Thursday, June 26, 2008

But They're the Stuff of Dreams ....

I had a nightmare about Legos.

It saddens me that my brain could take something so good and pure and holy and make it nightmarish. Bad brain! Bad! Legos are our friend!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Mr. McGee ate his bratwurst with JUST MUSTARD, NO KETCHUP!!!

I have turned him into a civilized person!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Student Evaluations

Like most schools, ICC has students anonymously evaluate the professors, and I just got back my set from last semester. As per usual, it's a mix of the useful and thoughtful and the hurried and useless, but I got some pretty funny ones this semester.

One student offers:

What aspect of the instructor's teaching did you like the least?

"Easily offended by talking during lecture, even whispers."

Next eval in pile:

What aspect of this course did you like the least?

"I didn't like the guys behind me that never shut up."

I'm not totally sure what THIS means:

What aspect of the instructor's teaching did you like the most?

"Knows what she's talking about."

What aspect of the instructor's teaching did you like the least?

"KNOWS that she knows what she's talking about."

And my absolute favorite from this semester:

What aspect of the instructor's teaching did you like the least?

"Being pro-marijuana when she's never smoked it."

I'm not sure if the objection is to my stance on decriminalization of pot, or to the fact that I've never smoked it!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Aggressively Inattentive

I have an attendance policy most of my students like: I don't differentiate excused and unexcused absences; you just get 1 or 2 freebies (depending on the class) and I don't care if it's because you have the flu or you have a great tee time, you're an adult, it's up to you. (There is a bonus for perfect attendance; after missing 2 you start to lose points, but you can do extra credit.) It drove me absolutely mad in college when I'd have strep throat or something and have to get a doctor's note to be allowed to miss class. I was pretty sure that at age 20, I knew whether or not it was a) appropriate and b) necessary for me to be in class. And some of those classes I skipped, I was much better served academically by studying during that time. And one in particular, well, it was just much too sunny to be in class. (Longest South Bend winter ever, most perfectly beautiful spring day in the history of the world.)

My students' lives are quite a bit more complicated than mine was. I was an on-campus traditional student; they're all commuters, more than half of them have kids, nearly all of them have jobs. They're not just contending with the possibility of a nasty flu knocking them out of commission, but with sick kids, work demands, divorce court dates, car breakdowns, even sick pets. (If you have a pet, you know a veterinary emergency can take way more time than you'd think!)

Contrary to what some of my colleagues suggested, the world did not come to an end, nor did I have entirely empty classrooms due to this policy. They pretty much attend class and skip class for exactly the same reasons as they do in other classes, and at exactly the same rate. The difference is that the bad eggs feel far less obligated to invent sick and/or dead relatives, and the good eggs don't have to call me with panicked dread when their kid has to go to the ER.

(Side note: Do students invent dead relatives? Yes. Apparently it's pandemic to academia. And Peoria is such a small town that I already had a situation where I knew the allegedly dead relative. (Reports of his death were greatly exaggerated.) It's terribly awkward. I give them my condolences and bounce them to student services; student services can make all the arrangements for make-ups for students. I have yet to have a student who misses two or three weeks of class and several assignments, shows up, claims a dead relative, and gets bounced to student services with my condolences actually get back to me through student services to arrange make-ups. Because student services wants proof. The ones with actual dead relatives miss two days, e-mail their papers, and come back looking haggard and awful and like they should be anywhere but in my classroom. The ones with fake dead relatives who skipped two weeks of class usually look tan. I'm 30, I'm not stupid.)

At any rate, my other policy is that I don't care if you don't pay attention, as long as you do it quietly and undistractingly. If you want to sit in the back row and do a crossword puzzle because you want to put a butt in the seat for the attendance grade, that's fine. It comes out in the final grade, because I test on lecture, and God knows I sat in the back of classes and ignored professors on occasion. (Honestly I'd prefer a somewhat more European model of attendance: You get the syllabus, you show up for the final, and whether you come to lecture in between is up to you. If students don't want to be there, forcing them just makes for a bad atmosphere in the classroom. Some students can go through some classes without ever showing up, especially Gen Ed requirements or really bad teachers where you learn it all from the book anyway; other students probably should learn the lesson of "get your ass in gear if you want to pass, nobody's going to babysit you" quite a bit earlier in their collegiate careers and general life. But we babysit them, so they really don't.) I can't abide people who sit there and whisper all class; that's maddening for me, and for the paying-attention students. I also keep an eye on laptop-using ignorers, because, yes, some students take this opportunity to look at porn, and that's ridiculously distracting for the students behind them. But as long as they're not bothering anybody, I generally ignore them too.

Anyway, to the point: I have one student this semester who comes in every night, sits in the front row, puts his head down on the desk, and promptly goes to sleep. Every night. I stand by everything I said above, but he's doing it in the front row. Not only is this just aggressively, obnoxiously inattentive, but it's really hard to restrain my whiteboard-marker-throwing impulses when he's sitting right there. It's driving me mad.

He's probably working third shift or 12-hour days or has some other excellent my-life-is-crazy excuse, but, seriously dude, front row?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

zzzzzzzz .....

Sorry I haven't posted this week. I've been having an absolutely rotten bout of insomnia that I just can't kick. I'm only semi-functional and actually resorted to Mountain Dew yesterday! I managed to sleep last night, but I've got quite a bit more sleep deficit to catch up on before I'm coherent again.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Sidewalks, Again

We're all pretty "The evil that government does lives after it, while the good is oft interred with its bones. So let it be with Peoria"* about, well, most everything government does at every level. So I just wanted to mention how RIDICULOUSLY WELL RUN the sidewalk project on my block is and give props where props are due.

A couple weeks before the project started, we all received a little three-page newsletter with all kinds of information about the project that answers just about any question I had been going to ask. Gives all the names and numbers of everyone involved. Tells us how we'll be inconvenienced (two weeks without our driveways, ugh), and who to contact if you have a medical problem so you can't really be without your driveway.

The project started right on time and has been continuing on schedule despite the fact that they have been poured on routinely since they began the last week of May. They've been out there in the rain every day, only dashing into the cabs of the trucks when the rain gets really bad. Work starts at 7 a.m., and they've been working on Saturdays too. Everyone has been extremely helpful and accommodating, moving the backhoe so I can back out of my driveway (and helping direct me around the giant holes in the ground on either side of my driveway from the water main on one side and gas line on the other, both dug out), coming around and knocking on every door when they're cutting off the water for a couple hours, etc.

Peoria's resident engineer for the project, Jim Lancaster, and the project superintendent, Darin Horowitz of Horowitz Concrete, have both been on site and answering questions from residents (I haven't talked to them, but my next door neighbor gets all kinds of intel from them while out on her afternoon walks). Of course the whole process is fascinating to kids, and most of the workmen have been nice about talking to them while they come to gawk at the earth movers. The newsletter even welcomes kids to come by and take a look as long as they're supervised.

So while this whole process is a gigantic pain in my ass, I really couldn't imagine a better-run pain in my ass, and I'm very impressed that Peoria's running such an efficient, well-communicated, citizen-friendly project.

*bastardized from Shakespeare, Julius Caesar (III, ii), Antony's eulogy for Caesar

Monday, June 09, 2008

Disorder All Around

I feel a little spazzed out right now, because my life is drowning in disorder. I've started on my massive summer project of deep cleaning as much of the house as possible -- as in, taking everything out of the drawer/closet/cabinet/shelf, cleaning the storage space, sorting all the stuff, and putting it back neater (and sometimes elsewhere). This is great when it's done, but the mess gets worse before it gets better. I've finished the upstairs hallway (gotta start somewhere!) and I'm halfway done with the master bedroom. I figure since I've been married for five years and with Mr. McGee for seven, anything he's never seen me wear is getting donated.

Meanwhile, they're tearing up the sidewalks on my block to get us new sidewalks and shiny street lights. I'm a little ambivalent on the street lights, since the block is reasonably well-lit from people's porch lights and street lights tend to light-pollute, but they look very nice on the next block over and I'll just cross my fingers they don't put one right in my bedroom window. I appreciate the new sidewalks -- ours were a catastrophe -- but the process of getting there is a nightmare. (Also, while I really do appreciate the new sidewalks and Lord knows we're paying a hefty special assessment for them, I do wonder if they'd have been better putting the city's part of the money towards sidewalks on Sheridan and other main streets -- our neighborhood is quiet, half the time people walk in the street anyway.)

My car is still in the shop, and Orange Cat is still not eating that much. Grey Cat keeps sneaking Orange Cat's meals, so Grey Cat has gotten downright FAT, and he was not a thin cat to begin with. He's on a reducing diet and we've started separating them at meals, which typically leads to one of them pooping or puking for spite. (I wished I had my camera the other day when I was standing over them getting food and they were standing head-to-tail, Grey Cat convex and Orange Cat concave, like some sort of bizarre yin and yang.)

I do have pictures of the garden to post, but that requires me to find my camera at the same time as I find my computer under the pile of crap on my desk; it's been a tough year for vegetables so far, but our prairie plants have done nicely in this rotten weather and Mr. McGee's new trees are thriving. Our sedums/stonecrop/sempervivum also came back really well this spring.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Public Service Announcement

Just a reminder, Peoria, to make sure you have your preferred towing company (and taxi company) on your cell phone. My car broke down today in the (stinking hot) parking lot of Target, and there is just no worse feeling than being by yourself with a broken car away from home.

Fortunately at some point in the past I had remembered to put the towing company we use into my cell phone, so I was able to get towed in 15 minutes, without having to call my husband in tears. In fact, I was able to call him and say, "My car broke down, the tow truck is on the way," which is probably a nice change for him from my usual method of coping with car-related crises.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

I'm Just Too Popular

This summer I'm teaching a M/W class and a T/R class, both evening classes, and one student told me last night (my first night) that she's in BOTH my classes.

I was super-annoyed about this because it means I can't repeat outfits -- it's not like I'm getting dressed to lecture until right before I go, and I was TOTALLY planning on repeats.