Monday, December 27, 2010

"Wanderer Somewhere" Sends Us This Proffie Appreciation.

Hello to all here: Professors, Adjuncts, and everyone else who happens across this blog. For the past few years I read RYS and though only a high school student I was sad at its demise and happy at the establishment of this site. I want to say thanks for so much and in some ways I am not quite sure how to say so but here it goes.

Thanks for dealing with the idiots, the brats, the outright headaches over the last semester. It has been a long one and now you are all hopefully getting a well needed break where you can attend to the other chaotic parts of your lives. From the late night calls to the last minute emails asking for one thing or another (which you have already covered in class) you have all dealt with things many people will never have to deal with, and in many ways you shouldn't have to either but life has different things planned I guess (and the University appears to have let a herd of morons in).

Thank you for dealing with the snowflakes who truly do not know how to do anything: multiplication? Nope they don't even know it in High School. Forming a coherent thought/proper sentence? I doubt it. Original ideas? Plagiarism galore. These students are the ones who come back around 2am after a night of fun and partying to complain about how much work they have, how hard their classes are, how the professors are SO unfair, blah blah blah. I sit at my kitchen table where I have been studying and want to beat them up, throw them down the staircase, and out of a window to land on that nice expensive car mommy and daddy bought them. I don't have to deal with them in the classroom, I don't have to grade their work or deal with their complaints about how they tried so they deserve an A, or a C, or just a passing grade. I feel grateful to yall who do take the time to deal with them in and out of the classroom.

A trip to my old high school where they recently edited the grading scale over the past few years made me feel sorry for those teachers whose ability to fail those who simply need to fail has been all but eliminated, and it made me realize that these morons are the ones giving college professors problems later on. These are the ones who are coming back at 2 am. These are the little snowflakes I want to teach one day. From reading here I know some of the struggles I will face, some of the headaches I will undoubtdly have, and a glimpse here and there of what will make it worth it in the end.

You are all inspirations to me for various reasons, and moreover you all inspire a student at somepoint each year and make their experience in college better. You inspire students to be better writers, better thinkers, and better citizens in what ever country your in. Along with all the other stuff you go through you are inspirations and this is trully what I want to thank you for. For being the people who meet with the good students and help them in their studies, who point out interesting authors to read about for all sorts of subjects, and for simply taking the time to be the advisors and professors the good students need.

Have a good holiday and good luck during the next semester. Y'all will undoubdly meet new struggles and a host of snowflakes both new and old who you'll want to throttle. But you will all get through somehow and share the entertaining tales to us all.


  1. This is kind of you, but if you really do want to become a professor, you'll need to improve your composition skills, even if you're just a science proffie, like me. You've misused "hopefully," "whatever," "your" (the second instance should be "you're"), "some point," "undoubtedly," and one should avoid ending a sentence with a preposition, for example, "... in." Please get a copy of The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White, and read it twice a year, until you become so good, you can spot the errors in it. Then, get a a copy of Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace, which I'm still reading. Some readers may be troubled by "y'all": I am not, having long thought that a southern accent can be charming, when coupled with an education. Just please don't misspell it, as "yall."

    Also, wouldn't you rather become a banker, or a financier, or a specialty physician? They make a WHOLE lot more money than we proffies do. Best of luck, although I can't help wondering: Are you real?

  2. Yeah, ending a sentence in a preposition is a terrible habit, up with which we will not put!

    Seriously, Froderick, it's people who don't understand the difference between the conversational register of a blog like this one, and formal academic prose who need to improve their composition skills.

    (You got him on the typos, though ("your", "what ever" and "undoubtdly). I hope that made you feel good.)

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  4. The single shining star..."Dear Prof -- Thanks for posting all of that review material. Our other profs don't do that and it must be a lot of work for you, and I really appreciate it."

    Since she (he?) is in a class of 200, there's no way I remember the kid, and I really don't think he/she was sucking up. At least I choose not to believe he/she was sucking up.

    Printed out and put in my "reasons not to jump off a bridge" folder. I'll not include this one, but I appreciate it nonetheless.

  5. Excuse me, but isn't a major problem in education today that far too much emphasis is put on feelings, at the expense of performance? I suggest you look around you: there's no shortage of academics who'd be really horned off. (See, I can do it myself.) Yes, I know Winston Churchill once said something witty about this: look it up yourself.

  6. Sorry about the prevalence of typos... I believed I had checked through it for such errors as I know I am very prone to them but I'll admit I failed. Normally I get someone else to read/glance through anything academic I write as I make these mistakes and need to improve my writing, but when I go back to check for errors I do not catch them and it normally looks correct regardless of how hard I search. I am using the crutch of a peer reader to assemble a list of my regular mistakes so that I can actually catch them without aid fairly soon. I did not want people knowing it was I who was posting this though so it did not get checked. Again sorry about hurting your eyes with the blaring errors, hopefully the next few years in college will give me the chance to improve my writing and reach a relatively acceptable level.

  7. Why are you apologizing? It's just a blog. There are typos in posts created by professors. Keep reading and you'll see them. Relax!!

  8. I'm a composition prof, but I don't usually take it upon myself to correct people on their English if they're writing informally on a blog.

    And Wanderer, if all my comp students were as literate as you are, I would not spend so much time wanting to kill them and myself.

    Seriously though, you do not want to try to become a college professor, especially in the Humanities. You won't get a job. Don't do it.

  9. What Stella said. Verbatim.

    If you want to teach, get your certification for HS. Seriously. The pay is way, way better. My mother retired with an $85K/year salary. I'll never get anywhere near that. *sigh*

  10. Don't be hasty on the salaries. RYS collected a wide variety of numbers last summer that showed a range of salaries, some of which are even more than what a high school teacher might earn after a lifetime of teaching.


  11. Oh, I'm not being hasty, Reg. I make $43,000 for a 4/4 load. I've been telling my students who want to be English majors that they should have a career other than academia in mind. Many's the day I've sat paying bills, wondering why the fuck I didn't go to law school like the rest of my classmates.

  12. Thanks, Wanderer, because of you I may not throttle someone this spring semester. Stella's right, though, think about starting your own business.

  13. I take Wanderer at his/her word. Thanks for the shout out. I'm sure you're a cool student to have. Work hard.

  14. Learn to teach English As a Second our particular corner of Hell, this is a highly marketable skill. My school has an 8-week program.

    ...sorry, back to my episodes of Hoarders on the internetz...

  15. @Stella:

    Sorry, but I think you have it backwards. Both my parents were over 30 in the '60s, defined "uptight," and never hesitated to correct my grammar. It didn't damage me in any way: it helped. Don't you have more than enough students who don't know that sloppy writing makes them look, well, sloppy, no matter what it says?

    Also, I entered college intending to become an astronomer in 1976. This was the worst possible time to do this, after the shutdown of Apollo ("one giant leap for unemployment"), but years before the Space Shuttle. Everyone told me, clearly, "There are NO jobs." There was a big die-off of young astronomers at the time: less than 1/3 of the astronomy Ph.D.s granted after 1970 were still doing astronomy in 1980.

    And yet, I persisted. Along the way, more than a few times, I wondered whether there wasn't something better I could be doing, particularly during my stint in the U.S. Navy, and also when working for employers who treated me like a disposable commodity. But, I resolved never to tell anyone, "You'll never make it." Usually what I do is try to steer them into something less insanely competitive and more useful, such as solving the world's energy problems. Done well, one could make real money at that.

  16. Bless your heart, kiddo. Students like you make teaching fun from time to time. Yeah, you had a few errors in your writing but, compared to most of the bilge I mark, they were nothing to get het up about. (Yes, that last sentence ends with a preposition.) You're in school to learn and you've got the basic talents and, perhaps even more importantly, the drive to do so; if I had you in my class, I'd show you your errors and know you'd actually take the time to learn from my comments. Improving one's writing (and mind) is a lifelong process but you've made a good start.

    I hate to say this but I agree with others who suggest you think of a different career. There are many ways to use a good mind and being a proffie is only ONE of them.

  17. @Froderick:

    I didn't say you were damaged, Frod. Or that your parents damaged you. But you're not Wanderer's dad. And I think it's bad form to dog people about their (fairly insignificant) typos on a blog.

  18. No, I am not Wanderer's dad. I am Wanderer's teacher---that is how Wanderer addressed us all---and as a teacher, it is my duty to do my job! I also think the errors are -not- insignificant, particularly not since I recently read over 100 papers from college students, only about 10% of which were written at what used to be college level.

  19. I love you, Frod, truly, and have since way back when. And I really think there's a little merit in your position.

    But there's nothing about the Wanderer's blog post that would make me think he wasn't a decent enough student, and someone who might spell check a little if a grade were on the line.

    You are a teacher, but you aren't the Wanderer's teacher; none of us is, actually. His generous appreciation of what we try to do had a couple of typos, and in this forum they don't matter to me.

    You're right, of course, that we can probably use everything as a teachable moment, but the kid wanted to say howdy and thanks and happy new year, and he did it okay for me.


  20. I'm not an academic professor, I'm a conductor, but even so, if somebody sat down at the piano and said "listen to this piece I want to play you to thank you for being my teacher" I sure as heck wouldn't mention that they played two B-flats that should have been naturals and fudged a scale or two. Not because I didn't notice them, or I thought it wasn't my duty as a teacher to inform them, but because, as with everything, there is a time and a place.

  21. "Hopefully" is perfectly fine with reference to the speaker in many dialects of English, including mine. (It is said to be more common among younger speakers, though: I'm 21, FWIW.) I agree that stuff like your/you're confusion in writing looks sloppy, but spelling/punctuation issues ≠ legitimate language change (which is happening all the time).

    Do the sticklers among you object to "frankly", as in "Frankly, prescriptivism sucks"? Seriously, this construction is all over the place and doesn't deserve the opprobrium it's often met with.

    -Future linguistics proffie, hopefully

  22. What Cal said.

    Also, not to throw gasoline on the fire, but Strunk and White is, to put it mildly, a piece of shit. See this evisceration, which simply confirmed what many of us already knew:

  23. I should add that Strunk and White is not a piece of shit merely because its authors did not understand grammar very well (although that is still the main reason). It is also not very helpful unless you already know how to write. In other words, it might have once functioned as a house-style manual for New Yorker writers who were already competent stylists, but beyond that it is utterly and totally irrelevant, and probably always was.

    If you want something more serious, informed, and actually helpful for students then the St Martin's Handbook by Andrea Lunsford is your best bet, albeit a really pricey one. She does have a pocket version entitled Easy Writer, that is less comprehensive, but budget friendly. And for the mechanics of, and techniques for, building effective arguments, my favorite is They Say I Say by Graff and Birkenstein.

    S&W is a plague, and should be eradicated at all costs.

    Sorry Froderick.

  24. Can you people really be so starved for affection that you can overlook second-grade errors? Or are you too worn down by all the whining to be able to speak up, anymore? Or do you think "invented spelling" is OK? I absolutely cannot stand it when high school or college students don't know the difference between "your" for "you're," no matter what they're trying (badly) to express. I knew this in second grade! And it's in Strunk and White, which still costs less than $10! God in Heaven help and keep us all, even though it's all our own stupid fault.

  25. Definitely didn't notice my "your" mistake, usually that is the one thing I don't mess up in my writing.*Takes note of it on error sheet* Thanks for pointing it out. As for "invented spelling" again sorry for all the atrocious mistakes, I am dyslexic and spelling/switching similar looking words is one thing I have been trying to improve/eliminate ever since I entered the school system so many years ago.

  26. I think the context of the student's appreciation outweighs my need to always be teaching and - in this case - punishing and denigrating his errors.

    I'd bet my 403b that if Wandered knew we were going to parse his sentences in this way, he would have said, "Hey, fuck this. 'Your' all assholes."

    And that'd be a shame, because the spirit of his message was nice.

  27. And Strunk and White is still a piece of shit, even at less than $10.

  28. Angry, I agree that Strunk and White is crap and for all the reasons you outline.

    Wanderer, stop apologizing. I was touched by your post and would welcome you in my class. Your writing shows real promise and you have a respect and willingness to learn that is rare.

    As a piece of friendly (not admonishing) advice, do brush up on comma splices. Any decent grammar textbook will teach you how to avoid them. For the record, I have seen comma splices in proffies' writing too.

  29. Froderick, I'm not desperate for affection, and you're not getting it. I noticed the errors. If that student had submitted the blog post as a paper I would have marked them.

    But taking great relish in pointing them out on a blog is, as I said, bad form. I really don't want people pointing out typos/mistakes I might make. Nor would I want someone correcting my English during a conversation.

    That's what CM is, Froderick, a conversation. It's not a classroom where posters submit their essays for grading. If it were, I wouldn't hang out here.

  30. Good on ya Wanderer.

    Archie et al - Oh crap. I just bought Strunk and White. And here I thought I was being a rather keen science prof by improving my own writing/grammar/style skills to foster a "do as I do" situation when I pummel my students to improve their abysmal writing (if I hear one more science student say "but I went into science so that I didn't have to write" ...).

  31. Poopie (too fun), if you already have reasonable proficiency in your writing, Strunk and White has a bit of value but I really advocate going back to the basics and learning the nuts and bolts of grammar, something that shouldn't be difficult for a science proffie.

  32. @Stella:

    I hope all the e-mail you get from students next semester is chock full of errors and borderline unreadable, because they think it's OK because it's "just e-mail."


    A "piece of shit"? I'd have hoped a man of your achievements would have come up with better. What are you going to rip into next, Norton's Star Atlas? Or how about The Elements of Euclid? How about Hamlet, since it contains a mixed metaphor?


    See why good writing is important?

  33. @Froderick: Did you read the article I linked to? It enumerated S&W's many faults better than I could. But to summarize, "Elements of Style" displays a shocking ignorance of grammar. I'll give you two examples:

    1) They tell you to avoid the passive voice; but nearly all of their examples of passive voice are not, in fact, passive voice constructions. Indeed, my experience with American students has been that the vast majority of them cannot identify a passive voice construction more than one out of three times. I blame Strunk and White for that. If generations of American students had been spared the drivel that is Elements of Style perhaps more of them would actually recognize the passive voice when they see it. They might actually know how to use it effectively too.

    2) Their rules on restrictive clauses are confusing and contradictory. The reason that most American writers cannot tell you with any degree of certainty when to use "that" instead of "which" is because they had Strunk and White foisted on them by well intentioned fools.

    I could go on, but why bother. It gets repetitive after a while. Strunk and White has, in my view, made the vast majority of educated American writers much the worse for having been forced to read it. Its main claim to fame is that it has enshrined a lot of really bad grammar as the gold standard of American writing.

    Strunk and White's Elements of Style is to a real style manual like The St Martin's Handbook as an etch-a-sketch is to Euclid's Elements. Sure, you can make triangles with it, but you won't be any the wiser about the axioms, much less be able to prove any theorems after playing with it. And just as you, as a an astronomer, could use an etch-a-sketch to illustrate geometric principles you learned elsewhere, an already good writer can find a few things of value in The Elements of Style. But that doesn't make it a good manual. It just means that like a broken clock, even Strunk and White were right about some things. Telling a crappy writer to buy Strunk and White and read it twice a year is like telling an innumerate to read a really badly written calculus textbook. Maybe they'll glean something from it, but it will probably be wrong anyway.

    You are a good writer in spite of Strunk and White, not because of it.

    And that's why it is a piece of shit that should be banned forthwith.

  34. This whole conversation is getting increasingly bizarre, in part because Americans seem obsessed with the idea that there are strict "rights" and "wrongs" in grammar, as opposed to conventions and norms. In French, for example, one says that a mistake in grammar or spelling is "une faute," whereas a mistake in calculation is "un erreur." Une faute is a mistake of style or social convention. And of course, before the Foucaultians leap down my throat, I realise that BOTH categories are constructed around particular forms of social power. But the distinction does matter, at least in some languages.

    My parents were peculiarly obsessed with the English language when I was growing up and had Strunk and White. I read it when I was old enough to understand all the words, and I found it hysterically funny, not because of the many - apparently - egregious errors that the author of the Chronical article points out, but because the whole intention of the thing seemed to be a bit of fun, with some social graces thrown in (again, back to norms and conventions that make much less sense today). To my mind, the authors clearly took a rather gleeful pride in making some of their own "fautes" very, very obvious, while being blissfully unaware of others. That was what made it so amusing, of course.

    To Archie's earlier point, though: I would not, and could not, use this to teach American undergraduates. It simply is not useful for teaching the basics, which is what most of them need; it is sufficiently confusing - while being warmly genial to an already-educated reader - that it would not help them; and I suspect any mistakes, intentional and obliviously included, would be utterly lost on them.

    For some reason, when the subject first came up in this thread, I found myself thinking of "Tim Gunn's Guide to Style." I adore Tim, but his book isn't much help if you are hopelessly style-less.


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