Friday, August 7, 2015

Some Final Thoughts on Core Teaching, Adjunct Issues -- LIke Money

     It looks as though there are no Core 201 sections available for me this coming semester. Teaching Core was always a challenge. Imagine teaching the third in a series of classes students found redundant and not relevant. Of course it's not relevant to THEM -- what good is deductive and inductive reasoning and logical analysis when you are a post-adolescent know it all no one can tell anything to? This is not to say that they don't listen intently to professors in their major, but with elective and required classes outside of the major, did they really care?
    With my classes, it certainly didn't seem that way. Being an older (grossly) underpaid adjunct, I think some of these students felt they couldn't relate to me, as though I were from another planet because I was a few decades ahead of them, with kids their own age, for Pete's sake. But we "live" in the same society. My concerns about nature, technology, the future, the class theme, will be their concern too and very soon. We can't "wait" to deal with global warming, the depletion of fossil fuels like oil and coal, the overdependence on computers, smart phones and other technologies, which have kids staying inside and becoming overweight in the process. We need to think about this NOW!
     Some students showed an interest in logical reasoning and the class theme. Most did not, and showed it in their unfavorable class evaluations. Adjuncts, who teach, get to be evaluated by students, who don't teach and never WILL teach, in almost all instances. How effective  and appropriate are these evaluations? How does a student know if the teacher "comes to class prepared" if  this is the first time they are encountering this particular material from this particular teacher? And if you go over major assignments in and out of class three and four times, there will "still" be students who ask, "Now 'what' am I supposed to do?" And these same students, who half zone out or try to look at their cell phones in class, will put on the evaluation form that the standards weren't clear -- well, of course not, if you're not really listening at all in the first place!
     A few may have seen me as an old fogey. Well,  post cancer treatments, I have to admit my thyroid is NOT working all that well and I am not that energetic, making me appear somewhat unenthusiastic to them. But I "am" passionate about the environment! It appears many of them were not, though a handful DID enjoy the nature walks on  campus.
    Being an adjunct can take a lot of hours, and I did have them do "critical thinking logs," but I came up with a pretty good schedule--- but  I didn't do 4 and 5 sections like my younger peers. I just didn't have the energy for it (though I could have used the money).
    Our outgoing president is making (with bonuses like annuities) a half million a year; I made $13 thousand teaching five sections a year, not a living wage if I had to make it without my husband's recent retirement pay. And I was teaching them how to think logically, how to care about the future--- doesn't that count for something?
 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Racial Identity, Education, Time to Figure Things Out

     I don't usually talk about racial issues (how many read this anyway), but this Rachel Dolezal controversy is interesting. It seems, at "Yes" magazine, one of their writers interviewed a few black associates of Dolezal and they wonder what all the fuss is about. That is kind of like those who worry you can't call a Native American an "Indian" anymore. Well, when you talk to them, a lot of them call themselves Indian, so what is all the fuss?
     It appears that Dolezal got into trouble by saying "I'm black," instead of "I identify with the struggles of the black community." She certainly doesn't have to worry about being pulled over by a traffic cop and getting shot at if she decides to flee. We still have too much "stranger danger" when it comes to black men, and maybe, especially in big cities with big black populations, schools and police departments should be talking about dispelling the myth that all black men are a menace.
     So maybe she didn't frame her concerns about the black community the correct way. It makes sense to say you "identify with" the black community, but not to say "I am" the black community. If she said she was black to gain leadership into the NAACP, then that was deceptive and not appropriate. But even so, how many white people go out of their way to claim they are black or would like to "black" in America? Being black in America, especially if you are a young man, can be dangerous.
    Maybe schools should have a dialogue with their students on the issue of racial identity. Maybe they should all go outside, commune with nature and gain a different perspective on things. We need a calmer society, one not jumping to conclusions in such a hurry all the time. We need time to figure things out.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Phobias -- We All Seem to Have Them

     Have you ever been afraid of the dark? Or seen a spider nearby and said "yikes" and not known what to do?
      The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a "phobia" as               an extremely strong dislike or fear of someone or something. 
I  am one of those with a fear of extreme heights-- in an airplane I feel somewhat protected, but I wouldn't want to be at the top of the Empire State Building in New York City, which has 103 floors and is 1,454 feet from the street to the tip of its lightning rod.
     Some of us are afraid of the dark, being in a dark closet, or have a fear of snakes and spiders. Researchers now say that when it comes to the snakes and spiders, this is considered instinctive, our way of surviving in the jungle or being around something that suddenly moves around us. But snakes are shy and do not seek out human contact. Spiders are interested in insects for a snack, not people, and most snakes and spiders are NOT poisonous, but control populations of other living things, like rats or flies. 
     Sometimes hypnosis can help people be less afraid of their particular phobia. Pets can also have fears, such as when there is thunder and lightning. If it is an extreme phobia that affects the animal's behavior all the time, then you may need to take the pet to the vet for some helpful suggestions.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Travel to west and to Dallas; there's art in Dallas too

                             "Nature or Abundance" by Leon Frederic, at Dallas Museum of Art.

     I have always been more partial to realism or impressionism than other forms of art when it comes to painting. The purely abstract or cubist artists have never "done it" for me. But at the Dallas Museum of Art you have many choices.
     Yes, after a "whirlwind" tour of the West (Vegas, Sacramento area, Yosemite National Park's tall peaks, and the family nearby) I started back toward the East coast with visiting my son in Dallas. The plane ride to Dallas got horrendous (we must have hit the tip of a thunderstorm near the airport, and the passengers applauded when we landed), with being buffeted about and the plane dropping a few feet a couple of times, making people in their seats go "Ohhhhh." We made it and I was glad of it.
    Of course, we had to see the obligatory memorial to John F. Kennedy at the 6th Floor Museum, which showed the window assassin Lee Harvey Oswald shot from, and a lot of other interesting information. But Dallas has 'art' too! Dallas also makes you think of the "Dallas" TV soap opera, but what about art?
     The "Dallas Museum of Art"  is very spacious and son Adam knew what he wanted to see. Religious art not so much-- he'd probably seen plenty on a trip to Europe. The primitive sculptures of people in the African art section he considered predictable, but other areas of this multi-floor museum kept his interest.
      The Reubenlike fleshy woman of  the 1750's "Abduction of Europa" I found interesting and attractive, more so than the Cubism of Picasso and Braque, or the Modernist approach of Mondrian with his lines and squares. I remember in high school having a braless art teacher who talked about Mondrian, though I have no memory of doing a lot of colored lines and squares.

     Also in the museum was the "Mirror Stage," which was a video in a darkened room. A person outside us warned there'd be bad language and possibly nudity so Adam was eager to go. Inside, the video showed young women with oddly painted faces complaining about their lives. It was more performance than art and we quickly left.
     The Incan "language" of  knotted cords on the wall was unique. If you don't have the actual symbols of your language like words, would thin rope (or was it like yarn) in various knots be as adequate?
      Across from the museum and across from that are outdoor areas to explore. The Nasher Sculpture was next to the DMA but it was dinnertime and we skipped it. Pictures of it make it look like a great place to walk among trees and outdoor art. The DMA had an outdoor sculpture garden too, but they were closing it as we got near (it was close to 5 0'clock). And across from THAT is a park in the median of the highway, with colored folding chairs and some landscaping and a restaurant with what looked like shooting flames in a few places inside. Different, to say the least. So the museum and its surroundings are worth your time -- no admittance fee (donations requested, though).

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Did you know that-- value of dandelions

     There are actually a number of "natural" healthy foods if we took the time to do a bit of research. Take dandelions, for example. Dandelions, although thought of as ugly weeds that people pollute the environment for in order to kill them, are actually special. They are "edible," folks. They contain ingredients that help your liver do its most important function, which is processing and breaking down drugs we ingest and are exposed to. By using the leaves in salads, or boiling the root for tea, you are "helping" yourself. Besides, dandelions last maybe five weeks and then they are done and leave your property. Don't put pesticides into the water supply. Eat those plants and enjoy!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Visiting Charlottesville downtown, McCormick Farm

      

                      

               The second place we visited, historic McCormick Farm on VA. Tech property.


    I was on the street with my fellow naturalists in the unlikely place of downtown Charlottesville. Charlottesville, founded in 1762, several years before Thomas Jefferson starting building his famous Monticello, with its interesting gardens and architecture, has some interesting spots of its own, with some narrow streets (one time for horse drawn carriages) and old architecture everywhere (and perhaps Jefferson would still feel comfortable there today). Since our wetlands training was actually supposed to be two hours away in Richmond, putting us in the wrong spot we thought, what the heck, let's walk a bit downtown.
     The library where we were supposed to meet was on Market Street, with its part organic "Market Street Market," an interesting combo of coffee shop, fresh produce stand indoors, and specialty items for sale like organic packaged goods. I think I even picked up a peanut butter bar that was gluten free and pretty good overall. So we ventured away from the library and Market, and in less than two blocks took a turn, on the advice of a local, down to what is called the "Downtown Mall."
     Here, on a brick covered walkway, you can visit all kinds of historic shops. We briefly (my cohorts were impatient) looked around the Timberlake (the name makes me think of  Justin) Drugstore, a corner store with a formal white facade, that was formerly a bank and kind of looks it. Inside it's been an old timey drugstore since 1917. I say that because it still has those covered round stools and counter, the so-called soda fountain, where you can still get a limeade, milk shake or soup. But we were impatient. It had a good variety of loose candies in baskets near the register, and one wall had a lot of lotions and soap. I settled on a greenish aloe and cucumber one that would make a great face soap, and a few tiny Peppermint patties. And down from this, to the east on Main Street, we obtained some information at the visitor center, which is very close to a covered "pavilion" I assume is used for city concerts.
     Up a few short blocks in this very brick and mortar area was the oldest home in "Historic Downtown," built in 1785 and of course of a brownish brick on the outside. I wondered if it was open on Saturday, as a sign nearby said they served lunch from 11-2 from Monday to Friday. But I knocked on the door anyway, and a hostess graciously let us see some of the colorful rooms. It'd been a law office and they had actually tried to cut off one of the fireplaces in a shortened room and covered up the hardwood floors, but this "Inn at Court Square" was redone and refurbished. Interesting was the John Kelly room with the lime green walls, bright yellow ceiling and oak looking head and end boards on the spacious bed. The red door to the building also stood out.
     But it was lunch time and we decided to head down the road, off I-81, to the old McCormick Farm, now owned by Virginia Tech. It was rustic and rather cool. We picnicked in the car and walked around the log cabins and grist mill, the mill containing miniature models on display of Cyrus McCormick's famous mechanical "Virginia reaper," which in 1934 could do the work of three men or more. It would speed up the gathering and cutting of wheat and grains, and was improved upon. He was only in his twenties when he invented it-- well, necessity "is" the mother of invention, I'd suspect.
     There was a little trail we didn't get the chance to explore, and the farm buildings still standing at this National Historic Landmark were fairly close together. We don't even think about what it takes to farm anymore. Tractors and disc harrow tools are used now on farms and I suppose there are fancier reapers or "gathering" machines now (probably motorized and using too much gasoline). Maybe the mechanical way without dependence on oil is better. 
    

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Weight an issue --Thinking about the future

     The other day I really mangled myself, in the walking department. As I was leaving the grocery store, there was an oncoming car and I wondered: is he coming right at me or what? It turned out to be or what, I moved to side, and hit this stupid grove in the sidewalk at a weird angle. I fell, and proceeded to half twist my right knee, and somewhat sprain my feet. Real smart. But then, if you have skinny ankles and feet and are over 50 (post menopause), things weaken. I really need to be more sure footed. Are there exercises for this?
     I don't need any more stress though, dealing with planning a big trip to see family on the West coast. Of course, weight is an issue, which doesn't make it any easier as you get older. I'm sure if I were lighter maybe that fall would not have happened. It was just an odd accident.
     Actually did get back some results from the "Lifeline" screening people, and my arteries, (despite my love affair with chocolate and sugar) are normal, according to their cursory tests. They only thought there might be a slight echo of a heart beat (like an extra heart beat) I should have checked out. I do need to have less chocolate --- have tried to eliminate hot cocoa packets and (for a while) give up chocolate as part of a Lenten choice. It worked, for a short while. Getting older, I guess I should eat a little better in the dessert department.
      I will say it is peaceful here in the silent study room at R. U., all by myself. Outside the window they are putting up these towers (not exactly like the Two Towers of Lord of the Rings fame, but imposing nonetheless) and digging up dirt with machines. There was once a nice little brick house there. Oh well.
     Now it is time to read a bit of this Sally Ride bio. I'd like to do a book about "Great American Women," and as our first lady astronaut, she was one.