Saturday, July 26, 2008

I Just Want to Talk to a Human Being!

Or, adventures with automated customer service.

Mother Dearest is planning on paying me a visit in my new digs after I get moved in. I booked her a flight about a month ago (because despite the fact that this woman has not one, but two Master's Degrees, one of them being in Computer Science, she said she wouldn't be able to figure it out), but I never got a confirmation. So I decided to call.

First of all, finding the bloody phone number on American Airline's website is like looking for a needle in my car right now (being that it is chuck full of all my worldly goods and practically impossible to see out any of the windows), because apparently they don't want to talk to you.

I, however, put my well honed research skills to work and found it.

I call, and I am instructed to give them some information to get "better service" (an absolute impossibility when dealing with airlines). An automated voice (a very lovely and polite one, I might add) guided me through (see? They don't want to talk to you!):

"What is your flight number?"
"Hmm, we don't have that number in our records. Let's try again."
"Hmm, we don't have that flight number in our records. Let's try something else. What is your departure city?"
Hometown, USA.
"What is your arrival city?"
Grad School, USA.
"Your flight number is 4016, departing at 11:30am. Is this departure time correct?"
I don't know.
"Hmm, I don't understand you. If this is the correct flight time, please say, 'yes'"
"What is the passenger's last name?"
"I'm sorry, but I don't understand what you said. Please try again."
"I'm sorry, but I can't understand you. Let's try again."
"It sounded like you said, 'Laudin.' L-a-u-d-i-n. Is this correct?"
No. [Now thinking, "WTF?!"]
"Please say the passenger's last name."
"I'm sorry, but I seem to have trouble understanding you. Please hold for our next available operator."

I mean, at least the automated voice was nice, but jeeze, the call would have taken half the amount of time if I could have just spoken with an operator in the first place.

Mother Dearest will be booking her own flights from now on.

In other news...

...plans for a kick-butt syllabus are underway, with heavy idea borrowing from some of my favorite mentors who have (thank GOD!) put a collection of syllabi online (namely Madam Department Chair, Dr. Mother Bear, and Dr. Rhetorical Superhero). I actually re-read some of my (actual) classroom policies and such, and by God, it sounds like I know what I am talking about!

I don't, of course, but let's hope my students don't find out.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

And it all keeps spinning... my head, that is.

Aside from feverishly working to pay the incoming college debt I will now greet for the rest of my life, making time for the friends who have been waiting anxiously for me to finish my academic endeavors and return home, spending time with the significant other who is oh-so-patient with my crazy work load, trying to adjust and help the parentals fully realize that I truly *have* crossed the line of childhood and dependency to womanhood and independency...


...yes, aside from all that, another day has gone by that leaves me surrounded by four classes worth of books staring at me from my bedside just shouting out, "put us in a syllabus!" (No, I'm not crazy...but at times I feel like I do hear these voices).

Times ticking away; I no longer have all summer to read, think, plan, write, plan some more. Oh, and the nightmares--the oh-so-vivid nightmares--of first time teaching began about three weeks ago. THREE WEEKS AGO. My psyche isn't giving me any time to rest, that's for sure.

However, despite the nightmares and anxiety I really have been getting a sufficient amount of planning done. As of right now, I'm left to plan a three hour literature class for Satellite L. Perhaps I saved this class for last because I didn't get my books until last week....or perhaps I saved it for last because sometimes, yes sometimes, literature scares the crap outta me. I often wonder, "Will these 24 students jump up and down with glee like I do when I read works like 'The Red Wheelbarrow'?" Ummmm probably not.

But all these worries, concerns, doubts, fears, and dreads--despite all logical thinking--excite me.

This is our time now, ladies. This is what our professors have prepared us for through many visits in the office--door opened and door closed--through comments on our papers, through emails encouraging us to revise and think deeper, through the recommendations to read 'this book' or 'that book,' through the pressing to submit and present a paper at a conference, and most of all through the many things--academic and life-worthy--they taught us.

Yes ladies, it's *our* time now.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Title Page

Our blog name, aside from being so long that you really *have* to bookmark it (hint, hint), is pretty open to interpretation. I guess a good way to introduce myself is to share some of my thoughts on the idea of "recreational criticism," what it is and why we love it.

Because we (the bloggers*) all care very much about our work and our field (English Studies), we tend to put a lot of pressure on ourselves. We worry about what our peers and colleagues think of us, what our students think of us, what our intimidatingly smart professors and department chairs think of us. We worry about the future and how on earth we're going to weatherproof the cardboard boxes we'll be living in when we graduate.**

"Recreational Criticism," to me, is a reminder not to worry so much, because what we're doing is really a lot of fun. We're lucky to be doing it, and we should really take time to enjoy the ride. I hope this blog will be a place where we can spin some of the challenges we're facing as young academics into something entertaining, engaging, and (of course!) fun.

Expect rants, anecdotes, thought-provoking reflection, book reviews, and maybe some recreational deconstruction*** if you're lucky. Consider yourself fairly warned, and welcome aboard!

~LA, City U.

*You know, I like that word almost as little as I like "pedagogue." How do we feel about calling ourselves "bloggists?" "Bloggistas?" "Bloggerinas?" They all sound like something you should discuss with your doctor. With the door closed.

**I'm thinking cellophane and duct tape.

***An especially awesome game involving the relentless deconstruction of everything your opponent says/writes. Played well, it's probably unwinnable.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Moment I've Been Waiting For...

...has arrived.

For the past month, I have been anxiously awaiting my teaching materials from Cornfield U, and not with much patience. After all, would you be patient if you kept getting letters saying things like, "be thoroughly familiar with 3 textbooks and 2 instructors manuals by the time you arrive for orientation"? No, no you would not. Besides, I've never done this teaching thing before, and I'd, oh, I don't know, like a little time to prepare? After 1 month of waiting (peppered with 3 very kindly worded e-mails and 1 very polite phone call to find out WHERE THE HELL THE BOOKS ARE), they have arrived. I opened the mailbox and a golden glow was radiating from our little gray box. When I pulled out that massively large yellow envelop, I said, "YES! My books!" and danced a little. Just a little. Then I saw that my neighbor was looking. So then I stopped. "Teaching materials, you know. Very exciting," I said. She nodded.

Of course, now I am faced with a large pile of material that's supposed to make me feel better about teaching for the first time, but I just have no idea what to do with it all. It's like this big, looming pile that's peering over at me suspiciously, taunting me with its sheer bulk (I didn't know books could have that look about them, but oh, these babies do!) I decided the best place to start would be with "Behind the Desk: A Handbook for Instructors of Rhetoric." Perfect! After some flipping through, I found my section: "Classroom Management." Bingo. That's what I need. Now, granted, this book really is fabulous, as it has lots of great tips for the clueless new teacher, offering such sections such as, "Teaching Methods," "Student-Teacher Relations," and "Using Technology in Your Classroom." NOWHERE, however, does it address what to do if you look like you're FOURTEEN! Bloody hell. I'm getting on the committee first thing when I get there so that I can edit this for next year. There's simply no excuse for that kind of oversight.

Anyway. The best teaching advice I have received thus far (given to me by 3 fabulous teachers: Dr. Poet Lady, Ms. Anatomy, and Dr. Mother Bear) is that I should clearly lay out my classroom policies on the first day. This will help to set the proper tone of things. I need to start developing these policies, so I decided to get started:

1. I will not tolerate sexism, homophobia, racism, classism, or Rhode Island jokes in the classroom. Anyone who violates this policy will not be warned. They will be shot immediately.
2. Don't be late for class. If you are, you had better come with an iced coffee for me and a really entertaining story as to what was so important that it made you late for my class. Your punishment will be based on how good your story is. This is a chance for you to put rhetoric in action, kiddos. Consider your audience. Your life may depend on it.
3. Those who plagiarize will be sent to Dr. Circle of Leaves for a lecture, then to a work camp in Siberia.
4. If I hear a cell phone, I get to answer it and say whatever I want.
5. If you miss class, you had better have a good excuse at the ready. If you don't, I'll hand you over to my Italian relatives and let them deal with you as they see fit. And lemme tell you, my relatives don't like to see their niece/cousin upset, you know?

That's a good start, yes? Of course, good, solid classroom policies are not the only thing I'll need. I need a killer outfit as well. I'll need a "I'm-not-14-years-old" outfit. A "don't-mess-with-me" outfit. Visual rhetoric is just as important as the written stuff. I'm thinking something very traditional: dress pants, heels, a blouse, and a sword at my side.

But can I just tell you the best part? In the section titled, "In Case of Emergencies," it says that I should recognize that I am "now the institutional authority in the class." Hehe. Yes, yes. Excuse me while I cackle with glee for a moment. What would Freire say?

Oh God, I have no idea what I'm doing...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Engage This

As it is summer, and classes are not in session, I have been reading for pleasure. Rather than being the first to “expose” myself to “internet judgment,” (as Lady Audley so optimistically put it) I will share an excerpt from a recent read. Teaching to Transgress, by bell hooks:

“Teaching is a performative act. And it is that aspect of our work that offers the space for change, invention, spontaneous shifts, that can serve as a catalyst drawing out the unique elements in each classroom. To embrace the performative aspect of teaching we are compelled to engage “audiences,” to consider issues of reciprocity. Teachers are not performers in the traditional sense of the word in that our work is not meant to be a spectacle. Yet it is meant to serve as a catalyst that calls everyone to become more and more engaged, to become active participants in learning.”

“The engaged voice must never be fixed and absolute but always changing, always evolving in dialog with a world beyond itself” (11).

That's all I've got at present. Ciao.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Test post. Real content forthcoming. Really, we promise!