Friday, June 3, 2011

Summertime, and the Livin's Easy...

...well, sort of. It's easy in the sense that I don't have to prep or teach or grade for 4 classes.  It's not so easy in the sense that since my contract is paid on a 9-month basis, summer means no money coming in on my end of things until October. Hubby works 50+ hours/week, so we are able to pay rent, utilities, car payments*, and food, but everything else is a tight squeeze which depends completely on how much I've been able to save during the spring months (this year, not much--daycare at $850/month ate a quarter of my monthly take-home pay). I put my student loans (currently hovering around $70,000) in deferment from May-October because the $450 I'm paying per month just isn't doable on Hubby's salary.

*Car payments: Right now, we don't have one, because I killed my Honda Element the morning of graduation (5/20). 
Luckily I wasn't seriously hurt. A mild case of whiplash, a concussion, and a bad bruise on my left knee. The light pole I hit in the campus parking lot was impervious to any damage, as I was only going 15 mph (our lot gets lots of HS students who zoom through it, and I had been eyeing one such carload while making the curve through the lot--the officer who took my report told me that he's almost hit the pole too, because it's hard to see).

So I'm driving my mother-in-law's 1996 Toyota Camry (no a/c, and a cassette deck but it gets great gas mileage) and I'm lucky to have it. We have to go minivan shopping this weekend, and I'm not really looking forward to it. I loved my Element, and I'm sorry I killed it. 

Due to the accident, I barely got my grades done in time to meet the system deadline. Grading creative writing portfolios while on muscle relaxants and Percocet made for interesting (and extremely slow) reading. I only hope that my comments make sense when the few students who requested feedback come to pick up their portfolios in the fall. The writing was really good--a bit of a surprise, given how little most of them participated in class discussions.

I only had one case of blatant plagiarism in my lit course, and it was a head-shaker because the students knew I would be checking because I told them I would be checking. The instructions on the assignment explicitly forbade using the internet for the paper (which was on Leslie Marmon Silko's novel Ceremony--and there are about a bajillion websites--Academon, Free Student Papers, etc.--that have papers on the novel). This is the same assignment as the previous time I taught the course (Spring 2008) with the same warning (I had one case of plagiarism then, too--the student showed absolutely no remorse). I ran string searches on every single paper, and wouldn't you know it? One student pulled the first paragraph of her paper off a review of the novel. I stopped reading, printed off the website, paper-clipped it to the back of her paper, and wrote NG (no grade) on the first page. I simply do not understand the behavior in light of the explicit warning. Do they think I'm bluffing? That I'll be too busy to check? "No Grade" is a 0 on a 150 point assignment, a virtual guarantee of a failing grade for the course. The student came to see me afterwards, and simply said "I don't know why I did it--it's not like you didn't give us enough material in class to use for the paper. I guess I shouldn't have done it." I nodded and sent her on her way. *Sigh.* I hope she learned from this...but I can't guarantee it.

Summer hasn't quite started yet--although the weather is finally warming up--because Thing One is still in first grade until next Thursday. Thing Two and I are having some one-on-one time. He enjoys "'nuggles" (snuggling with me and his blankie) and taking his shoes off right after I've put them on. And now that Dinosaur Train ("Choo Choo ROAR!") is over, it's time for me to end this post. Up next: my summer reading list.

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