Wednesday, 23 June 2021
Tuesday, 13 April 2021
I had the opportunity to present my original work, "To Grade Or Not To Grade: Hybrid Assessment Through Grading Contracts" at Olivet Nazarene University's Scholar Week on April 13th, 2021.
My presentation slideshow can be found here. In the presentation, I reference two sources of research that I based my presentation on. The first is Jane Danielewicz and Peter Elbow's 2009 article "A Unilateral Grading Contract to Improve Learning and Teaching," and the second is Asao Inou's 2005 article "Community Based Assessment Pedagogy." Full citations can be found in the presentation linked above. Please also see the full sample contract linked here, as well as on Olivet's Digital Commons, and I have included an image below.
Here is a recording of the actual Zoom presentation. The access code is WUxy27?M.
Thanks for taking time to engage with my presentation!
Wednesday, 2 December 2020
We've made it to the end of the fall 2020 semester! Honestly, this semester was hard. It was technically a shortened semester, as the regular class schedule ended on November 18th with finals completed before Thanksgiving. Normally, we are wrapping up around December 10th with finals into the middle of the month. The reason for this shortened schedule was to give students the opportunity to travel home for Thanksgiving and then not return to campus following in order to try to stop virus spreading both at home and on campus. That being said, it made the 14.5 weeks of the semester feel pretty intense and crammed full. There were a couple reading days built in, but with no real breaks we were all very tired by the end.
The shortened schedule was definitely not the toughest part of the semester, though. The students and faculty on campus were in a tough spot. In order to combat the pandemic, Olivet implemented a program called Tiger Pause led by an on campus task force who made decisions about distancing, classroom regulations, and social events. I do think it was a fairly effective program, as the COVID numbers didn't climb until the end of the semester, and even then, I believe, hovered below 100 active cases, but I do think it was hard on the students. The quarantine restrictions were rigorous, and students seemed to be in an out of quarantine regularly. One on campus professor reported anecdotally that in a class of 40 they had maybe 10 students in a given class period at the end of the week. The isolation was hard on the students, and I know many of my students struggled with this as they also dealt with course deadlines, sick family members, or job responsibilities. The professors and instructors also had to be flexible in preparing courses in multiple formats and trying their best to support students. In early October I did get to travel down to Olivet and participate in a departmental meeting and photo, and I was glad to have that one opportunity to connect with my colleagues in person.
Even though I wasn't on campus, I also thought and struggled regularly with the best ways to support students through this time. Not only was the pandemic a looming concern (and tragic reality for some), but the contentious election season culminated with the actual election during the very week of many final projects. I tried my best to rearrange the course schedules so that no work was due on election day or the immediate days following, but as we saw, the election stretched far past November 2nd, and I'm sure that the students felt just as worn by it all as we did. I wanted to provide structure, accountability, and an expectation of excellence from my students without being a stickler, pedantic, or not understanding of the many difficulties they were facing. This was a really difficult balance to find this year, but I hope I was able to provide both instruction and support to my students.
My students' end of the semester reflections were encouraging to me. They confirmed that they'd felt heard, supported, and understood throughout the semester. In fact, three of my Advanced Writing students chose to (unprompted) specifically write about the grace they received this fall:
"Grace is always needed, for others, and for ourselves. I am grateful for your grace this semester."
"This semester has taught me to give myself grace, or rather, accept the grace that is already given to me. In writing, this acceptance of grace has allowed me to look at my own work with more kindness."
"The grace that you showed me was so needed and so appreciated, and in a lot of ways flipped a switch for me. It sounds so silly, but in the grace that you showed me with that article draft, I felt the whispers of the Lord inviting me to extend that grace to myself."
These comments really touched me because maybe all of that worrying about balance wasn't necessary; maybe we just need to remember to give the grace that we have been given. I was also particularly moved by the way that these students found grace not only for others but for themselves. What a gift.
This semester I taught two sections of College Writing II and one section of Advanced Writing, which I really like to teach. I also continued to support the new writing major in the English department through creating assessment material, meeting with the department chair and other faculty members, and implementing some initiatives to start to share the major with students and other departments. One fun project that I completed at the end of the semester was this Writing Major Overview slideshow that we shared with our majors, writing students, admissions counselor, and any other interested parties. I'd be happy for this slideshow to be shared with anyone potentially interested!
My students did do well this year. They each developed a comprehensive research project on an issue that they are passionate about. They compiled secondary research from the library and online databases, and they conducted primary research to augment their sources. They thought through opposing viewpoints and considered the ways that their topics and their research might impact their readers. They adjusted their tone and carefully chose their words and their sources. They established both personal and public exigency for their topics, and they represented that well. They read outside texts and discussed those with one another. They edited their work and then presented it for presentation either to their classmates or even more widely to possible publication venues. They reflected on their work and their time in the class as they completed the semester. Of course some students did better at some of these tasks than others, but I am confident in saying that each student left these classes with more knowledge of both themselves and their writing than when they entered. It was a tough but rewarding semester.
We celebrated nine Christmases with Finley, though only eight Thanksgivings, since we brought him home just after in 2011. He moved with us seven different times in seven years. He had Lacy as a sister for six years. He was on anti-anxiety medication for five years, after four years of behavioral training attempts, due to three different vet hospitalizations for ulcers and dehydration caused by anxiety; we were very grateful for that medication, as it gave us many more years with Fin than we would have had otherwise. We moved across the country twice, and I'm so glad he got to spend one year with Coco... who called him "woof, woof!" and still says that whenever he sees a picture of Fin. They did love each other very much.
In September, one of my oldest and best friends got married to her Prince Charming... and they had a Cinderella themed wedding to celebrate! We ate and danced and laughed and took so many pictures (and then quarantined and got COVID tested after), and I was honored to be part of their day.
I am looking forward to 2021 with more hope than I've had in at least four years, and I'm encouraged that there seems to be better things on the horizon. As our family of four will continue on here at home, I was recently reminded by my dear reading group friends of C.S. Lewis' proclamation at the end of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader through his sweet character Reepicheep. May we all be as bold in our plans as he.
Friday, 29 May 2020
|Graduation image from @lifeatolivet|
"This is an announcement to let you know that your final semester grades have been calculated in the grade book. You have finished the semester, and you have done it well. I don't know that I have ever had a group of students that I have seen face as much difficulty or been prouder of for finishing strong. Good, good work."
Some of them faced real hurdles in completing their semester, and I hope they know how proud of them I am for doing so well. That being said, the semester definitely did not end the way any of us had envisioned. I felt especially sad for my seniors who left campus in a rush and didn't get to say goodbye to their friends, professors, and favorite campus spots. The president of the university did confer degrees digitally, but I know they were also very sad to miss their graduation. There is a graduation ceremony scheduled for mid-August, but if that will actually happen is yet to be seen. Instead of donning mortarboards like last year, we were at home wearing masks.
|Senior Zoom Party|
In my Writing Fiction and Poetry 300 level class the students compiled course portfolios at the end of the semester. In those portfolios they included at least two short stories or chapters of work and at least eight poems. The subject matter varied greatly here as well, as some students wrote very literal, stream of consciousness type stories, while others composed fantastical stories set in imagined mythical worlds. There were stories and poems about love and loss, death and life, pigeons and frogs. I really enjoyed reading and commenting on the students' work this semester, and I believe they really enjoyed giving and receiving feedback, as well. Many of them said so throughout the semester and in their final reflection letter. I said this to my 300 level students in their final announcement:
"Though I think we are all probably ready for a break and a bit of a rest after this chaotic semester, I am actually very sad to see this class end. I have truly enjoyed reading your work, offering you feedback, and seeing your discussions with one another. Many of your stories and poems have stuck with me, and I sometimes wonder what those characters will get up to next. I can't wait to see many of your works published or printed, as I'm sure they will be."
I really am excited to see some of their work in a published format one day! I focused the five writing workshops in the class around the five rhetorical appeals, as I had done last time I taught it, and I found that that loose focus gave enough guidance to the students to comment on their peers work but left the interpretation open enough for them to comment on what they wanted to. I enjoyed using that framework in the course again.
In addition to the course work, I also continued to work with my colleagues and department chairs on creating materials and assessments for both the general English major and the writing major, which will debut in the fall. I also continued to research and discuss overall pedagogical practices for our 200 level writing courses. As a practitioner of Pedagogical Cultural Historical Activity Theory in my own 200 level writing classes, I compiled materials and created a module of information for my colleagues to reference in regards to this theory and it's application in the classroom. I also recorded this video called "Chat About CHAT" defining and discussing the theory and some of the ways it can be taken up in scholarship and the classroom.
There is a lot going on in the world right now that it makes it difficult to know how to proceed some days. I feel the weight of injustice and sickness and uncertainty, and I wish nothing more than for those realities to be lifted from my friends and family and our state, nation, and world. Personally, it is nice to have a break from work for the summer summer, but it's also tricky to find balance and motivation. I'm focusing on being thankful for all that I have been given and to use my voice to support and love as I can and distribute my energy as needed. Thanks for reading.
Wednesday, 29 April 2020
So excited for these students who won the departmental short story contest out of a large amount of entries! Very proud to have both Michael Jorgensen and Cara Triebold in my Writing Fiction & Poetry class this semester, and I am glad to see their good work honored and recognized!
Michael also recorded a reading of his winning story, "Disconnect," for Olivet's Scholar Week.
Tuesday, 24 March 2020
As I was on maternity leave for one third of the fall semester, I was looking forward to a more normal spring semester; however, that has not been the case. Academically, the first eight weeks went by pretty smoothly before the virus roadblocked the second half of the semester. Olivet has moved all classes online for the remainder of the semester. I feel lucky that the impact for me was minimal, but it has been a big adjustment for both my students and my colleagues. My students have had to leave campus, travel home, and then try to figure out a new normal from there. I do feel for each of them as they have been thrown into these sudden changes, but my heart breaks for my senior students who will not be able to finish their college careers on campus with their friends. That being said, I know my students have shown great resilience, and there are many sweet and inspiring stories emerging from around the world as we collectively grapple with our current human condition.
I have been continuously impressed with the work ethic, communication, and dedication of my students in their course work this semester. I am currently teaching a ENGL 210: College Writing II with 54 students and ENGL 329: Writing Fiction and Poetry with 12 students. The work that my students have composed and produced this semester is really on the next level. My 210 students just submitted plans for conducting primary research, and I am excited by their ideas to do personal observations, interview family members, survey their friends, or analyze existing interviews or data sets. My 329 students are submitting very original and compelling fiction and poetry work. I've been impressed by their ability to dive into their created worlds and bring the reader along with them. My students have really taken these changes in stride, and I'm proud of the work they have done.
In addition to my teaching work, I have been working to prepare for the full launch of the new writing major! I'm really excited for this opportunity for our current English students, as well as a way to draw other majors to our department through a double major. Through a set up of new course and internship offerings, I think our students will have access to a lot of great material and experiences. Happy to have been able to work towards this end. Wade, Coco, and I were able to make the trip down to Olivet at the beginning of the semester. I met with my 210 students in large groups, I met individually with my 329 students, and I was able to touch base in person with my department chair on the work we are doing this semester as I continue to help create materials and plans for the writing program.
Though I totally agree with the decision, I was very disappointed that CCCC 2020 in Milwaukee, WI was canceled for this year. I would have been traveling down to Milwaukee today, and I'm sad to not be able to see my friends or grow from the knowledge sharing and energy production that each conference brings. I also will not be traveling down to Olivet for our departmental workshop dates in April, as the workshops have also been canceled. One bright spot of the semester, though, was that my article "Food Memoirs: Agency in Public and Private Domains" was published in the fall 2019/ winter 2020 edition of Peitho. It was really rewarding to see my work finally in print, and I'm glad to be counted among the authors published in Peitho. Would love for you to check out the article!
Sunday, 12 January 2020
1) Twelve Hours' Sleep by Twelve Weeks Old by Suzy Giordano
Our number one concern/prayer/planning focus before the baby was born was in regard to SLEEP. We both like to sleep (me even more than Wade), and we both know how important it is to our well-being to get as much sleep as possible. So, we asked, we read, and we talked about sleep a lot before our baby made his debut. The very best resource we found was this book by Suzy Giordano. It's short, well laid out, and it gives an overview not just for sleeping but for eating and awake time activity as well, for the first three months. Now, in real life there are always small adaptations or concessions, but by consistently following this guide, we have found that we have been able to be better attuned to our sons wants and needs regarding schedule, sleep, and eating. It's really worked for us, and I recommend it as a must read to all new parents.
2) Fisher-Price Baby's Bouncer
geo meadow baby bouncer, and she wasn't wrong. Our baby has loved this thing since his first days at home, though, he needed some neck support to sit in it for awhile. Like all baby products it needs to be used according to the instructions, under supervision, etc., but it's a really great place to put the baby down. I think he likes it because he can see the world, be entertained (now) by the toy bar, and even drift off in it before we move him for a nap. We don't use the vibrating feature because it is not recommended in Giordano's book, but I'm not sure he would have liked that much anyway. We have also affectionally nicknamed it his "pooping chair," because as his pediatrician explained, it is hard to poop laying down! So this chair really helps things get moving through him after some yummy milk.
3) RaZbaby JollyPop Baby Pacifier
These pacifiers are really wonderful for appeasement, particularly before feeding or bedtime. We were given one of these in the hospital with the recommendation to wait until the baby was about two or three weeks old to give it to him to insure a good nursing latch. We did wait a couple weeks, but once we gave him this pacifier, he loved it. He hasn't been a fan of any other kinds, but he's always taken well to these. He never had any latching issues, either, so I think they are good to use once the latch is established. He had been using our fingers as soothers before this, so we were all glad that he took to the pacifier so well! He uses it primarily during the day now as he seems much more interested in sucking his thumb before bedtime.
4) Boppy Original Nursing Pillow
Boppy pillows. They seemed all the rage at baby showers and in every nursery. I was a bit on the fence about requesting one because I don't like a lot of clutter, so I thought it might just sit around taking up space. I did get one, though, and I love it. As I alluded to, breastfeeding came pretty easy to the little, which was so helpful to me. That being said, I've used this Boppy pillow in the hospital and everyday (multiple times) since. I've brought it with me in the car and to Chicago. I can nurse him without it, but it just makes everything so much easier (and nicer on my back and neck), so why stop using it? I am nervous about him getting too long to be comfortable on it, but we'll address that as it happens. The covers are easy to switch and wash, which I also like. I do also like the Boppy lounger that we were given. Babies shouldn't sleep in it, but it is a comfy, safe place to set them down.
5) Moby Wrap & Ergo Carrier
Moby Wrap and an Ergo Carrier. Now, we really liked both carriers for the first couple months, but we seem to have hit kind of an in-between spot in using them. I used the Moby in restaurants and at church quite a bit when the baby was really little-- like one to two months. We also used the Ergo for walks and soothing up until about that point as well; however, he seems to have outgrown the infant holds (he's a long boy!), but since he can't hold his head up yet, we haven't been able to transition to the other holds. As is, he just gets cranky or uncomfortable because he doesn't quite fit in the carriers right now. That being said, we did really like using them for him as an infant, and I think we will like them again soon, as soon as he is able to hold is head up and be stable in the alternate holds. We also have a Milk Snob Nursing Cover that I've used both on his carseat in the warmer weather and to nurse him.
6) Infantino Go Gaga Infant to Toddler Play Gym
baby play teepee. Again, I was a bit hesitant to have something set up that takes up so much space, but it is a very fun little area for the baby to kick and explore. For this teepee in particular, there is a mirror where he can see himself, as well as some fun music from the hanging owl. Otherwise, he can watch the animals swirl around and will eventually be able to touch and tug on them. Like our Summer Infant Clean Baby Bather, it's hard to know what item is right from the myriad of options available. We chose the teepee (and bather) from suggestions from friends, and I think that is often the best way to go! Our friends have the teepee for their baby girl, and they called it "the best babysitter!" and I think they were right!
7) Halo & Zen Sack Sleepers
For having done quite a bit of research and reading about sleep before the baby came, we didn't have much of a plan for what the baby would sleep in. We knew we couldn't do blankets and would definitely follow the "back is best" campaign, but I guess we figured we would just figure out what to put him in once we came, and we did! The first night in the hospital we tried swaddling him, but we couldn't get the blankets tight enough without a nurse helping us. But then I saw the Halo Sleepsack Swaddle in a drawer and thought we should try that, and it worked like a charm! So easy to use and take a part and do back up when we needed to change him. Before we left the hospital we asked the nurse if we could have another one, so she snuck it into our going away bag. We ordered a size up once he started to grow, but soon he found his thumb, so we didn't want to swaddle both arms so that he could self soothe. Once we had transitioned to having two arms out of the swaddle we switched over the to Nested Bean Zen Sack, and that has also been awesome. I think the weighted beans are very soothing and comforting throughout the night, and it seems to provide the right amount of warmth with a full onesie underneath. I anticipate us using the Zen Sack for a good while. We use Dreft baby detergent to launder all of his clothes, and I really like it. He has had baby eczema on his face for a few months, so we've started using Eucerin cream for that, but he hasn't had any problems on his body, and I think the Dreft helps with that.
8) Comotomo Baby Bottles
Like the pacifier, Cohen has done well taking a bottle from the beginning. Like most of these items, someone recommended the Comotomo Baby Bottles to us, and they are great! The nipples are soft and they are easy to use and then run through the dishwasher. Again, we were told to wait on introducing a bottle to avoid nipple confusion, so we didn't give Cohen a bottle until he was about four weeks old. When we did, I left the house, as some online articles had warned that even being in the house could confuse him a bit, as he could smell the real milk. So, I took Lacy for a walk while Wade heated up the milk and gave him his first bottle! He took it great and drank the whole thing. We only use a bottle intermittently, as I work from home, but it has never been a problem having him take one or switching between them. I do think these bottles helped that transition! We use this Munchkin High Capacity Drying Rack to dry out the bottles, as well as pacifiers, pump equipment, etc.
9) SmartNoggin Rattle
One of the more random things that the baby really loves is this SmartNoggin Rattle. I believe that I first saw the rattle listed on some kind of list of developmental toys for infants, but I cannot find that list anywhere. That being said, I added this rattle to our registry, and it is the toy that the baby is by far the most interested in so far. It rattles, it lights up, and it has a good counter weight that he can hold it in his little hand. It's great for helping him develop eyesight tracking, and he is often mesmerized by the changing lights. There is also a little mirror on the bottom, but he hasn't been as interested in that yet. We use this toy to encourage him to roll over, and it's a great way to entertain him if he's getting a little fussy. We've also gotten out his Sophie the Giraffe toy, but he's much more interested in the rattle at this point... although, Sophie is very cute.
10) Evenflo Carseat & Stroller
One of the only required baby items that you need to have leaving the hospital is a good carseat. It obviously makes sense, and we also wanted to make sure the carseat was not only safe for the baby but worked well for us. We did some online and in person looking and researching, and we eventually decided upon this Evenflo car seat and stroller combo. Now, I really don't know if this is the very best out there because it is the only set we've tried, but we have liked it, and it has already given us flexibility as the baby has grown. We have two bases-- one in each car-- and then we keep the stroller ready to go. Both the stroller and the car seat took a bit of a learning curve to figure out how to work, but we have figured them out. The one struggle I was having was trying to figure out how to keep the baby warm enough in the carseat while not creating any extra layers. A friend suggested this JJ Cole car seat cover, and it is so great. So much easier to keep the baby warm getting in and out of the car.
It's hard to imagine that such a tiny person needs so much stuff before they are even walking or eating solid foods! Of course, this is also all in addition to the myriads of clothes, books, blankets, toys, and decor. We're even storing several items like, a snowsuit, high chair, activity center, and pack-n-play that we haven't even used yet! It's all worth it to have such a sweet little person in our home, but it does make me consider the moms of one or two hundred years ago who had a rocking chair and a blanket for their baby. Ah, well, here we are. Happy baby shopping!
*All opinions are my own and come from personal use. Some affiliate links are included.