Thursday, September 19, 2013

report from Lubbock

It's been almost two months since I posted here; you might think I'd died, or fallen off a cliff, for as much as I've had to say about professional matters in general. It's true that I post a little on my other blogs, which I'll mention, but most of all, I've just been busy, and as I get older, I get a little more tired, and find it more difficult to go out of my way to point out something interesting.

But it is a new term, and I owe you an update, which I will provide. I teach a new class in writing dissertations and theses, for high-level graduate students. I used my eap2 skills to set up a writing project such that we would study a public issue (in our case Lubbock water crisis) and investigate how people feel about it; it's a fairly straightforward project on the perception of people toward an environmental condition (again, eap2 prepares me well) but the class is developing the project together, though they will write reports individually. If it ends up online (which I'd prefer), I'll keep you informed. Otherwise I'll just tell you what I've learned. In essence I've learned how theses look different in different departments, and use different styles, and carry different expectations depending on what any given department would call "data".

The other class is a high-level ITA speaking class, but the difference at Texas Tech, from other places, is that we (and the self-made textbook we use) identifies and graphs out discourse features that are crucial in the conveying of meaning and intent, features such as prominence, tone, thought groups, etc. We actually categorize and measure these things so as to give students, many of whom have adequate pronunciation and grammar, more insight into what is really hampering their ability to communicate successfully. It's very interesting and, in my view, somewhat cutting-edge, since other programs don't even really know how to talk about some of these.

My last assignment is at the Univ. Writing Lab, but it's really my favorite, because I enjoy the people and it's more like working as part of a collective of very smart people who all practice a craft together; this also is a little more like CESL, and a little less like an academic department. Frankly, my office building is a little like Europe, with teachers of Portuguese, Italian, German, French and Spanish but about as much true camaraderie as the EU as well, and you have to give the office staff 24 hours to copy anything, and sometimes I long for the more free-wheeling ESL life.

It was at the writing center, however, where they actually assigned to me this set of youtube clips which finally stirred me up to post in this blog. It's an interesting set on the problems in writing that ESL students have when encountering and trying to master writing in English. It stirred lots of memories in me, and awakened my passion for ESL writing, which in fact I am teaching, both at the lab and in the dissertation class. In this movie I saw my old friend Deb Healey, and was reassured that my skills, developed over decades, were valuable. I think the movie deserves its own review, which I will provide above, but in the meantime, I just want to say, I'm still here, still kicking, still teaching, basically, and walking home, since somebody lifted my bicycle in May.

I have two projects, both somewhat shelved, because it's so hard to get to the kids' schools, and soccer practice, in the time available to me. And, the walking, even the six blocks that it is, across a ten-lane road, exhausts me, for some reason. My shoes got to the point where nails seem to be sticking up into my foot but I've been to busy to simply buy new ones, or more appropriately, buy ones that are better designed for long walks at night. My two projects are as follows: I'm writing a book on language as a self-organized system, and in general I store my work here, though I have the book itself elsewhere. Also, I have begun a serious study of text linguistics, which is really the linguistics of texters, as opposed to the linguistics of big books and entire tomes, which some people think it is, and which appears when you google "text linguistics." The fact is, this new field, the study of human communication behavior when phones and computers are mediating it, needs a name, although "computer-mediated communication" is close to acceptable. I struggle with it, because I'm really after text linguistics, yet I can't call it that; the name is taken.

So that's a report from the Hub City. The clouds come over in enormous colorful gusty-looking monsters but it rarely rains. The painters have moved in and sprayed chipped paint all over our yard thus causing us to suspect that our sunflower crop will have lead in it. Finally, the boys are both on soccer teams, thus causing a flurry of cross-town transportation issues not to mention finding matching shin-guards, a ball, filling a water bottle, etc. All for the purposes of activity, which supposedly makes them sleep better, but in fact, it's usually me who falls face-down on the pillow long before they do. I've found that wearing a fine-looking hat on nineteenth street increases my chances of being seen across ten lanes, so I do, and now people look at me oddly but go around me, and I limp across those lanes getting in the bicyclists' way.

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