Saturday 20 December 2014

What Retire Meant

Dedicated followers of this blog--a foggy evening to you, Uncle Thorn and Aunt Rose--will wonder when this retirement is to take effect. June 30, 2015, as I should have said.
Judging by all the spam that's shown up since the announcement, I won't have to stay retired for long. We thought the vacant position in our company could be interesting for you, said a "Personnel Department" email. To proceed to the next stop we should register you in HR system so we will need a small piece of your personal information.
(My personal information: I bought a pair of double-walled coffee mugs for a certain somebody this afternoon. I watched the Leafs look sharp in taking a 2-0 lead against the Flyers, on the way to losing 7-4. My response to a book of poetry I'm to review consists of how I would write the review.)
The non-spamic responders have included a few lovely souls on Facebook and my kids and sisters.
I'm not sure I'll notice much difference in my retirement lifestyle, except that in early September I'll be driving to Toronto instead of laying out What Will Make Me Happy to an English 100 class.
Years ago I ran into my aunt in the federal government office in Kelowna. I was applying for UI, she for her Pension. She acted caught.

Wednesday 17 December 2014

Hill Retires

Luther College English professor Gerald Hill announced his retirement earlier today. "The sun wasn't up yet when I dropped off the letter to the Dean," Hill said, on the steps of Tangerine, one of his latte haunts.
Hill's teaching career began in 1975, as a grade 7 Language Arts teacher in Rocky Mountain House, Alberta. "It was a great school," he said, over his latte at Tangerine. "I could have stayed there and retired 10 years ago."
But he stayed only two, then part of a third, thinking that with his Permanent Professional certificate he'd get a job down in Calgary, where he'd taken his B.Ed. What he did get was the notion to teach in Papua New Guinea, as a CUSO volunteer, from 1978-1980. "I could have stayed there too," he says, "and taken a contract job for big money and retired 15 years ago."
When his writing career kicked in, Hill taught around it: as a sub in Nelson (1981-82) while he studied writing at DTUC, as a maternity leave replacement at an alternative school in Regina (1982-83) once he'd set up his first writing home, as an Adult Ed drop-in Literacy instructor in Saskatoon (1983-84) after he'd met his future wife, the Saskatoon-based theatre artist Ruth Smillie, at a writing retreat in Fort San, and as an Adult Education teacher in Edmonton (1984-8). "That's enough for one sentence!" Hill says, wiping the latte foam from his lips.
As a matter of fact, teaching did feel as if it were a sentence by that time. "I wanted to more closely align my teaching and writing interests," is how he put it this morning, breaking off a piece of peach-pair scone. That meant post-secondary; that meant grad degree.
By 1993, with a new Master's and an all-but-dissertation PhD in English from UAlberta, Hill had been teaching first-year English for a couple of years. "The plan was, I'd finish the PhD and get a job somewhere and move the family there." That plan ended with the marriage. Hill taught for a year or two at Red Deer College and then, in 1995, "When my ex got a job at the Arts Board in Regina, I got one too, at Luther as a Sessional Instructor, so we could continue to co-parent our young family." 
In 2001 he won his tenure-track job, the one from which he's just retired.
"Man, good latte," Hill said, as the darkness lifted this morning.

Sunday 14 December 2014

Grading of Christmas Essays Completed

Thanks to a latte at Atlantis, I finished the last essay an hour ago. Six words, was the assignment. Pick six words, follow them into your personal material, see what you see.
Students need help doing this. Any connection between writing and joy has nearly vanished, but an assignment like this one gives it a chance, that was my idea anyway.
A few writers ran with it--for some reason, I think of horses--and seemed to feel frisky. After all or before all, the writer who turns down the road into his/her own stories doesn't have to run far. A few follow-up assignments would kick things along even further.
All that's left to grade: final exams.

Thursday 11 December 2014

Playlist for Grading Christmas Essays, continued

My Christmas fav is playing: Dawn Upshaw and Chanticleer, "Spanish Carol". If I had a dog, I'd name her that right now. Or Soprano, after Upshaw running the show, ringing the highest bells.
One thing about final exams is that students do them briskly. (Of course, nothing I say about students applies to all.) As writers, they seem less inclined to take extra steps--into the open field of the question posed, their professor hopes. That's enough, let's move on, they say.
Everybody understands.
Dark clouds known as "grades and grading" can't decide to leave. When they do, I would like to speak again of these writers. 

Tuesday 9 December 2014

Playlist for Grading Christmas Essays

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel—We Covered This in September”

“I Wonder as You Wander”

“Rejoice and Be Merry, They’re Done”

“Angels from the Reams of Glory”

“Mess, I, uh”

“In the Bleak Midparagraph”

“Ouch Tannenbaum”

“Allegro Morto”

“It Came Upon the Midnight, Unclear”

Tuesday 2 December 2014

This Has To Be Fast Because Gumbo's Coming

How to prepare for the final exam:
Think of the exam as a writing performance.
Think about what we've said and done in class.
Think about your own experience as a writer in this class (not to be taken as chance to praise or condemn your professor).
Re-read the Birkerts essays. How do you relate to them?
Think about how this class would respond to your next page of expository writing.
Read your own essays. How do they read?
View all handouts. Why were they handed out?
Get a good night's sleep.