Monday, June 27, 2011

Grammar and Plans: a Brief Update

So I'm planning several improvements to this blog that take a little time to put into effect.  Time I haven't found, and thus haven't been blogging but bokra inshallah :-)

So instead, I'm going to discuss grammar.  As one learns in language pedagogy class, the grammar translation method is not an effective way of learning to speak language.  Basically, explicit grammar knowledge (something like feminine nouns must take feminine adjectives) does not translate into using this knowledge implicitly and automatically in speech.  Rather one needs to practice speaking while monitoring ones speech/having someone else monitor it for this type of agreement until it becomes automatic. 

Thus, in teaching grammar, I rarely do traditional mechanical drills since the programs I teach in have a skills based approach.  Nevertheless, in my heart of hearts, I love mechanical drills because I think they are great fun to do, like logic or mathematics.  So, imagine my delight when we started today in class on the one grammar point that can be justifiably taught in a mechanical way because it is nearly always used in the context of explicit, rather than implicit knowledge, even by native speakers of the language (i3raab for those of you in the know).  Yay!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Planning and Planning

One of my friends is defending her dissertation at 6:30 AM (yes, you read that correctly) due to the difficulties of scheduling a summer defense when faculty do not have to be around.  Her committee is almost identical to mine, and I most certainly do not want to defend at 6:30 am, so I decided I should make a month by month plan to see if I could actually finish a first draft by December 31, which would put me on track to defend in May.

The good news is that this is theoretically possible, but it would be nice if I had some time while teaching to work on my dissertation.  Given that teaching an intensive summer course in Summer town requires about 10 hours of work a day, and I need breaks to dance and eat, this seems unlikely.  I also can't really bring myself to complain about the 10 hours of work a day, because I love this program.  I get to teach in 3amiyya! I also have a great group of students.  We did mid-term evaluations.  Their complaint? We don't make them correct all of their homework in the summer like they do in the academic year.  So, despite the fact that they are in class for 4-5 hours a day and have 4-5 hours of homework a night, they still want more because correcting their homework makes them learn.  How cool is that? Or is it crazy? mish 3arfa.

However, my dissertation plan means that I really need to squeeze in, somewhere, an hour a day of dissertation time.  Preferably at a time when my brain is actually functioning as opposed to late at night when I finish prepping grading and can only really handle reading a few blog posts before bed.  Or I could just put it all off till I finish this class (a mere three weeks away) but that's one of those slippery slopes . . .

Monday, June 13, 2011

Dabkeh and Dress Up

As my contribution to the cultural events program this summer, I taught a dabkeh class today.  Dabkeh is probably my second most beloved type of dance (after my folk dancing of course) so this was quite fun.  We started with the traditional circle movements and then moved onto choreography, which is more complicated, but also more fun.  To bring things back down, we ended with modern party dabkeh (my terminology) improvising to a song frequently played at 7aflat (unlike the more traditional music I was using).  For those of you not familiar with the wonders of dabkeh, here is a group doing a choreography to one of the songs I used today with a different choreography.  If you are still curious, I invite you to explore the wonders of Youtube.

After dabkeh class, I was talking to some of my students about learning language/dance, and they revealed that they thought I was about 23.  My jaw dropped, as not only will I be 30 in a month, but I have been working very hard to dress up and wear make up in order to look older, which are not things I typically do.  Apparently, these efforts have been in vain.  So, do I continue the effort, or return to my normal state of affairs? Decisions, decisions.

Friday, June 10, 2011


Today was marvelous.  Primarily because I no longer have a cold, and one of the few redeeming values of having a miserable cold in 100 weather is that feeling normal again feels awesome.  We also finished the first week of classes, and wine, cheese, chocolate, film, and friends constitute the agenda for tonight.  Normally I am not a film sort of person, but the student I'm subletting from studies film, and he has quite the collection.  The only drawback is that he has a small picture consisting of shots from the shower murder scene in Psycho hanging next to the shower.  So, I get a bit scared getting into the shower and have had several dreams in which I wake up just before being murdered in the shower.  All from these pictures, since I haven't seen the actual movie, being completely unable to watch any sort of horror movie.

Class is going well, although I was pretty much on autopilot while sick.  Luckily nothing terrible happened--there is nothing quite so challenging as trying to lean over a group to hear what they're saying while at the same time trying not to breathe/drip snot on them.  In desperation, I even took cold medicine, which I normally avoid because I dislike medicine.  However, since the last time I took cold medicine I was in baladelba7th, I was just reminded how pathetic over the counter medicine is here compared to there.  There, you take the medicine, you feel great.  You know when it's time to take it again because that's when you start feeling crappy, right on that four hour mark.  Here, I couldn't even tell the difference.  I just felt crappy all the time.  The night stuff didn't even put me to sleep, so I just lay in bed awake and miserable.

This weekend, I should really get back to working on my dissertation, which pretty much fell by the wayside between the first week of classes and being sick.  But first, nabeez wi shokolata!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Why I hate AC

It is over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius) here in Summer Town and predicted to be so for the next week or so.  Yet for some unknown reason, our office building has the AC set at 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18 Celsius).  I realize that not everyone like the heat as much as I do (90 + ahlan wa sahlan).  But I now have a cold, even though it is 100 degrees out, and I blame this entirely on the temperature change.  I am also subject to odd looks from the Starbucks cashiers/customers when I am the only person ordering a hot drink because I am freezing in my office.  Needless to say, extra motivation to sleep when you need to be grading homework drills is not needed.  Nor is feeling crappy and sniffling while teaching.

Actually, there are many other reasons why I hate AC.  I grew up in a hot and humid climate without it (our house was old) and got used to using fans and open windows and sleeping on the porch to cool off instead.  AC makes the air feel stuffy to me*, and I just want to open all the windows, or turn on the fan, or just be able to smell the air.

To make things worse, the apartment I'm subletting doesn't really have windows I can open.  Stuffy AC is definitely better than no circulation, so I have to use it here too.  I have it set at the much more reasonable temperature of 85, but it is still annoying.

Okay, back to sniffling and grading.

*Heat also makes the air stuffy, but I hate being cold.  

Sunday, June 5, 2011

And the job market begins!

Yes, I just found the first ad for a t-t job I could apply for in the Fall for Fall 2012 in my inbox this morning.  Isn't this a little early? It's kind of freaking me out, even though the application is due at a normal time (October).  It's also for a program that I applied to for my PhD program, got into, and then went elsewhere.  I wonder if they remember this type of thing, and if it counts for or against you.  Specifically, do I acknowledge or avoid this in my cover letter? This is actually a really pertinent question for me, because there are not all that many programs that do what I do at the graduate level.  So, applying to positions that involve teaching graduate students in my specialization (as opposed to introductory or loghatelba7th courses only) would almost have to be a position at one of the five programs that I was accepted to and went elsewhere.  I haven't given a lot of thought to this previously as what are the chances of one of these five schools having a position open in a given year? Apparently, larger than I thought.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Random notes from Lesson Planning

  • I love lesson planning because there is a weekly plan with particular slots I have to fill.  Perhaps I should take a lesson from this for my dissertation.  If only I understood Bourdieu like I understand af3al at-tafDeel and weak verbs.  
  • Google docs, I love your collaborative opportunities, particularly the chat function for those viewing a doc.  But why on earth do you not support right to left tables, when you support right to left text? Do you know how tired I am of writing a document in one program, saving it as pdf or word to print off another computer, and having two or three times as many documents as I need on my computer? My hard drive beseeches you.  
  • Microsoft, my swearing vocabulary is not high enough in any language to express my thoughts about you and your complete lack of RTL support for Macs.  Let's just say that if you were a leather sofa, I would not only let my cats loose on you, I would sharpen their claws.  
  • One of the reasons I love language teaching is that I get to spend hours browsing YouTube, blogs, and the rest of the net searching for authentic materials and it counts as work!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Start of the Summer Session

Well, I've moved yet again, this time to Summer Town, where I'll be teaching for the first summer session at Swanky New Program.  This is a new program for me, but well, let's just say the loghatelba7th teaching world one is a small one, so I have a pretty solid core of friends in Summer Town.  Actually more than in University Town, but hey, I love my language more than my field.

I'm subletting an apartment from another grad student.  However, this grad student clearly has an interest in interior decorating, because the apartment is really nicely painted/furnished/etc.  Like perhaps my apartment would be if I didn't have to consider the moving potential of every purchase.  However, this apartment appears to lack any sort of coffee maker, which I of course didn't discover until I returned from shopping.  This will have to be remedied.  On the plus side, one of my best friends just moved into the apartment above this one, and so we are currently working on our syllabuses while sharing wine and cheese.  3azeem.

We had teacher orientation today, which as usual had it's highs and lows.  Highs included a presentation on strategies to give students with different learning styles that went beyond the standard inanities of this type of presentation and watching the some of the new videos (which are in a dialect that I like the sound of, but find it hard to take seriously--ah, the acquisition of language attitudes!) Lows included the learning styles person telling us we should make sure to assess students in written and oral forms (um, it's a language class, what else would you do?) and a mind-numbing discussion on how many absences a student has to have to fail, and what counts as an absence, and what about tardiness, etc.

Overall though, it's shaping up to be a fulfilling session in terms of teaching and learning.  Isa, it will be!