Monthly Archives: May 2012

Musings on Motherhood

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My older son has a degree from OU, but it is in fine art. He was underemployed for over a year and now unemployed almost all of this year. He has many skills including effective computer skills, communicates well in person and in writing, can solve problems and so on and so on. However, he is receiving no call backs on applications. Of course, as his mother, I see his potential. Today, I am trying to be objective. Here in OK, we are losing college graduates to other states which value them whereas OK does not.

OK employers need to look at the candidates they have applying for jobs and see how those candidates could fit into the organization. As a community college professor, I tell my students that employers are seeking employees who can communicate, think, problem-solve, and work with others. I think I am telling them untruths according to what my son is encountering in his seeking work.

Apparently, OU cares little for its graduates too; once they are gone and no longer a source of income, OU washes its hands of the graduate. Surely, such a large and prestigious organization could do more to help its graduates in the job market, and particularly, OU could influence employers to keep graduates in the state. The brain drain is real.

My husband and I have no contacts in the business world, so we cannot ask for favors or even ask just that our son receive an interview. The rest would be up to him, of course, to make a good impression and show that he would be the right employee for a job. He can do that! But he needs the first opportunity. How does he get that?

Where are the jobs? OK’s economy is on the upturn with fewer requests for unemployment according to recent news casts. However, I wonder if the fewer applications for unemployment simply reflect those who have given up. My son was denied unemployment in an over-the-phone interview with his former boss, the unemployment counselor, and him. The former boss was untruthful in her description of my son’s work ethic, but the unemployment counselor heard only what the former boss said. Of course, the former boss was protecting the employer’s bottom line; therefore, my son gets nothing. First, a telephone interview for such an important benefit is ridiculous because the counselor cannot see body language or see the people’s faces. Second, everything is in the employer’s favor. The employer saves money by not having to pay the unemployment. Therefore, the former boss did her best to make my son look like a poor employee when that is far from the truth.

I know I am his mother and would be expected to take his side. However, he was a good employee. The former boss is the one who hired him, but perhaps she resented the fact that he has a college degree and she does not. Perhaps she is the example of the Peter Principle: risen to the level above her competence. At any rate, I hope she sleeps well at night after firing a useful, good employee and then lying about his work ethic to deny him benefits while she searches for another job.

I only hope the tide turns soon and that a job opens up for him.

Teacher Appreciation

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According to what I read on the Internet, so it must be true, this week marks Teacher Appreciation Week. As a teacher myself, I recognize the work teachers put into their classes every day. Today, however, I am reflecting on teachers who have made a difference in my life.

Miss Jesse taught me first and second grade; she had two years of college, so she could teach in Arkansas in those long ago days. I could read when I started to first grade–no kindergarten. I automatically began helping the other students who could not read. Miss Jesse had to divide her time between two classes, so I was unofficial assistant teacher–mostly my own designation, I am sure. But Miss Jesse depended on me to help her, of that I am certain. Mrs. McCain is another memorable elementary teacher; she was the first female graduate of then Arkansas A&M. She had no children of her own, but she made every child in her life feel special and talented. She could draw out the best in everyone. I have her memoir which she wrote and published when she was in her nineties: All Wool and a Yard Wide. Mrs. McCain had many talents besides her teaching skills. She was an excellent seamstress, cook, and she also made ceramics. I have two china dolls which she made and dressed from making the china parts to the soft bodies and the vintage-look clothing.

In middle school, Mrs. Place made a distinct impression on me. She taught English and civics. She was a stern, no nonsense woman who wore sensible shoes. One of her favorite sayings was “If you would educate your brains instead of educating your feet, you would do better.” She referred to the students’ interest in basketball, our tiny school’s only sport, over education. She also threatened to throw students out the second story windows when the students misbehaved or did not meet her standards in their work. I never saw her actually carry out the threat, but I tried my hardest to do well for her. She also belonged to the Methodist Church where I was a member. She would tell us as she led the singing in her less than stellar voice that when she got to Heaven she would have long blonde curls and a beautiful singing voice. I feel sure that dream has come to pass for her; she would not allow anything else.

Mrs. Morschheimer was not a teacher, but a lovely lady who lived in my hometown. She was an avid reader and loaned me books during the summers. She read widely and shared her books with me over several summers. The public library was nineteen miles away in the county seat, but my parents both owned and operated small businesses, so they could not always get away to take me to the library. Mrs. Morschheimer filled a great need.

In high school, Mrs. Spurlock taught me English and speech; she challenged me to read and think more than any other teacher up to that time. She would discuss books with me as if we were equals. I learned self-confidence from her. She also taught me to trust my own thoughts, not to rely on someone else first.

In college, I had a number of really fine professors. Of course, my favorites were the English professors, but Mr. Lemiuex who came from NYC to LA Tech to teach Western Civ I and II, complete with a very strong NY accent, ranks high on my list. He engaged the students with the stories he told. He also encouraged us to be part of the college life such as attending the college baseball games or concerts on campus. Mr. Gwaltney was my favorite English teacher because he was so engaging and funny as well as brilliant. He made the literature come alive with his stories about the authors. He made us delve deeply into the literature we read; we had to show we were not skimming the texts. He also had us work together as buddies on occasion, helping one another; he always chose the students to work together, pairing up a student with weak writing skills with one who had stronger writing skills. He was pushing me toward teaching also. One day, he said to me, “I know what is wrong with you. You have red hair and brown eyes.” I suppose he expected me to have blue or green eyes, but I told him I had arrived in this world with red hair and brown eyes!

My graduate professors, Dr. Faulkner and Dr. Montgomery along with Dr. Van Sycoc taught me how to continue my close readings and how to pass my interest literature along to others.

Since graduate school days, I have been fortunate to work with creative colleagues who continue to teach me how to be a better teacher myself. My friends Amanda Blackman, Lu Ann Thompson, Suzan King, Sarah Stecher, Greg Stone, Don Mathieson, and Mike Dinneen are a few of the people who inspire me to greater heights. These are all people who generate ideas and share them–the signs of excellent teachers. To refer to the well-known bumper sticker: If you can read this, thank a teacher!

End of the Academic Year

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Finals are over and graded; graduation has come and gone. Classes began last August with fresh, new faces and a sprinkling of familiar students back for the second year or completing requirements or starting over once again! January brought a new set of students and classes, again with the sprinkling of familiar students. Each beginning allows us an opportunity to work toward correcting the mistakes of the past just as it allows us to make fresh mistakes. We learn from all of those–past and current mistakes. Sandwiched in the middle, we do find successes too.

I start each semester with a plan for each class. Even when I am teaching the same class in different sections, the plans differ slightly while covering the same material. In August, I was teaching Honors Comp I with a focus on Japan. Before classes began, I had an email from a student enrolled in the class. He indicated he had bought The Japanese Mind, our text for the semester; he wanted to know if he should be reading an essay in the book before classes began. I felt then the class would be off to a rolling start. My assessment was correct.

The Honors Comp I was a small class, so we got acquainted quickly. Besides the focus on Japan, I knew I wanted to use Web 2.0 tools to engage the students and help them improve their writing skills. My composition classes also give presentations throughout the semester over their work, so I wanted to explore beyond PowerPoint for the presentations.

As we began exploring for Web 2.0 tools and effective ways of using them, the students and I found tools we found useful and others that did not live up to their promise. Over the course of that semester and with the students who returned for Honors Comp II, we continued our exploration until we had a full-blown research project outlined on use of and value in Web 2.0 tools. The students chose three or four Web 2.0 tools to explore in depth, wrote a research paper on those tools, and gave a presentation to the rest of the class on their findings.

The work from the Honors Comp I and II classes spilled over into my other classes, both on campus and online, sparking interest in other students to use the available technology to enhance their learning. I read blogs and did searches for new material, but the students did too. Together, we forged some new assignments and adapted others.

I look forward to this continued exploration and appreciate all the bloggers who post information about Web 2.0 tools they have found and used.