Friday, September 12, 2014

Second week of class

Thursday marked the end for students to be able to add classes. As I thought would happen, the populations of my three classes changed a few times before then. As late as yesterday, three students were added to my "small" class, almost filling it. That class also has a move diverse population, too, in terms of majors, so we'll be able to do more interdisciplinary work.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Speaking of Tunghai...

I see that ten years ago around this time (the beginning of the semester), I was planning a Research Methods course for sophomore English majors in which I was going to have them "examine critically the history and politics of plagiarism while at the same time trying to teach them not to plagiarize." Hmmm... wonder how that worked out...

First week of classes over

We had a short week this week because classes started on Wednesday, but at least I got a chance to meet (most of) my students. During this week it's a little hard to get into the serious work of the semester because class populations can change a lot. I have two classes that are full, but one is still filling up. (Well, it's about half full right now--or half empty?)

That smaller class is going to be interesting, too, because its focus is on interdisciplinarity, but most of the students are engineering majors. (Probably because of scheduling issues.) I suppose that I can consider civil engineering and electrical engineering as different disciplines, though, even though they're in the same college.

I've given the classes some small assignments for over the weekend; we'll see how they do on those. The two sections of interdisciplinary writing are reading John Swales' chapter on discourse communities (from his 1990 book, Genre Analysis).



I plan for us to talk Monday about discourse communities and disciplinarity. We'll see how it goes! Later on we'll be reading a more recent chapter about discourse communities by Anne Johns. In the business writing course, they'll be brainstorming possible topics for their first project, a research report on a "hot" topic in their discipline/profession.

It was really hot in Boston this week, and one of the classrooms that I have two classes in was particularly sauna-like. I think the air conditioning didn't work. It reminded me of the good old days when I taught at Tunghai's College of Arts building--I remember that during the first couple of weeks of classes, there would be sweat dripping from my forehead when I was teaching. Hopefully they'll fix the air con before Monday!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Beginning of fall semester

Next Wednesday (9/3) will be the first day of classes, and marks the beginning of my fourth year teaching at Northeastern University. Time flies! This semester I'll be teaching two courses that are somewhat new to me: an advanced writing course for students in the business school and a new advanced writing course focusing on interdisciplinarity.

The first course isn't completely unfamiliar to me because most of the previous advanced writing courses I've taught have been largely (though not exclusively) populated by business majors. I'll be a bit more focused on some business-related genres, though, than on the kinds of academic genres I used to teach.

In the second course, we'll be focusing more on academic writing. This course will ideally be populated by students from a lot of different majors (though it looks like in one section of the two sections I'm teaching, most of the students are from the business school--more on the reasons for that later). Students will start out by investigating their disciplinarity discourse communities and sharing with their classmates the discourse conventions of those disciplines. Then we'll move from there into working with classmates from a different major on an interdisciplinary research project. We'll be trying to figure out how to go beyond the conventions/discourses/blinders of our individual disciplines in order to investigate topics or problems that themselves aren't limited to one discipline. This course is new--in the past, there was a general course in writing in the disciplines, but the focus wasn't so much on interdisciplinarity.

For both of these courses, I'm teaching the multilingual sections (traditionally called the SOL [Speakers of Other Languages] sections, for people whose native languages aren't English). In the past, there wasn't a multilingual section of the business writing course, but we found that most of the students in the multilingual sections of the general course were business majors, so we decided to open a special course for multilingual business majors. There's only one section for that course, though, which is why, I think, the interdisciplinary course is populated primarily by business majors (who might be surprised by the focus of the course--we'll see...).

We'll see how these courses go. Perhaps I'll post more about them later...

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

I'll get back to this after I get my grant proposal done...

王乾任: "尊修辭而輕思辨的美文寫作教育,害死台灣"

I do agree with this comment from him: "寫作是專門技能,國文老師一定會教寫作的假設,其實很奇怪,卻少有人會質疑--something I'm glad to see written in Taiwan... something that some people haven't realized in the US, either...

[Update, 8/31: No time to write about the article... sorry...]

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Bad writing habits

I'm still working on the grant proposal. And questioning myself every step along the way. And skimming library search results and Google Scholar search results for sources that I won't have time to read before the proposal is due on the 8th. (And writing blog entries!) All the bad habits that come up when I (and I imagine a lot of other people) have to write something. I have to remember this moment when I'm teaching in the fall.

Friday, August 01, 2014

August first

I've got a grant application due soon that I've been half-(w)racking my brain over and half-avoiding, and I came across this post that I linked to back in August of 2007:
I love this description of the writing process by Tom Shroder, Editor of the Washington Post Magazine:
I'm sure there are writers who don't find writing to be a bone-crushing, nausea-inducing festival of self-loathing. I just don't happen to be one of them. Faced with a blank screen and a deadline for even the shortest, simplest piece, I am seized with the overwhelming desire to clean out my garage. Or do anything other than writing (up to and including root canal).

The problem seems to be standards. I have some. And I'm terrified I can't live up to them. I've found that to make myself write anything at all, I have to begin by lowering my sights, and simply try to write something bad. Don't even write, I tell myself, just type.
That's about how I'm feeling right now...

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Another old Chiang Kai-shek joke

Liked this one when the former native Chinese speaker (why do I still call her that?) told it to me long ago. This version is updated to 2000:

蔣介石去世後,不可避免的在天堂遇見了國父孫中山先生,壯志未酬身先死的國父孫中山,非常關心中華民國的狀況,於是問老蔣:『我死後中華民國有沒有行憲啊?』
  
蔣介石馬上回答:『有啊!有行憲,有行憲啦!』
  
孫中山又問:『那第一任總統是誰?』
  
蔣介石回答:『是我。』
  
孫中山心想,老蔣一統江湖,確實當得,又問:『那第二任呢?』
  
這時老蔣不太好意思說還是自己,可是又不太想說謊對不起老孫,於是回答道:『于右任,﹝余又任﹞。』
  
孫中山高興的說:『不錯,不錯,書法家當總統,文學治國,那第三任又是誰呢?』
  
蔣中正腦筋一轉,機智地答:『吳三連,﹝吾三連﹞。』
  
孫:『嗯,輿論界有人出任總統,也好,那下一任又是誰?』
  
蔣:『趙元任﹝照原任﹞』
  
孫想了一想說道:『很好,語言學家當總統,那第五任呢?』
  
蔣:『是,是趙麗蓮﹝照例連﹞。』
  
孫中山開心的說:『太好了,連教育家也做總統了,那國家可真是越來越進步了,那第六任呢?』
  
到第六任,蔣介石已經有點詞窮了,於是隨便嗚拉的說:『伍子胥﹝吾子續﹞。』  
這時孫中山有點不解了,問道:『怎麼春秋時代的古人也能跑來當總統了呢?』
  
老蔣只好不慌不忙的回答:『同名同姓啦!』
  
聽了國父若有所悟,慍中含笑的說:『該不會是林憶蓮﹝您亦連﹞吧』
  
老蔣尷尬假裝耳背的說:『....是啊,俺也喜歡吳復連﹝吾復連﹞.....』
  
國父聽了火氣更高了,怒聲說道:『你乾脆改名叫﹝連......佔﹞!』
  
接下來應該是.. 老蔣也發火了,大聲說:"隨便(水扁)啦..........."
  
註:吳復連是台灣著名棒球選手。
  
其實原來只到伍子胥,後來又有狗尾續貂,笑果差了點。笑話太長有 時就會疲乏了。

The fifth "John" who lost China

This is an old joke that people more educated about US-China relations than I am probably all know, but I got a kick out of it. In a review of John Paton Davies' autobiography, Roderick MacFarquhar writes,
In the 1950s, the late John King Fairbank, the dean of modern China studies at Harvard, used to tell us graduate students a joke about the allegation that a group of red-leaning foreign service officers and academics—the four Johns—had “lost” China: John Paton Davies, John Stewart Service, John Carter Vincent, and John King Fairbank himself. What the McCarthyites had forgotten, Fairbank said, was to finger the fifth “John”: John Kai-shek.