Locked and Partially Loaded for Fall 2011

Look at all the out of print books. Sigh.

I recently found out what I’m teaching next fall.

I am elated.

It is the perfect schedule.

Then I went online to select my books.

The books that I have been using for the last four years.

Only two of the three of them were there.

My reader – the collection of essays upon which I have come to rely – is now out of print, so I will have to reinvent the wheel.


Women will understand this: this is akin to how we feel when we go into the store and find out that our favorite lipstick – the one that looks perfect on us, the one we have used for years, the one that helps to create our signature look – has been discontinued. Guys, I don’t know. This must be what it is like when your sports event has been preempted for A Sex in the City marathon and both your DVR and your computer are broken. So you can never see the game. Actually, I don’t know what this is like for guys. Maybe it’s like when they stop making your favorite hot sauce.

You get my point, though, right?

Immediately after I learned that my book was out of print, I received a lovely, gentle reminder that book orders are due as soon as humanly possible.

Right now, I’m in desperation mode.

I might chew off someone’s arm.

Part of me is considering not using a reader at all and just book-marking all the amazing blogs here in the blogosphere and having my students read them and respond to them. Perhaps use them as writing prompts.

It would definitely save my students a boatload of money.

And it would eliminate those annoying beginning of the year conversations:

Me: Where is your book?

Student: My financial aid hasn’t come in so I haven’t been able to buy some of my books.

Me: How about a pen? Where is your pen?

Student: Yeah. I didn’t have the money.

This conversation generally transpires while the bookless student is gripping the newest and most uber-expensive cell phone, leaving me to think: You manage to shell out $80 a month for that, right? The smartphone you can afford? But not my book? Yeah, you are goin’ places.

But this is just my desperation talking.

Because, you know, I have to revise my entire syllabus.

Which, in truth, isn’t the worst thing.

It’s good to freshen things up and shake things around once in a while.

Because no matter what materials I end up using, there are things that always remain the same.

I may be delusional, but (I think) most of my former students will tell you that I give off the vibe that I find them endlessly fascinating. Which, by the way, is true. They will probably tell you that I give them solid feedback and that I am willing to help them. Day or night. The reality is, I am good to them as long as they do not heckle me.

Because I am the show.

Yeah, yeah, I can run a writing workshop. I can create interactive activities for them. But if students want to excel in my class, they need, first and foremost, to have a good sense of humor. After all, I’m working my butt off to provide them with culturally relevant, fresh material. But my show only runs three days a week, so they’d better not miss my routine. Once they are invested, I expect them to work their tails off to try to impress me with their thinking and writing. I want to see those synapses a-firin’. Because nobody sees my show for free.

I was not a cheerleader in high school for nothing. I was in training. I was a gymnast and a dancer and I even danced (briefly) for money on a hydraulic lift. (Don’t ask.) I performed in plays throughout my life and, in graduate school, I got up on stage to sing. Why? Because secretly I wanted to be Stevie Nicks. Because I was honing my craft – learning how to deliver my lines, to speak with authority, with presence, with passion, with humor, with humility. I was learning to be fearless,  – so my students would,  one day, dare I say it, actually want to do things for me.

That sounds dirty.

I don’t mean like that, you pervs.

I mean students can tell when a teacher has prepared; they can tell which teachers genuinely care about what their students have to say, which teachers value their words, which teachers are working to give their students the skills they need to succeed in the future. And when students feel this, they generally want to please.

So my beloved book of essays is out of print.

It’ll be okay.

Things are looking good right now.

I’ve checked things out and my room for the fall does not have a pole in the middle of it, like the classroom I had last year.

Don’t get me wrong, the pole was fun. For a while.

But “obstructed view” is never the seat you would want at a kick-ass concert.

In this room, every seat’s a good seat.

Can’t wait to shake my groove thing.

So for now, I don’t rightly know exactly what I’m doing in the Fall of 2011.

I can only say with confidence, that the show will go on.

And now that I think about it, if I’m shaking things up, it’s probably time to get a new lipstick.

I’ve been wearing Malt for way too long.

36 thoughts on “Locked and Partially Loaded for Fall 2011

  1. Great bookshelf. When I went to college we had to read that many books FOR EACH COURSE. Not like you people today. It was esp. difficult being high and drunk all the time.

  2. Where were you when I was in school? I still remember my 8th grade music “appreciation” teacher in Jamaica, NY. She was in her sixties (I guess) and as she conducted the class in some long-forgotten hymn (it had the word God in it; they were different times) I still remember the flab of her upper arm swinging in time to the music. I never had a teacher who was remotely hot.

    …why not scan your copy of the out of print essays and upload s a pdf???

    1. Steven:

      First. I’m flattered. No upper arm flab. Yet.

      Scanning the 275 page book would be unethical. (And time-consuming.) There are other books out there. I’ll figure something out. If not, we can always go back to the room with the pole and I can dazzle them with my smooth moves. 😉

  3. Renee – I wise friend recently said to me, “If it’s not meant to be, it’s meant to be better.” Both your lips and teaching are sure to be fabulous this fall! Kasey

  4. My goodness! Your post got me so fired up that I’m ready to enroll in your class to see the show! You sound exactly like the type of teacher that I always enjoyed having, and would work my butt off for!

    On the other side of the out of print book dilemma–My daughters attended the same university 2 years apart. (my oldest just graduated) To save bucks on books my youngest always tried to take the same professor for her general studies that her sister had, so that she could use her old book. She was always so sad when the book was changed and she had to buy a new one.

    I’m sure your new “show” will be just as inspiring as your old one! 🙂

    1. Of course I still love you. It will be so much easier to kiss now that we know we will only have to deal with one smudgy mouth. 😉

      But seriously, you HAVE lips. If I don’t wear lipstick, my top lip disappears. It’s like a bad magic trick.

      And yes, I will find something, but you know, they want those orders like… um… now.

  5. Oh I know exactly how you must be feeling right now…

    And yes, it’s nice to freshen things up and all, but it’s also nice to KNOW WHAT MATERIALS YOU’LL BE USING!

    New books. New syllabus. New lesson plans. That’s exciting but also tough when you’ve already had success in the past.

    Good luck to you, lady. I know you will knock their socks off.

    Just hope it’s not going to be too stressful along the way.

    1. I’ve cooled down now.

      But I am serious about having them use blogs.

      Mostly yours, so you’d better keep things going. I’ve come to expect a certain level of excellence from you.

      (No pressure.) 😉

  6. I stopped using textbooks about a year and a half ago and I like it. I made 4 copies of instructional material for different rhetorical patterns and keep them on reserve in the library. Any readings we do are photocopied if they are short, or put online if they’re long. What I’d like is to find one good writing text that isn’t expensive and put that on reserve instead of the photocopies. Then, students can buy it if they want, or just go to the library to read it. I also try to find things that they can buy online. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to do that, but I do. Since I’m always changing my mind about readings and looking for more current material, I don’t think I’d want to go back to a published reader.

    Congrats on your schedule! (Mine is pretty good, too).

    1. My students would NEVER have gone to the library. That would not work. BUt I am serious about using blogs. I am going to give it a whirl. There are so many great writers out there. I may just say, “Read the most recent post from ‘As A Linguist’ and write a response telling me what you thought about it.

      Why couldn’t that work in a course about writing I say let’s look at people who are doing it well.

      And let’s look at some examples of people who aren’t pulling it off.

      I’d like to see if they can tell the difference.

      I’ll still bring in some copies of favorite essays and, obviously, we will still do a research paper where they will need to do citation, but it’s a whole new world. And I think I’m going to give it a whirl.

      I’m glad to hear that online materials are working for you and your students.

      I think this might mark the end of my monogamous relationship with McGraw-Hill as well. Unless they want to buy my book. Then I’m back. 😉

  7. I am so glad you are returning to MCC. I would be even happier if you were teaching English 105!! hint hint

  8. OK, where to start? 1) You can’t calls us pervs for snickering at the “do things for me” line and then follow that up by mentioning you had a pole in the middle of your classroom and you’re planning on shaking your “groove thing” (read: moneymaker).

    2) Missing say, a Saints game, is not the equivalent of having a book go out of print. I once almost called in a bomb threat to ground a flight b/c I had to be in the air while it was on. I got to record it, but I didn’t get to see it live (and therefore couldn’t effect the outcome by yelling at the TV). The lipstick analogy makes sense. It’s like your favorite taco place closing. Sad, but not on par with the tragedy that is missing a Saints game. Schifferstein will confirm.

    3) If you really want interested students, get on that pole, shake your groove thing, and it won’t matter what you want them to read, they’ll be happy to “do things for you.”

    Problem solved. What else can I help with?

    1. Daniel,

      First of all, you totally confirmed my point. Missing a Saints game – for you – is how I feel about my book going out of print. I’m pretty desperate. Like if I couldn’t have taught Ordinary People in English 10, I would have been sad for a moment (“Awww, no Conrad? No Beth? No Calvin? No window or door imagery…”) but I would have just picked another great piece of fiction. But this? This was an anthology of great essays. All together. In one place. And now I can never get it back.

      And not for nothing – but that “shake your groove thang” thang, is about to become a regular feature. Kinda. I don’t want anyone to steal my idea, so I’ll keep it quiet right now, but it’s good.

      I miss all my NOLA babies. All of ya’ll are having babies! It’s crazy! 😉 Weren’t you just in 10th grade?

  9. PS – I just did the effect/affect swap, which probably drives you crazy. But hey, I’m commenting after 6:00 PM on a holiday weekend. That’s creditworthy… extra credit some might say.

  10. Okay, here’s the solution. Since they won’t buy books but do buy phones, make the 3rd reading requirement something that can be downloaded on Kindle. It’s a free app on my phone. Maybe on the internet as well? Then they can just download your reading for a small charge or free if it’s old enough. Yes? No?

    1. Yeah, but this implies I have found something that I like. Which I haven’t. I am seriously thinking about sticking with blogs. I think I can make it work in a Comp-101 class. Obviously, these essays would be supplemented by other essays and published reading material – but why not have them read blogs for personal narrative or humor or description or compare/contrast? I’ll have to do something else when we get to research, but hopefully by then they will have a better understanding about the different types of discourse – and which ones require a more formal tone and which can be more casual. We’ll see. Maybe I’ll find something.

  11. Having one less text book is a great thing for your students. If these essays are easily found on the internet, they will definitely appreciate saving the $100 to be able to spend time online (because they were doing it anyway)

    1. Leah, that’s the way I’m leaning. I’d just send my students links for the readings – or put the links on the syllabus. Then people could read the essays on Smartphones or iPads or computers – wherever they are. I would want students to print out the essays and make comments on them to help with class discussion. They would be very short. Does that seem reasonable?

  12. In my senior year AP English class my teacher, who I loved, used blogs as a teaching method and everyone LOVED it! We all had our own blogs and had different assignments responding and commenting on other people’s blogs. It made me think as I read what other people said and sometimes changed my opinion on the topic. Definitely use blogs as a teaching tool, it’s a way for everyone (even the quiet kids) to get involved in class and have their “voice” heard!

    1. Jacki:

      I kind of LOVE the idea of having my students use blogs. And I can see how it would work in an AP class; I’m just concerned about using them in a Comp-101, a required class that everyone MUST take where the ability level is very different. That said, I think it could work. Maybe. What were the rules about commenting on each others blogs? For example, I would NOT want to see any abbreviating or slang or swearing. What about grammar or spelling errors on a post? How did your teacher deal with that? I would really like to talk to you about this concept. Because I do love the way it would get everyone (even the quieter students) involved! Thanks for the response!

  13. Renee, I’m glad you’re returning to the classroom. It’s obvious it’s where you belong. It sounds like you make learning a joy and, more importantly, make it a joy for learning. Have a wonderful year and never burn out.

  14. I like your idea of seeing if it’s possibly to ditch the physical presence of your set texts for online. Worth trying.
    Lovely bookshelves. Mmm. For some people it’s cars, others interior decoration, still others something more top shelf. But for me it’s the book shelves. Lovely.

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