Archive for Graduate School

Diversity!

At a session of the Instructor Development Program I attend as part of the PhD program I am in we focused on diversity.  Yay?

As a jumping off point for discussion we were asked to generate definitions of what diversity meant to us individually.  My final definition was that for me diversity means:

the representation, presence, and value of groups that are generally subordinate, whether it be poc, people with disabilities, different languages, etc.

BUT

personally, on a deeper level, it means, if I look around me, can I see myself reflected and celebrated in the space I am inhabiting.  Do I see me???  Latina, Person of Color, Queer… Am I seen?

So, I just got back from a visit with the Butchboy I am dating in California and the contrast between here and there is so sharp it takes my breath away.

From the minute I arrived, I felt at home.  The place looked like home, sounded like home, felt so warm and welcoming.  Brown people all over, kids running around, different languages, different cultures, the beautiful sky, the water lapping at my feet (albeit colder than I would have prefered).  Of course the company was fantastic but even beyond that, my sense of place was so wonderful.  And then there is Western Mass. 

 More than ever I realize my NEED to be surrounded by my people, my cultures, my art, my poetry, my music, my laughter, my foods, my scolding at kids across the park, my superstitions and compulsions… I NEED to be around mi gente latina.  I feel like I am withering, like I am becoming dry and cold like the anglo culture surrounding me. 

I am tolerating, not thriving.  That’s not okay.

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Queer pedagogy

This was written as a review for somethin’ else but I thought it was worth posting, and reflecting more informally on. Comments are most welcome. 🙂

In “Queering Pedagogy in the English Classroom: Engaging with the Places Where Thinking Stops,” Amy E. Winans challenges educators to employ a queer pedagogy, which she explains, “entails decentering dominant cultural assumptions, exploring the facets of the geography of normalization and interrogating the self and the implications of affiliations” (107). The theme of sexuality is already present in student slang with expressions such as “that is so gay” used to refer to behavior that is contrary to normative masculinity, therefore, according to Winans the silence surrounding issues of sexuality in the classroom is artificial. By inviting the discussion into the classroom, students are able to engage with a theme that is present in national debates over same sex marriage and gay rights, prominent in many media products, and part of the talk of the locker room and cafeteria.

The model proposed by Winans requires that instead of staying away from conflict in the classroom, students be led to explore those areas of cognitive dissonance that emerge when the conflicting values of the discourse communities they belong to are revealed. She argues that a queering of the curriculum has implications beyond those of sexual orientation, leading to a process of critical (self) examination and practice with wider applications in student lives.

Winans’ proposition is appealing as a practical and relevant way to bring critical pedagogy into the classroom. By providing the students with tools to critically engage with their reality in a context of dialogue and discussion, students are being empowered to examine and explore hegemonic values that they might have never questioned otherwise. Society often assigns a negative value to controversy or debate, but as an educator it is in the difficult discussions that I have seen the most growth and excitement in learners and in myself as an educator/learner.

The proposition of a queer pedagogy challenging silences and naturalized positions is also relevant to the teaching of multiculturalism. It has been established that to simply include texts by the ‘other’ is not sufficient as it actually reinforces the normativity of the white subject. This queering approach requires that the normative categories become the target of examination and discussion.

Creating a student-centered learning space requires attention to the topics of discussion that are relevant to the learners’ lives and communities. When an issue is being hotly debated in the media, it is only logical that it be addressed in the classroom. By engaging with the learner as a whole human, and acknowledging the various discourse communities they belong to, sports teams, religious groups, ethnic communities, and many others, they are given an opportunity for self-discovery and critical learning. Discussions that encourage students to question their assumptions can only lead to greater understanding of the self, and eventually the other. This is a worthy goal for any class.

Winans, Amy E. “Queering Pedagogy in the English Classroom:
Engaging with the Places Where Thinking Stops.” Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition and Culture 6:1 (2006): 103-122.

One of the great things about Winans’ discussion is the challenge to the usual practice of ‘othering’ in the classroom. Rather than simply focusing in on queer sexual identities and preaching the condescending gospel of tolerance, Winans is proposing a challenge to heteronormativity. WHY are the romantic relationships we read in English class only heterosexual? What power relationships are implied in this dynamic? Likewise, the examination of the construct ‘white’ as a racial identity should be part and parcel of the multicultural curriculum.

My own teaching philosophy tends to embrace conflict and debate as a learning opportunity. I work to create an environment where learners can take risks, be safe enough to deal with the discomfort of examining their own beliefs. I, of course, am always poking and prodding at the things I hold as truths and I love it when I am shown a different side, a new idea to consider, something I’ve overlooked…

When I was teaching first year composition, one of my favorite exercises was to have students play devil’s advocate:

In small groups they would select a controversial issue they all had opinions on. Abortion. Same Sex Marriage. Euthanasia. Legalization of Prostitution. Legalization of Marihuana. Sex before marriage. Anything goes.

They were asked to discuss the issue then… I would ask them to craft an argumentative paper that advocated the opposite position than the one held by the group. IN cases of mixed opinions they would either split into subgroups or negotiate.

I tried to avoid doing this the week before professor evaluations because I was not very popular then. Students tended to hate this exercise. Usually by the end it grew on them and while I did not expect to change anyone’s mind, I did expect to ‘force’ them to consider different viewpoint. It was always fun to watch the process unfold, and I always learned as much from it as my students did in the end.

And, while I never wrapped it up in a pedagogical package, I was constantly queering the curriculum.

I’ll never forget some of the wonderful class discussions on words like ‘cabron’ and ‘maricon’ in their many uses. But that is a blog for another time!

I survived OPTIKA 2

Elias Adasme's performance

And I let the organizers know, that if they do the third edition I am coming. I am going to perform. I will probably light shit on fire. And I will come from far far away. And I will yell at the chancellor. And I will demand to be paid in unmarked bills. And I will be a prima donna, a diva and a bitch all rolled into one enticing package.

What I won’t be is working!

The conference was moderately fabulous. I had to miss some of the papers I wanted to see because I was busy coordinating crap. I did get to see some great films, enjoy the art exhibits (although really, a few boxes with shaved off leg hair and a video of a dude shaving his legs… that was a bit too conceptual for my aesthetically repressive ass).

I gave a good paper although my favorite bit was when a cell phone rang in the first row of the theatre I paused in my delivery and asked the guy if it was for me in a deadpan. If I had planned it I wouldn’t have pulled it off. Sometimes I crack myself up.

Anyway, I was hoping I’d post a more coherent postmortem but I’m too busy to process much more than this.

It’s over.
sculpture on the mic

GRE

I got my scores in the mail (dated December 27th!)

Verbal score: 640
Percentile below: 91 ~insert evil nerd laughter~

Quantitative score: 470
Percentile below: 21 ~insert certified math dumbass tshirt~

Analytical writing score: 6/6
Percentile below: 96 ~booyeah~

I rock! When I’m not being asked to calculate the area of the shaded portion of the figure. Bah! 😛

Back to my regularly scheduled procrastination.

In case you were wondering

Thanks to the creative support of a friend I’ve found the title for my dissertation:

Deoedipalizing the postapocalyptic: rising oceans of love/tsunamis of polyamorous desire and postgaian cuddles in the Middle Ages

😉 N’est pas?

On a saner note (just barely):

I finally finished sending off my Ph.D applications last night, except for the one due in Feb which I will continue to procrastinate about. I am a nervous wreck about this shit and I am currently wishing I had applied in secret and not told a soul because what if I don’t get in, or what if I don’t get the fellowship/assistantships/financial aid packages I need to be able to do this? Or what if I don’t like the school colors after all and decide I’d rather not partake of an education that will not support my delicate aesthetic sensibilities? What then hunh?

I will thankfully be too busy finishing my thesis to angst much more.
Thesis updates coming soon (have to keep busy with this procrastination thing!)

Border reflections

As I slowly approach the end of my Master’s and I face the overwhelming agony of Ph.D applications I’m facing yet another border crossing. I’m more in between than before.

I seem to exist on the edges of any potential peer groups. I am in the age group of some junior faculty (give or take a few years) but of course, I still bear the student albatross around my neck.

I am in the age group of some fellow graduate students but my preference for books over beer sometimes seems to put me at the margins.

My students this past semester were also peers but the reality of my being the grade-granting power set boundaries there.

I will soon have the street cred (ivory tower cred?) of another degree but I still don’t have the password to the clubhouse.

I feel like my transitions should take place in the dark. My passing to a new space should take place in silence, secretly, before somebody realizes that I don’t belong; before somebody realizes I’m not white, I’m not 18, not rich, not entitled.

I’m not even a good quiet little latina. A little too loud, a little too bright, too rude, too sassy, too bilingual, too ethnic, a little too wondering what the fuck I’m thinking of applying to go off and get another degree. Calladita before someone realizes I’ve crossed yet another border.

I’ve wandered, yet again into the uncomfortable territory of uncertainty.

And, of course, I love that.

So, if I seem quieter than usual lately, more pensive, a little hesitant, a bit shy… you know why now. I’m crossing. Poco a poco I’m shifting like a bizarre kaleidescope colors flashing, fading, rearranging. New patterns. Quietly slipping past… Silencio…

Silencio, que están durmiendo
los nardos y las azucenas.
No quiero que sepan mis penas,
Porque si me ven llorando morirán.

Pie Crust

First a disclaimer, I’ve not slept enough to really have social filters up. This applies to blogging as well as hallway conversations. You know the commercials with the beer drunk frat boy hugging people and slopping “I love you man”s all over. That’s my emotional state. Ranging from that to the potential sociopath.

I put the grrr in swinger today and not in the fun way.

And furthermore, I had pie crust for breakfast. It was in the freezer waiting to be turned into pie, but it turned into breakfast. Yum!

So, that being said. I have finally completed for the editor the Hitchcock paper I’ve procrastinated about revising for way too long. I’m actually excited about the final product, Spellbound Doors: Surrealism, Psychoanalysis and Sexuality, we’ll see what he says.

I am always surprised at how satisfying really long footnotes can be to write. 🙂

Now I’m at work on the longer paper,
Reden ist Silber, Schweigen ist Gold: Foreign Language as Silence in Hitchcock’s Lifeboat, The Man Who Knew Too Much and Topaz which I’d dropped a bit this semester.

Two things are on my mind today. One being that seriously, I love what I do. I love writing. I love reading. I love thinking. I love teaching. I love analyzing. I love research. I have the funnest occupation in the world (yes, gente that was deliberate. I always see asses twitch when I say things like FUNNEST!).

And, not unrelated,
I am sometimes reminded of how fortunate I am to have people who love and support me, even though I’m in total nerd mode, even though I don’t get out much these days, even though I don’t feel like I’ve been a very good friend. There are always people around to remind me that it doesn’t matter. That is hard to believe but most welcome. I needed the reminder and I’m grateful for it.

Finals Period: Lacy days

As Graduate Students we are faced with so many difficult decisions as part of our advancement toward the coveted degree: plan of study, which area to focus on, what to write our Thesis on, who to have on our committees, where to apply for our Ph.Ds. Is it worth it to take out one more student loan? Do I grade my students’ papers so I can be a responsable teacher or write my own paper so I can be a responsable paper. To sleep or not to sleep?

But today I’ve had to face one of the truly difficult decisions in a Grad Student’s life.

End of semester crisis:

Do I Shave my legs, Iron something, or do Laundry?

Because I HAVE TO go out in publicand look respectable, otherwise I’d be set with boxer shorts and holy t-shirts, this is an important discussion.

To northern dwellers the shaving legs thing may seem discordant,after all who shaves their legs during winter? One disadvantage of warm beach weather is that you can’t throw tights on and call it good.

Another wardrobe problem is that we take our air conditioning seriously in the tropics. If the windows aren’t frosted the AC must be busted. I spend much of my time in office or the library where I have a study carrel (my box) where layers are required to keep hypothermia at bay.

While the boxers and shirt are still tempting I actually trying digging through the CLEAN laundry (piled conveniently on the ironing board, there’s method to the madness, really there is) and I found a treasure!

I found the jeans I keep meaning to donate because they are big on me now. So, not only do I not have to do laundry
which involves putting it out on the line to dry and WAITING,
not have to iron
which involves moving all the CLEAN clothes off the ironing board and pissing the cats off,
not have to shave,
which involves showering with my eyes OPEN, a most inconvenient arrangement right now. . .

I even get a bonus self-image boost!

The jeans make me feel good and encourage me to ignore the couple of pounds I’ve gained thanks to the chocolate inducing combination of hormones and finals period. Yay!

I’m even wearing the sexy underwear because, well, it’s uncomfortable and so it’s clean. I think I remember reading somewhere that the lacy chaffe improves concentration.

I sure am looking forward to a break!

Anticlimactic pseudo-not-quite-endings

Today I taught what will probably be my last class at this University. I may get a chance to substitute next semester but other than that I won’t be teaching, I’ll be Research Assistant (RA) to several projects but I won’t be in the classroom.

This was, honestly, one of my worst teaching semesters ever. And, if you don’t know me, I should tell you: I LOVE teaching and am usually pretty damn good at it. I’m not one of the wankers who walks around whining about students and hating their job.

The problems this semester were mostly out of my control and I was unable to overcome the myriad interuptions (we lost 18 hours due to Saturday power outages and were unable to make up lost time, including going three weeks without a meeting). I lost over half of my class due to miscommunications between the department, the office for international students and the registrar and I was never able to get morale back up. Ah well.

I taught, we learned, we laughed. It’s over. It feels odd though. Mostly I’m glad to be done with a flop of a semester. I’m glad to have learned as much as I did. I know some more cool people now becaused my students were all really interesting. They always are.

The class ended with a portrait of me: two of my students are married and are parents of a kid who came to class with them. He drew a picture of me on the board, then one of himself. We each posed next to our pictures for dad to take a photo. Cool. A nice ending to a strained semester.

And, I also took my last class last week. I still have a project due and a final exam to take but I’m done with
Psycholinguistics. The ending was irritating and felt more disorganized than momentous. Nonetheless it’s over.

I don’t remember a time in my life where I’ve been more accutely aware of transitions. I am sure part of it is due to my hours spent with my ph.d applications and GRE study guides. I am busy trying to find new ways to describe my goals, my interests, my knowledge, and my hopes.

My fears I keep mostly to myself.

Quick and Dirty

Well, sooner or later I knew life would sweep me up in a bundle of chaos and transport me a way from my beloved blog. But, I’m back with a quick and dirty update.

Especially quick.

My thesis is moving along nicely. I’m nearly done with my proposal: Learning by the Numbers: Discourse Analysis of No Child Left Behind Public Law 107-110 Representations in Puerto Rico.

I am still teaching the English for International Students course which has been an administrative NIGHTMARE but a joy to teach. The preparation is killing me though! Fortunately the M/W section is nearly done and the Saturday section is not far behind.

I’m also working as a research assistant which has been neat. As the project gets off the ground I’m mainly a go-fer but I enjoy the change of pace and the knowledge that going and making photocopies truly is a valuable and important contribution.

Oh and let’s not forget a few conferences I’m helping organize. And a possible translating contract. (I don’t know if I should hope I get it or hope I don’t!)

Sleep is a distant memory. My writing clock is not really compatible with my other responsibilities. It wants to write/read until 3:00 AM. That is not so good when you have to be somewhere by 9:00AM.

I am a full-time nerd right now and I’m actually enjoying it.

That’s my update. So there! Now, back to the books.

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