Thursday, September 27, 2012

Reading and Writing and Language

"According to Foster (2003) it is important to read a text from the stance that the author intended. He also argues that it is important to have a reader’s perspective and a worldview. Given the multiple tasks that readers must accomplish, in what ways can literature help us to better understand others and ourselves?"

Today's blog post is brought to you by my need to get homework done! So here we go, answering my professor's prompt in the format of a blog post, in a blog. 

Professor Willis, please enjoy.

So everyone has probably read some sort of text in high school that's by an author from another culture or race than they are. For some people it's The Kite Runner or The Color Purple and for minority students it just happens to be the vast majority of the curriculum.  Most of the time, those few minority texts get thrown in there because at some point in the year teachers go "oh shoot, I have to include some form of multicultural text." 

Of course, this is not the best reason to include multicultural texts. We should read these texts because they give us insight to how the rest of the world works. Surprisingly enough, the rest of the world does not look, think, or act like you. In fact, there may be students who are not of the same culture right in your class! Right now! Heck, some of them might not even speak English as their first language!

Shocking, but true. So as educators, what are we supposed to do? Well, first and foremost we have to include multicultural literature not just because we have to, but because we are supposed to meet the needs of ALL our students, not just the white, middle class ones. Besides, there's a lot you can do with a really good multicultural novel that will expand your students' minds. 

Jim Burke, the author of our textbook, The English Teacher's Companion writes that "Stories offer the one place where we can meet and, through these narratives, better know ourselves and those sitting at the table with us" (Burke 405). So what does that mean? It really means that even though at first glance, your students might have nothing in common with the characters in the novel, but dig a little deeper and you can find a wealth of common experiences. 

A person in a class two years ago said that he couldn't relate to the story because he wasn't a Chinese woman. No, you can't relate because of that, but you can relate to the fact that the caracter had problems with her mother, or had difficulty with relationships, or some other emotional factor. What many students fail to realize is that just because a character on the surface doesn't resemble them doesn't mean that we can't relate. Look at all the success we see with the Harry Potter series! Am I a wizard? No. Do I fight evil? Probably not. But can I relate to the fact that even now we struggle with personal relationships and discovering ourselves? You bet I do.

Another good reason to pick a multicultural text for your classroom: English Language Learners. This is one of the fastest growing groups in today's schools, according to a No Child Left Behind policy brief. What a lot of educators think when they find out that they have ELL students in their classrooms is that they have to give up reading literature, especially multicultural literature. 

I only have this to say to those educators:

You CAN still include multicultural literature in the classroom, even though you still have ELL learners in there! The No Child Left Behind article actually states that "Students need to learn forms and structures of academic language, they need to understand the relationship between forms and meaning in written language, and they need opportunities to express complex meanings, even when their English language proficiency is limited" (NCTE 4). Multicultural lit is perfect for this because it not only expands these students' minds, but it still allows them to access those common experiences in literature.

That, and we have to make sure that all students have access to the same curriculum, or at least one that covers all the same basic points outlined by state standards. There have actually been lawsuits over this very fact, with parents and students arguing that the district needed to provide "a meaningful curriculum for children who were limited in their English proficiency" (Hakuta 2) and that not doing so "violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964" (Hakuta 2). These students have the same rights as a native English speaker and as such, deserve to be educated using the same texts you would use if they were native speakers.

But what about those students who speak English, but they don't speak the Standard English that every educator wants to see so badly on an exam or paper? How do we deal with them? My answer is that we still use multicultural texts to reach them. They speak a little differently, they didn't come from another planet! An book I read states that "some writing teachers have jumped to conclusions about AAE due to a lack of reliable or sufficient information" (Redd and Webb 3), and it's true. Many educators aren't quite sure how to handle African American English or other dialects because it's different. Many educators have the view that we need to correct it. When interviewed, an educator told researchers that one of the biggest problems they had  " definitely like issues with standard English versus vernacular English. Um, like, if there was one of the few goals I had this year was to get kids to stop sayin, um, 'he was, she was...'" (Alim 185).

Okay, this was me as I read this exerpt:

Yes, I know, I shouldn't be laughing at this person but they're criticizing their students for improper speaking English when their own language is peppered with 'uh', 'um', and 'like'. I just couldn't take her seriously. Not that any of you take me seriously right now, but that's where I'm at. We shouldn't necessarily squash our students' language because it isn't Standard English. I think we can preserve both. Faltis and Coulter describe a scene where a classroom of English Language Learners are doing a read around of their own work. One student writes his stories in his native language of Russian, then paraphrases for the class and on later drafts, will most likely revise into English.

Students can read and respond to literature in any way or language that they like. That's the way they'll connect best with the material, so don't try and fight it. Roll with it and make it work for you. Make sure that students know that yes, they can respond to the multicultural readings in any way they like for the rough draft, but know that the ultimate goal will be to have a paper in Standard English. That way, they'll be able to get all their ideas and thoughts onto the paper while still working towards that ultimate goal. Everyone ends up happy.

Now maybe this won't work perfectly in every classroom due to administration or what have you, but as educators, isn't it our job to at least try and make sure that all students have access to literature and language that they can relate to?


Monday, July 2, 2012

Things That Make Me Happy

As I remember them.

Finding out my specific running shoes are now carried by the store I work for, meaning an employee discount:

Getting a second job:

Turning 21:

Finding out I'm going to Boston in July:

Having an AWESOME run after being away for a while:

Me to life:

Yes, I know I haven't been updating. Yes I know I haven't been writing. There's been a LOT going on. Like all of that. Yes. So. I should be sleeping now. I'm not because...well...internet.

Also, the Avengers is awesome and everyone should see it.

Song of the Day: Fighter by Gym Class Heroes

<3 Erin

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

That Moment

How I felt when I finished writing my novel:

And this:

And then I realize I have to start editing and it's like this:

Please read and help me edit?

Thursday, April 19, 2012


I don't have a quote for ya'll today. Mostly because I'm tired. Partially because I thought of a good one while I was running today. Not to brag, but I kinda like it.

"Don't look down. Look straight ahead. Trust that your feet know where they're going."

It was weird. Yesterday I was running five miles and I felt like the ground was getting a little weird on me (I was not dehydrated, before anyone asks) and that just popped into my head. And I like it. I mean, when you think about it, it's true. Your feet DO know where they're going. Be it in karate or running or anything. So don't look down, because that means you're second guessing yourself. Look up and enjoy the scenery.

Anyway. Now exiting English Major Mode.

I've been so crazy busy the past couple weeks. I had all sorts of shenannigans going on with school work and stress and a combo of the two making me sick. I actually skipped my 11 mile run on Saturday. Whoops. But instead I stayed in and wrote a paper, so it wasn't a total loss.

Just about a week until the race! Starting to get nervous...but I think I can do it. I have to keep saying that. A week to the race, then about two weeks until Finals. SO. CLOSE.

I'm tired, so this is a shorter post. I did see Clive buzzing around outside, so that was awesome. He's been all over the place this spring!

Song of the Day: Blackbird by The Beatles

<3 Erin

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


"Running is a mental sport...and we're all INSANE!" - Unknown

Why yes, yes we are all insane. Can't remember if I've posted this or not. I'm under the weather and worried that it's going to get worse. I have no time to be sick!

But yesterday I had to run five miles, and decided that I would have to do it on the indoor track at the rec center. Some of my thoughts over the course of this run:

Oh god, my legs hurt. Maybe I should take tomorrow off.

Why the hell are people using the treadmills if they're only walking? That seems like a waste of a treadmill...just go on the track!

Wait, is that guy wearing jeans? OH GOD WHY? Why would you wear jeans to work out?

On that note, why is that girl wearing yoga pants to run? It's too warm for that! Well, maybe it's against her religion to wear shorts. I shouldn't jump to conclusions.

*Five laps later, near Yoga Pants girl again* Okay, maybe it's not religion because she's rolling them up and HOLY COW. Her calves could cut steel! Jeebus! Why on Earth would she try and hide awesome legs like that?!

Why do people insist on walking in the wrong direction on the track? I'm just more likely to purposely run at you.

Lot of people wearing those skele-toes shoes. I wonder if those feel funny.

It's hard to think about things when I'm running. I know I have lots to do, but I can't focus on it. I wonder if that's the purpose of running...

Oh hey, last lap! I should pick someone to beat by the end.

Target acquired. Target caught. Target surpassed.

I want chocolate milk.

Yeah, my brain is a little ADD when running. No worries. But I'm getting geared up for race day...have an outfit in mind for the half, but I'm just realizing that I've got to pick out one for the 5K the night before. I'll post pics closer to race day. I'm still holding out hope that by the race I will be able to get my hair into a ponytail, but I'm doubting that. Very sad. It's getting longer, which I'm happy about, but not long enough.

Also, shameless plug here, if you're going to come to the marathon to cheer me on, how about a shirt to go with? I'm considering ordering t-shirts, but I need to know how many people will be in on this. Here's the design:

Ideally the words and design would be white on a red t-shirt. If I order 9 shirts, it would come out to about 12$/shirt, but that price goes down the more people we get in on this. The race will be on Saturday, April 27th on the U of I campus and I highly suggest carpooling if you're coming down to Champaign/Urbana. I can house people, but parking is limited. I need to know if you're coming, need housing, or want a shirt ASAP. Deadline will be Friday.

Writing has hit a sort of standstill. I know what I want to write, but it's just finding the time and motivation. I've got a lot of work to do for school (SO MANY FINAL PAPERS!), and I've gotten back into knitting lately. So yay? This Friday the Knit Wits are probably going out to knit at the bars, so keep an eye out for nerds with needles. I think tonight I'll try and find some time to get some writing done...those final three chapters won't write themselves!

And like that, I've run out of time to chat. Class is soon, and I must go.

Song of the Day: Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen

<3 Erin

Thursday, April 5, 2012


Shepard: Good luck.

Grunt: I don’t need luck! I have ammo.

- Mass Effect 3

So I just registered for classes next semester.

My last semester on campus.

My last semester before student teaching.

My first semester as a senior.

In college.



Where did the time go?? It seems like not so long ago I was leaving for college for the first time, trying to figure out how to live in a dorm. Now I'm in an apartment. I used to be an Undecided major. Now I'm in one of the more specific tracks at the university. Holy cow. It just seems like time went by so fast.

I know last post I sort of touched on the idea that I was becoming an adult and I had a year to figure out what I was doing, but seeing that title kinda hit it home.


Damn. After this I'll be done with my official academic career. I mean, sure I'll go back eventually for my masters degree, but that's not for a long time. Once I'm out next May, I'll be out for a while. Yes, you can point out I'll ideally be in a school as an educator, but that's not the same. Huge difference between being on one side of the desk as opposed to the other, trust me. Don't get me wrong, I'm still excited for it, but it's just so weird.

I'll be the first one of my siblings to be out of college and in the workforce. In one circle of friends, I'll be the first one out as well and hopefully the first to get a job. I'll be living on my own (ideally) and doing all that super spiffy adult stuff everyone has to do. A good portion of my friends will either still be in school or across the country doing various jobs. I already know one of my good friends is going to be a lab tech with John Hopkins medical in Baltimore, so there is that too.

I guess right now I can't really think about it too much. If I do, I start to panic a little and I have enough to do in the meantime that I don't need to worry about something so far away.

It's too late for much more speculation. I'm tired and have tons to do later.

Song of the Day: "I Won't Give Up" by Jason Mraz

<3 Erin

Thursday, March 29, 2012


*going out* "What'd you have in mind?"
"Something that doesn't involve fighting Reapers."
"I don't think they've conquered the bar yet."

- Spoilers for Mass Effect 3, Shepard and Garrus Vakarian


Currently sitting in a coffee shop between classes. It's been busy with school and all, but we've got seven weeks left (just under) so it's getting there.

Oh, and remember Clive? He's back! I found out yesterday!

....when he flew into my face.

Me: Aw yeah, this is an awesome day! Running is cool! Life is OH DEAR GOD DID I JUST GET HIT IN THE FACE WITH A SMART CAR?!
Clive: Sup. I'm back. Thought I'd let you know.
Me: ...Hi Clive.

Good times. I finished Mass Effect 3, and while I don't want to post too many spoilers here (aside from the one up above), I will say I loved it. Even the ending couldn't ruin this game for me, since after letting it sink in, I'm a little more content with it than at first. Just hard to take in. But overall I LOVED the game. The writing was wonderful, the gameplay was so freaking smooth, and they brought the best of the past two games together in one amazing masterpiece. Wonderful.

I've been seeing a LOT of prospective students on campus lately...they're so cute! It's weird to think that a year from now I'll be graduating from college and (hopefully) getting a job. Think about that. They're going to put me in charge of children. Does ANYONE get a small twinge of FEAR when they hear that? Not that I think I'll be a bad teacher; Actually, for the first time in a while, I think I'm going to be a pretty decent teacher. I'm just a bit weirded out because I'm no longer going to be a student full time. We spend so much of our lives learning in classrooms and getting through years of the education system (Public, private, charter, or home school) and then're out. I'll be an ADULT. In some ways, I'm ready for it. But in others I'm not. At least I've got another year to figure it out. 408 days, to be precise. How incredibly....weird.

Marathon training is going well. This Saturday is a whopping ten mile run, and I just heard from my sister that she's willing to make a shirt design for me! Which I think is pretty awesome, even though she won't be there. Distance and all, you know.

In the meantime, I've finally had a little time to work on my novel! It took me some time because I realized the ending was not what I wanted it to be, so there needed to be MAJOR revisions. Currently it's at about 80,000 words (I love seeing that number right there. SO MANY WORDS),and I've got another couple chapters planned out. I wanted it done by the end of my spring break, but that would currently involve time travel so I'm hoping for summer. Then I'll edit for the next two and a half months, then hopefully a self-published release in the fall. More updates as that gets closer.

And summer is coming! This summer I'm excited for everything I'll be doing...I've got a skype interview to talk to someone about volunteering with children who have special needs this summer, plus my birthday, work, I'm planning on taking a Shakespeare course at the local college so I can get that out of the way before fall (a schedule that has no class Fridays, and two days of the week I start at noon? Yes plz), running, chilling on the beach, and I just found out the days for the Karate Seminar that I want to go to. Mom and Dad, if you're reading this the dates are July 19th-22nd.

So yes, a busy summer but well worth it. I'd like to get a road trip in there, but I'm not sure if it'll happen. We shall see. Worst case scenario we go next summer or something. SO ready for warm weather. So ready to be done with this semester. Everyone I know for the most part seems burnt out and tired, so I know I'm not alone. I'm sure I'll update later, and more often. Please be patient with me.

Song of the Day: 1963 by Rachael Yamagata

<3 Erin