Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Nit picking or picking nits?

I spent all day Saturday and Sunday crafting my Doctoral Development Plan. Or Dissertation Development Plan. It's named one of those and goes by the acronmym "DDP." It sounds like pesticide or something.

I have to keep looking at the instructions. There are two sets of them. They don't say exactly the same thing but it must be the university's way of making sure you are paying attention.

So I am perusing the ever-so-helpful APA guide the instructor posted online. This is a good thing since the APA (American Psychological Association)Manual is written in Greek by some guy wearing a pocket protector holed up in his rented room somewhere in New Jersey. APA is a GAWD-awful format that was invented by a sadist. After spending hours and hours crafting and editing this piece, I check the sadist's checklist again only to discover that I am to talk about myself, my goals, my experiences... without using "I" ? Do I talk about myself in the 3rd person like Queen Victoria? Don't people with severe mental problems talk about themselves in the 3rd person?

And what about the elimination of double spacing after punctuation? Hello? Is this not one of the most ingrained practices of keyboarding people everywhere? Was it not pounded into our heads and fingers during the days we slouched over the finger-scraping Royal Manual Typewriters that you are to hit the space bar TWICE after each and every punctuation mark? Or risk an F? Or a smack on the hand?

I have been typing since high school, when hip-huggers were in style the first time. I have earned degrees, written casually and formally, professionally and personally, and in COPIOUS amounts over the years. NOW I find out that I am, according to the APA, to "eliminate" double spacing after punctuation? Does this EVEN make sense? Is this an experiment to show how people who have typed regularly for over 30 years are supposed to break an ingrained habit?

The person who dictates these things for the APA has entirely TOO MUCH TIME ON HIS HANDS. I am thinking that this person desperately NEEDS the help of the APA with his severe anal-retentiveness. (That and coming out of hidey-hole in New Jersey, where he picks the wings off flies and organizes his cupboards using expiration dates.)

I SO enjoy spending time eliminating extra spaces.

It reminds me of picking nits out of a kid's hair.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Hell-Bound: "Because I said."

Most of you are aware that I have a very special class this year. It is even MORE special than the class I had last year. I seem to get the special classes every year. How I manage this I do not know. It's like I lost a bet with God or something.

There are days when stars align just right and ALL of my "issue" children will act up at the same time. That would have been yesterday. Then there are days that some "issue" children lay lower than usual and one or two get to shine and show off their talents. Today would have been that day.

Today, the stars only aligned partially and they took turns having meltdowns, temper tantrums, kick boxing matches, and other problems. I guess I am making progress in that regard. It is GOOD to take turns. If they could take turns with tricycles, I could get the trikes out of the shed again. (Sigh.)

One of my boys was in rare form today. This was the day he needed to rock, repeat phrases, talk to himself, and periodically scream out loud. No, he never answers himself, but this is because he can't get a word in edgewise. His weekly allocated "bathroom screaming fit" ("I AM ANGRY! I AM ANGRY! I AM ANGRY....!") occurred on Monday, so I didn't need to worry about THAT one. Today being Thursday and all.

So he gets louder and louder as the day progresses. At 10:50 we gathered on the rug for our Math Lesson - using clipboards. This was very exciting. We are learning procedures for passing things out and I quietly gave jobs to several students. He began calling out, "What about ME? What about ME? What about ME?" This continued until everything was passed out.

A few minutes later I realized that one of the kids was missing a pencil and asked a middle school helper to get her one. Immediately, D began caterwauling, "Pick ME! Pick ME! Pick ME! Pick ME! Pick ME! Pick ME! Pick ME!"

The children next to him began covering their ears and diving between their knees.

So help me, friends, I know I am going to Hell. I KNOW that messing with a borderline autistic kid is wrong on so many levels. I KNOW that it is NEVER good to mess with such a kid. But you have to understand that I have HAD IT UP TO HERE at this point, my stomach is really gurgling and growling and cramping up, my one last nerve is quivering in the corner, and I need a haircut. And this behavior is just one more in a string of behaviors that are turning my gray hair whiter by the minute.

So there he goes. "Pick ME! Pick ME! Pick ME!"

I looked at him. I opened my mouth. And I asked the question.

"Why?" I deadpanned.

The class went silent, looking at him expectantly (except for the two now smacking each other with clipboards. And the two trying to find the tonsils of a third one. And the one who has pulled all the pennies out of his pocket and is spreading them out on the floor).

He didn't miss a beat. "Pick ME! Pick ME! ..... BECAUSE I SAID."

I stayed quiet.


The newly arrived pencil is handed to the pencil-less child and D immediately notices that it is shorter than all the others. This makes it attractive.


And I did it again.

"I want to lose 20 pounds! I want to lose 20 pounds! I want to lose 20 pounds!"

"I WANT IT! I WANT IT! I WANT IT!" (My weight loss issues apparently do not concern him.)

"I want it too! I want it too! I have a stack of pants I can't get into!" (Good lord, I think the devil is sharpening his pitchfork.)

I started the math lesson anyway. It was about ordinal numbers. I had 4 of the children closest to me stand up to demonstrate who is standing first, second, third, and fourth.


I reached down to the very core of my being and gathered the strength and enthusiasm to continue the lesson, despite the screaming, caterwauling, clipboard fighting, penny counting, and the one nerve jangling in the corner. We used math language. We practiced. We used more math language. We completed the practice sheet together. We followed procedures.

The lesson goes well. But then Jason, the class Police Officer and Arbitor of All That is Wrong, shouts out, "TEACHER! D and A traded pencils! They traded pencils!" The tone of voice he uses suggest they might have slit their fingers, exchanged blood, and swore an oath to be blood brothers or something.

So now I am thinking that I am not only going to hell but that the flames will eternally lick my feet.

I put my hands to my face in mock shock and hysteria. I take on the countenance of a shocked and crazy person. This isn't hard to do.

"OH MY GOODNESS! NO! NO! They TRADED PENCILS? Dear Lord in heaven... they traded pencils!"
The children begin laughing. My mock-hysteria comes off as funny to them. Go figure.

They laugh. I continue the lesson. We finish. All is well.

Until the end when we are cleaning up.

There D sits, rocking back and forth on the rug, long past the "pick me!" frenzy and now muttering quietly to himself, as he holds his head in the perfect mirror image of his hell-bound teacher, "I traded the pencil. I traded the pencil. Oh my goodness. I traded the pencil."

I had to carefully pick up the quivering nerve and put in in a lined shoebox. Maybe I can take it with me to the bowels of hell.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

How to Slide Face-First Down the Steep Learning Curve: In 25 EASY Steps!

1. Sign on early and often to your first online doctorate class. Spend 2 hours cruising around the site, become overwhelmed, and log off.

2. Pull out course readings and begin to read. Read for hours straight without coming up for air. Discover with alarm that the book you spent weeks trying to navigate in an attempt to be really prepared isn't even assigned. Yet.

3. Re-read course readings and eMail friends about them. Bore them to tears with quotes and ruminations and endless ramblings about some German philosopher named Habermas.

4. Log in to course homepage at least 50 times over the span of several days, forcing yourself to read everything and then printing it out "just in case."

5. Blow a printer cartridge printing everything out "just in case."

6. Assume that the "focus" points at the end of each reading assignment on the computer screen is to use for the first assignment - the Digital Journal, which will be used as a writing sample and your first grade.

7. Spend at least 4 anxiety-filled hours after a hellish day at school writing a well-crafted and tightly compacted essay that links the 3 main ideas of the readings into a drop-dead fantastic essay - complete with A.P.A. references.

8. Realize that this essay should have taken 8 minutes and silently curse the inventor of the A.P.A. format.

9. Be an overachiever and cite at least 5 references instead of the required ONE reference - "just in case." Make sure one isn't even from the readings.

10. Happily submit the paper EARLY to the instructor's drop box - BEFORE proof-reading it. (Practice spelling "pos i tive" for at least 5 minutes.) Then submit
the same paper to the discussion board for your peers.

11. Log in to the course the next day to find several entries to the discussion board. Snicker to yourself very smugly that THOSE entries are all "fluff" and YOURS in well-written and professional. Pat self on back for remembering not to use "I" in the essay.

12. Log in to course the next day to find that everybody's entry is "fluff" and that NOBODY has commented about your well-crafted essay. Sulk.

13. Realize with an "I coulda had a V-8" head-smacking moment that something is terribly wrong. Go back and hunt down the instructions - the ones you SWORE you read.

14. Gasp in horror as you realize that YOU did not follow the directions. Make sure you do this at school during lunch time so there is NO possiblity of remedying this error right away.

15. Tell NOBODY about this error. Wallow in horror for the six hours it takes for the school day to end and repairs to be made.

16. Email instructor and eat crow. Admit mistake. Promise better diligence. Ask for permission to re-post since assignment is still not technically due yet.

17. Receive absolution ("Dear Kim... No Worries!!.....the first few weeks have a steep learning curve.")

18. Get up early and finely craft the real assignment. Make it witty and full of examples and cite ONE source so as not to court arrogance. Throw in reference to ProfReading Board and Ellin Keene and the professional conversation, "just in case."

19. Proofread entry and then submit to instructor's drop box and the discussion board. Breath sigh of relief.

20. Realize in horror that you FORGOT TO INCLUDE THE WORKS CITED PAGE as required in the instructions.

21. Email instructor again from under the desk. Use words like "flabbergasted," "appalled," and include something about "not being worthy". Congratulate self for being able to type from the under the desk.

22. Resubmit corrected version. Begin lighting candles to the Patron Saint of Doctorate Studies.

23. Nurse bruised ego as you ponder the reality of the Steep Learning Curve - which is liberally coated with slick and slippery stuff that oozes and stinks.

24. Return to discussion board and liberally praise each and every "puff" piece and follow the directions to the letter ('add your opinion,' 'cite an experience,' ask a
clarifying question', etc.)

25. Take long hot shower to rid self of slick and slippery stuff from the Steep Learning Curve. Pay close attention to nose and facial area.