I have moved my blog to Blogspot, and revamped it a bit. You can find me at “A Crab Among Perls” http://acrabamongperls.blogspot.com/. I am finding the interface MUCH easier to deal with, and posting pictures is quite simple — unile the new format here. Come check me out please!
Hello all three of you who subscribe to my blog. I know that it has been a very long time since I posted — I have had a crazy semester, and all of my free time has been spent teaching myself enough psychology to then go ahead and teach it to my students each week. And while I was gone, WordPress went and completely changed the posting interface, which seems to make it impossible to post both text and photos together. I don’t like it. At all. So I think I’ll be moving to another blog host soon. Not to mention, the blog needs a rehaul, since I’m not an archaeologist anymore. So once I find a new home, I’ll let you all know. Hopefully I can get back to posting regularly soon, just in a new location. See you there!
I know that I have been neglecting this blog for months. This has been a particularly difficult semester for me, since I need to teach myself enough psychology each week to teach two 4-hour classes. It sometimes feels like every waking minute is spent lesson planning. But I took a break over the Thanksgiving weekend.
Since there are just two of us, and T isn’t really into turkey, I decided to try a recipe I’ve had in my recipe box for over a year: Alton Brown’s cornish hen with bacon and onion.
I have a lot of knitting projects lined up — mostly Christmas decorations and presents — but I had a few projects that I needed to get out to people quickly. A good friend from high school (K) has a 3-year-old daughter, E, who has been having a rough time recently. I decided that I needed to knit her a hat and a toy to go with it. Another friend’s mom is going through chemo, and she put out a request for hats, so that seemed like another good project to work on quickly.
I had seen a yarn store not too far from my house a few months back, but I hadn’t been in yet. I decided to go check it out, both to get yarn for the toddler hat, and to scope out whether or not there was a knitting group nearby. I have definitely missed having a group to knit with, and I figured it wuld be a good way to try and make some local, IRL friends. It turned out there is a knitting group that meets at the shop on Thursdays, so I got to kill two birds with one stone — make new friends, and knit E’s hat!
I wanted something very soft and fuzzy for E’s hat, and I found an unusual yarn. I discovered later that it is designed to knit up like terrycloth, but this is what it looks like:
In the process of gathering up my knitting materials for the sit and stitch, I had discovered an unfinished hat I was knitting for T last spring. So I picked it up and started working on it again. Apparently, I had run out of the black yarn I started with, and continued with a different black yarn. It resulted in a black striped look that I really like. Something awfully strange had gone on with the knitting a row or two below where I picked the project up again — it looks like I pulled out sone stitches and picked them back up twisted — but it took a while for me to notice it, so I didn’t go back and fix it. It took an hour or so to finish this project, and when it was done, it looked like this:
Finally, I decided to work on the hat for my friend’s mom. I hadn’t used the whole first skein for E’s hat, so I decided to use the second skein for this. I know that it will look goofy instead of elegant, but I thought the yarn would feel really nice against her head. But I was afraid that there wouldn’t be *quite* enough yarn for an adult-sized hat. So I looked through my stash, and found some super-silky fuzzy yarn that I picked up during a stash swap. The green would go well with the baby blue yarn, and I thought a stripe would help the hat look a little bit more grown-up, while also helping stretch the terrycloth yarn. This time, to get my gauge (since I never really figured it out last time around), I knit a swatch of 10 stitches. Ten stitches was a little less than 4 inches wide, so to make a 21-inch circumference hat I cast on 56 stitches. The silky green stuff was SO silky it was difficult to knit with — I was glad that I only had a few rows worth of it. But I think the finished hat will be really nice and cozy! I tried not to make it too long, so she wouldn’t have to roll up the brim. I also went with the quick decrease, so there’s a little bit of gather at the top. Even after making a full-sized hat, I still have some yarn left over. I hope it fits and she likes it!
The next thing I need to make is a stuffed toy to go with E’s hat — I have a pattern for a cute little frog that I think will be perfect. And my plan is, with the little bit of fuzzy yarn I have leftover, I will make him a hat that looks just like hers. I don’t have enough green yarn to do him all in the same yarn, so I decided to wait until next Thursday and buy a new skein at the next sit and stitch. I can hardly wait!
Before I was an archaeologist, I was a cultural anthropologist. I even have a master’s degree to prove it. Cultural anthropologists love to study other cultures around the world, ostensibly for the purpose of bringing back observations that shed light on our own culture in comparison. And one of the tribes we studied was the Yanomamo.
The Yanomamo are a hunter-gatherer group that lives in the Amazon rain forest. Their villages aren’t made up of lots of individual homes; instead, they build a single, shared shelter for the whole group. There is a ring-shaped roof with a single wall along the outside of the ring, roughly divided into sections where individual families live, sleeping in hammocks and cooking over open fires. The center of the ring is a large, flat shared living space where most community activities take place.
Half of my students are currently getting a D or an F in one of my three classes.
That’s 11 out of 22 grades, exactly.
This makes me really upset.
Any time a student is doing badly in class, there are only a few possible reasons: 1) the student is not applying him- or herself, 2) the student is not capable of completing the coursework accurately, or 3) I am not teaching the material well. Realistically, it is often a combination of all three.
Do my students apply themselves? Sometimes students are genuinely lazy and they don’t want to do their homework. Maybe passing with a C or a D is good enough in their book. Often, they never learned good study habits in high school, they are accustomed to having assignments and deadlines spelled out for them repeatedly, they simply don’t stay on top of their work. In a 12-week term, there is often time to catch back up. In a 6-week term, it’s a lot harder. You don’t check the syllabus, you fall behind, and suddenly, the class is done.
For reason number 2, I originally phrased it as “the student isn’t capable of learning the material,” but most of the time that really isn’t the problem. The reasons why they can’t complete the work are legion. My students often work 40+ hours a week, have children to raise, partners and family members to spend time with, household chores to do, and on top of that they are trying to get a degree. So often there isn’t enough time to get everything done. Add to that the fact that, in my computer classes (which account for 19 of my 22 students), many students don’t have regular access to a computer at home, or the Internet, or both. They are expected to do 2 hours of homework outside of class for each hour they are in class — that would be 16 hours of homework each week. And many of them need to do it on a family member’s computer, or a friend’s mom’s computer, or at the public library, or during the few hours they have on campus just before or after class. If they have a computer at home, they may not have Internet to allow them to email me their homework assignments. They may not know how to install the trial software that comes with their book. Even if a computer is readily available, I have students who don’t speak English as their first language, so the directions, “Point to the Title cell style in the Titles and Headings area of the Cell Styles gallerty to see a live preview of the cell style in cell A1” is extremely confusing. Even I find it confusing! Hell, despite the fact that I have walked them through the process at least one time per class, I still have students, on Day 8 of class, who don’t know what to do when we are in Word and they need to send me their assignment as an attachment to an email. They can’t remember how to open Internet Explorer and navigate off the home page and go to their online email provider. I have students who have had so little exposure to computers during their life, they can only type roughly 10 words a minute. So whether it is because of a lack of access to computing resources, or reading comprehension skills, or previous exposure to computers, many students are unable to complete the work I assign them.
But I always, always worry that the real reason my students are failing is because I am not teaching them what they need to know. I know that computer classes are difficult to teach in a large group setting. I know that I have students of all skill levels in the class, so some are surfing between steps during demonstrations because they are so bored, while others are completely lost. Knowing those things doesn’t make it any easier when you see your students failing, and you don’t know what you can do to help them. When there are dozens of zeroes in my grading spreadsheet, is it because they are too lazy to turn their work in, they can’t do the work, or because they don’t understand what they are supposed to do?
I don’t know. And without knowing why they are not turning their work in, I can’t help them. And that’s the worst feeling of all.
I got trapped in a “Sex and the City” marathon last night when I should have been going to bed, which inspired this list of my Top 10 Guilty Pleasures:
- Reruns of “Sex and the City” (duh)
- The Twilight book series (but NOT the movies)
- Marshmallow Fluff, eaten off a spoon
- Cotton candy, which I buy every time I see it, even in those horrible foil pouches at gas station convenience stores
- Reruns of “The Golden Girls”
- Cheesy romantic comedies with preposterous premises, like “When In Rome”
- Eating a whole jar of olives in a single sitting
- Standing in a hot shower an extra 5 minutes
- Costco churros
- “My Big, Fat Gypsy Wedding”