is so important to provide while you're trying to help students see where they need to direct their attention. I do my best to point out at least one thing each student has done well when I make comments on papers -- I'm running a bit thin on enthusiasm at this point in the semester, though! Frequent breaks, frequent breaks; they're all that will sustain me now. I find that after about six mediocre papers (and this is putting it generously), I can't find positive things to say on the seventh.

Well, this break is over. And I'm off to get D from the airport, which will hopefully clear my head enough for another round of grading before bedtime.

12 comments:

hypoglycemiagirl said...

your student s seem to need a course in punctuation as well.... good grief.

Contemporary Troubadour said...

Yes, HGG, it's sad but true. I have some students that don't use apostrophes. At all. I'm really stymied about whether to spend class time on actual lessons on that stuff -- weren't they supposed to have that somewhat mastered by the end of high school?

Sherlock said...

It is SO difficult sometimes to find positive and enthusiastic things to say on some papers. For me, that's why grading takes so long.

I grade all work on my computer in MSWord. Even when I taught on campus, I had students email papers so I could grade in Word. I have a very long list of positive comments in a Word doc so I can copy/paste little snippets at the end of each paragraph of writing.

So my grading process involved noting writing corrections throughout the paper (not making corrections, but just noting types of errors in general) and then content comments in between every 2-4 paragraphs. And at the end of each paragraph, I insert a short positive comment from my list.

It helps me a lot to read something a student wrote and then glance down my list of comments to see which one fits the best. Sometimes I just can't think of something nice to say but reading through my list of "nice" comments always brings something to mind that would work.

Sherlock said...

When I taught on campus, I had students email papers because it's just easier for me to comment electronically than handwriting. I'd highlight writing errors and then note what type of error but I didn't correct or edit papers. Then I have a word document with two pages of content comments, mostly positive, so that as I read each paragraph, if I can't find something enthusiastic to say, I can glance through my list and usually find a little something nice :-)

That's how I balance the criticism with positive comments here and there. Sometimes when a paper is just awful, it's really hard to find something nice to say!!

Contemporary Troubadour said...

A back-up list of positive comments sounds like it would be helpful, Sherlock. I think I already have one running in my head -- I just wish there were more positive things to comment on in the papers! At least, more than what we started with at the beginning of the semester. Some of my students don't seem to learn from their mistakes.

Good Enough Woman said...

I definitely need to do a better job of balancing the constructive with the positive. It can be very hard.

Good Enough Woman said...

Oh, and hang in there!

Contemporary Troubadour said...

Almost there, GEW! I've got the hand-written comments on all but two papers. Have to put in electronic versions (summing up the major reason for the grade) on about half.

French Fancy said...

It's funny hearing from the other side, as it were (with me always awaiting my marked essays from my tutor). I can't imagine anything more depressing than a pile of bad English essays.

Contemporary Troubadour said...

Actually, what's depressing is the looks on my students' faces when they get their papers back. They try hard, many of them, but there are some fundamental skills they haven't grasped yet, and we just can't spend time on those things at this level. I encourage (implore?) them to come to office hours to discuss the things they're having trouble with for that very reason, but the ones that need the help most don't make the time. Can't do anything about that, of course.

They say you can't care if the student doesn't care, but then how is that constructive in the long run? There's a gap, I guess, between what I'd like to invest emotionally in the job and what is realistic to invest without driving myself into a constant funk.

Jacqueline said...

nice pens.

Contemporary Troubadour said...

Oh yes, pens that make you want to write are ESSENTIAL when grading.

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Friday, April 10, 2009

Grading jail


Yes, that's where I must put myself this weekend now that last week's work crunch for my own classes is past. Sigh. Letting the grading go during that crunch was absolutely necessary, so I have no regrets per se, but these papers -- oh, these papers. I've been working really hard to teach my students how to formulate arguments and sustain them throughout an extended piece of writing, but it seems they need a great deal more practice. What I'm reading from them, even after an in-class workshop and mandatory revision, is not up to snuff yet.

Positive feedback is so important to provide while you're trying to help students see where they need to direct their attention. I do my best to point out at least one thing each student has done well when I make comments on papers -- I'm running a bit thin on enthusiasm at this point in the semester, though! Frequent breaks, frequent breaks; they're all that will sustain me now. I find that after about six mediocre papers (and this is putting it generously), I can't find positive things to say on the seventh.

Well, this break is over. And I'm off to get D from the airport, which will hopefully clear my head enough for another round of grading before bedtime.

12 comments:

hypoglycemiagirl said...

your student s seem to need a course in punctuation as well.... good grief.

Contemporary Troubadour said...

Yes, HGG, it's sad but true. I have some students that don't use apostrophes. At all. I'm really stymied about whether to spend class time on actual lessons on that stuff -- weren't they supposed to have that somewhat mastered by the end of high school?

Sherlock said...

It is SO difficult sometimes to find positive and enthusiastic things to say on some papers. For me, that's why grading takes so long.

I grade all work on my computer in MSWord. Even when I taught on campus, I had students email papers so I could grade in Word. I have a very long list of positive comments in a Word doc so I can copy/paste little snippets at the end of each paragraph of writing.

So my grading process involved noting writing corrections throughout the paper (not making corrections, but just noting types of errors in general) and then content comments in between every 2-4 paragraphs. And at the end of each paragraph, I insert a short positive comment from my list.

It helps me a lot to read something a student wrote and then glance down my list of comments to see which one fits the best. Sometimes I just can't think of something nice to say but reading through my list of "nice" comments always brings something to mind that would work.

Sherlock said...

When I taught on campus, I had students email papers because it's just easier for me to comment electronically than handwriting. I'd highlight writing errors and then note what type of error but I didn't correct or edit papers. Then I have a word document with two pages of content comments, mostly positive, so that as I read each paragraph, if I can't find something enthusiastic to say, I can glance through my list and usually find a little something nice :-)

That's how I balance the criticism with positive comments here and there. Sometimes when a paper is just awful, it's really hard to find something nice to say!!

Contemporary Troubadour said...

A back-up list of positive comments sounds like it would be helpful, Sherlock. I think I already have one running in my head -- I just wish there were more positive things to comment on in the papers! At least, more than what we started with at the beginning of the semester. Some of my students don't seem to learn from their mistakes.

Good Enough Woman said...

I definitely need to do a better job of balancing the constructive with the positive. It can be very hard.

Good Enough Woman said...

Oh, and hang in there!

Contemporary Troubadour said...

Almost there, GEW! I've got the hand-written comments on all but two papers. Have to put in electronic versions (summing up the major reason for the grade) on about half.

French Fancy said...

It's funny hearing from the other side, as it were (with me always awaiting my marked essays from my tutor). I can't imagine anything more depressing than a pile of bad English essays.

Contemporary Troubadour said...

Actually, what's depressing is the looks on my students' faces when they get their papers back. They try hard, many of them, but there are some fundamental skills they haven't grasped yet, and we just can't spend time on those things at this level. I encourage (implore?) them to come to office hours to discuss the things they're having trouble with for that very reason, but the ones that need the help most don't make the time. Can't do anything about that, of course.

They say you can't care if the student doesn't care, but then how is that constructive in the long run? There's a gap, I guess, between what I'd like to invest emotionally in the job and what is realistic to invest without driving myself into a constant funk.

Jacqueline said...

nice pens.

Contemporary Troubadour said...

Oh yes, pens that make you want to write are ESSENTIAL when grading.