This is Kevin. I’m…

This is Kevin. I'm writing to inform you all that last Monday, Mary Anne was torn apart by a rabid horde of students. No one's quite sure what motivated the slavering creatures -- whether it was their teacher's glazed exhaustion (after having gone to bed after midnight and gotten up at 4:30 to get to class on time), or her slight crankiness (due to neither her roll nor the pastries she'd been promised by the department, being there when she arrived on campus), or her insistence on trying to teach them the meaning of semiotics (of all things!) at 7 a.m. on a Monday morning. Whatever the reason, they barely tolerated her for 75 minutes, and then, when it became clear that she intended to keep going, they fell upon her, with their bright, sharp teeth, and their cruel, wicked nails. Only stray gobbets were found when they had finished, and the pristine classroom walls were streaked red...


Well, maybe it wasn't quite that bad. (I don't really know why I haven't written a journal entry in days, but that probably wasn't the reason). Getting up that early *was* that bad (and getting up at 5 on Wednesday was only slightly better), but the class of 11 students, mostly bright high school kids taking this so they could graduate early, was polite and respectful. No slavering. They were maybe a little quieter than I would have liked (which is why I finished so early and let them go; it's supposed to be a 110-minute class), but that was only to be expected.

I really shouldn't have let them go so early, but I ran out of material. There were several things I should have done differently:

  • Prepared more -- my tendency is to underprepare, and I need to switch that to overpreparing
  • Talked slower -- I was nervous, and I always talk really fast when I'm nervous
  • Asked more open-ended questions -- that's an important teacher trick -- otherwise you just get 'yes/no' answers, which a) don't take up much time at all and b) are far less indicative of whether they're learning anything
  • Let there be more silences -- Kevin and I talked about this later, and he reminded me that even if the silence makes me nervous, so that I long to fill it, it'll make them nervous too, and if I let it exist, there's a good chance they'll fill it, which is what I want...
Still, I think I managed to both define semiotics (the study of signs) and get them to understand it to some extent (using examples like STOP signs, and the American flag).

It's a course designed with a very definite theoretical base -- we're looking at composition through the lens of semiotics and popular culture. I am undereducated in both, and am relying heavily on my teacher's edition for guidance. I think that's okay, and if I get a chance I may do some background reading of semioticians (like Barthes), which I somehow managed to miss entirely in college.

(It constantly amazes me how much I missed in college. What was I doing in my classes? (Oh, right. Thinking about sex. Or skipping the classes, and having sex. That was most of my freshman year, which explains the little flunking calculus thing (Do you have any idea how embarrassing it is to be dating a mathematician (who occasionally teaches calculus) when you actually flunked the course taught by one of his colleagues? I'm amazed Kevin respects me at all. The fact that my calculus class was at 8:30 a.m. and I often skipped it to stay in bed with Dean (first boyfriend) is the only thing that sort of gets me off the hook. Kev seems convinced that if I'd actually gone to class, I'd have passed. I'm not quite as convinced, but I'm willing to let him think so))).

Anyway, my students seem to think I know what I'm talking about, so I was reasonably happy (or at least relieved) at the end of my Monday class. I was also exhausted; I went to Borders for little while and did my prep for Wednesday, then I came home and slept for three hours. Can't remember what else, if anything, I did on Monday; I suspect I just watched tv.

Tuesday I was in slightly better shape, and actually managed to get quite a lot done. I sent out "Esthely Blue" to Story Magazine; I don't really think it's their thing, but it's worth a shot. I also finally sent "Deep with Sea" to Liz Holliday at Odyssey in the U.K. (Thanks again to Jed for getting me those IRC's!) Kev and I went to Salt Lake Roasting Co. cafe for a while in the afternoon, where we had a fight and I finished "The Fall" (finally!!!). The fight (about arrogance, relativism and absolutism) actually got finished in the car later, since I hate fighting in public places and turned out, as usual, to be more about me assuming the worst about what he said than about him actually having said anything bad. Sigh. I should know better by now (he pointed out that he should know better too, and should be more careful about how he phrases that sort of thing. I guess we should both know better).

Grabbed dinner at Taco Bell (perhaps the only fast food we both like) and then went to the Barnes & Noble. Supposedly there was going to be go club there, but we saw no go players. So Kevin started teaching me Japanese chess instead (which is a seriously weird game (for chess players: it has elements of Bughouse), but kind of fun), and then Calvin (or Kelvin? we're not sure) showed up, an older Japanese gentleman friend of Kevin's who plays chess and go and is a real sweetheart. He had said on Sunday that he might meet us there Tuesday night, and it was nice that he came; he gave us some helpful pointers on Japanese chess. Kevin won, but not by much. This was a very nice change, since usually he trounces me at such games, and I get really discouraged.

Sunday was kind of weird, actually. I forgot to tell you about that. We went to the Borders to work, started talking to Calvin; talked to him for two hours (about life philosophies, and moving to Salt Lake from California during World War II, and whether Kevin makes a good teacher (Calvin thinks he's not aggressive enough), and chess vs. go...) and then a friend of his showed up, Nado (our age, physics major at U of U), and we proceeded to have a four hour argument about religion, until the cafe closed. Interestingly, Nado isn't a Mormon (somehow I expected my first Salt Lake religion argument to be with a Mormon); he's a Christian fundamentalist. It was an incredibly frustrating discussion, and both Kevin and I needed to work, but we were unable to just let it drop. Good thing the cafe closed.

I think the most bizarre things about those discussions is that I'll be trying to argue it rationally, and at the same time there's a little voice in my brain saying, "But that's so silly! It's so arbitrary and random! How in the world can you actually believe that every single word of the Bible is the undiluted and absolutely accurate word of God?" I really do have a hard time with fundamentalism; it's very hard for me to manage even as much suspension of disbelief as I do for a sf movie. (Sorry, Shmuel).

This entry's getting long, so to wrap up quickly; Wednesday's class went very well -- took the whole time, and had a lively discussion of American icons and what they symbolize. Good fun. Getting more used to using the board, though my board-writing is still hideous. Also spent a while talking about cafes/coffeeshops; gave them an extra assignment to do a field trip to one and report back next Wednesday; I should write that up for them today so they have something to refer back to.

Spent a couple hours cooking, which went reasonably well -- made spinach risotto (good, but a little sweet; might try simple dry white wine next time, instead of dry vermouth), which I think I should have cooked a little slower, but it was my first one, so I'm not going to complain, and chicken breasts stuffed with spinach and an apricot/raison/tomato mixture, which were excellent but didn't really go with the risotto -- too much sweetness. Better with new potatoes, perhaps. Still, fun experiment.

Plan for today: send out "The Fall" (which is so late that I have absolutely no idea whether Jeff will still want it, so cross your fingers for me, 'cause I could certainly use the money, but at least the damn thing is done); revise the Herotica call and send it to Nalo and Cecilia and ask for feedback; maybe get some real writing done (what a concept! :-).

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