The blog has basically moved to our facebook page, composition cafe'! Don't get left out-- join in the conversation! :)
Here are the learning outcomes for English 1302. Read carefully. I think you'll see that we are "mastering" all of the following:



Student Learning Outcome


  1.  Demonstrate the ability to identify in selected texts the controlling idea/thesis, supporting evidence, targeted audience and purpose, and the argumentative and/or literary elements of the piece.

  1. Write academic texts that demonstrate evidence of the writing process (i.e., planning, drafting, revising, editing, and proofreading).

  1. Write developed academic texts that support a controlling idea/thesis with appropriate evidence and research.

  1. Write organized academic texts with a controlling idea/thesis for a specific audience and purpose.
  1. Write academic texts that demonstrate appropriate style (i.e., sentence construction, word choice, and tone).

6.  Write academic texts that demonstrate the use of Standard American English.C6

  1. Demonstrate the ability to locate, evaluate, summarize, and synthesize source material, including appropriate use of electronic sources, into texts in MLA style.

I am so proud of you guys-- your presentations were great! You were all very knowledgable about your topics. You all belong in college-- believe in yourselves!

And to my 10am class, my humor is often lost on my students... when I said that drunk drivers should receive the death penalty, it was satirical (extreme statement to make a point), not literal. :)

To my drillers, you are our future... vote, and earn the degrees to get the jobs that change our fate. There's a whole lot of talk in Washington, but there's not a whole lot of action. You must provoke that action!

Nicely done all around.
“Choices are the hinges of destiny.” –Pythagoras: On Elisa and Sammy

We are all faced with life-altering decisions that can change the course of our journey in life. Elisa and Sammy, the protagonists of Steinbeck’s “The Chrysanthemums” and Updike’s “A&P” respectively,  inspire readers to reflect upon the motivation and outcome of the decision making process. There are many aspects that go into making a decision, including one’s morals and values, outside influences, predictable outcomes, and emotions, but the measure of a good decision is whether or not it contributes to one’s growth and the progress of one’s life. The overall choice that these characters make is one between abandoning a comfort zone to “follow the heart” or to maintain the status quo in favor of security.  While Sammy’s decision propels him forward into the possibility of self-discovery, Elisa’s holds her back and stifles her most intrinsic desires.

Steinbeck paints Elisa Allen as a woman who has no doubt faced many decisions in her over three decades of life; she decides to marry Henry, to live on his ranch, and consequently, to deny herself fulfillment. She is clearly a strong woman, who like her flowers, continually survives being “cut down”, but ironically, she is not strong enough to act on her desires. This becomes obvious when the tinker enters the picture; while discussing his life, Elisa reveals, “I wish women could do such things” (637) in regards to his nomadic lifestyle, traveling and fixing broken items. When he protests, “It ain’t the right kind of life for a woman” (637), Elisa defends herself, saying, “You might be surprised to have a rival sometime… I could show you what a woman might do” (637). The story also contains the indication that Elisa desires more of the Tinker than just his lifestyle;  as she looks up at him, “her breast swelled passionately” (636), which  may indicate that she is in a sexless (she has no kids), unfulfilling marriage. The glimpse we get of Elisa defending her abilities is refreshing, but it quickly fades as she is seen defeated, “crying weakly- like an old woman” (639) after seeing the pot she gave the tinker smashed into pieces on the highway. Rather than speak to her husband about what is bothering her, she merely “whispers to herself” (639), and when she is given the chance to speak up about her desire to go to the prize fights, she declines and settles, saying, “Oh, no… It will be enough if we can have wine” (639). In each of Elisa’s decisions, to live the Tinker’s lifestyle or not, to act on her feelings for the tinker or not, to attend the prize fights she reads about or not, and to openly communicate with her husband or not, Elisa chooses “not”; we learn that her strength is merely a façade.

Unlike Elisa, Updike’s Sammy is young and unmarried; while Elisa has already made key decisions in her life, he is only nineteen and still in the process of “coming of age”.  Sammy is working his job at the local A&P in his small town when “In walks these three girls in nothing but bathing suits” (220); these girls challenge the status quo of conservatism in a town that Sammy sees as being full of “houseslaves in pin curlers” (221) and “the sheep” (221).  Sammy takes notice of the girls and of how they seem to “upset the system”; Updike uses the town to represent “the system,” with its “two banks and the Congregational church and the newspaper store”, while the beach represents freedom from the systems. Sammy evaluates the girls’ attire as he states, “It’s not as if we’re on the Cape… there are people in this town that haven’t seen the ocean for twenty years” (221). However, Sammy seems to feel for the girls when  Lengel, the store manager, decides to confront the girls by telling them, “We want you decently dressed when you come in here” (223), to which the girl who Sammy nicknames “Queenie” replies, “We are decent” (223). The choice between the status quo and freedom is viewed by Lengel as one between “policy” and “juvenile delinquency” (223); Sammy spends some time thinking and sides with the girls. He tells Lengel, “You didn’t have to embarrass them” (223) after abruptly quitting his job as cashier. He is warned that this decision will follow him, to which he responds, “but remembering how he made that poor girl blush makes me so scrunchy inside I punch the No Sale tab” (224); this is Sammy’s act of rebellion. The story ends with Sammy’s recognition that “the world was going to be hard” (224), but just because Sammy chooses the harder path does not mean he chooses the wrong path.

While the decisions Steinbeck’s Elisa makes dooms to her ordinary life as a childless wife to Henry who piddles in her garden, Sammy’s decisions open up an array of possibilities for his future. Both characters’ decisions cause them a certain amount of anguish, but the indication is that Sammy’s is temporary, while Elisa’s is everlasting. This is represented by the setting; Elisa lives in a restrictive “closed-pot” (632), while Sammy is headed to the beach, a place that abandons restrictions in favor of freedom. The message that resonates from these readings is that no major life decision can be without consequences, but following one’s heart and remaining true to one’s spirit at least contains the possibility for progress toward fulfillment, while remaining confined to the status quo confines one to stagnation. Because Sammy’s decision at least offers him the possibility to fulfill his destiny, he makes the better choice.

I had a lot of A's on the midterm-- congrats! You will get your exams back today. You will have the class period to work on your casebooks and ask questions! Here's an overview of the 2nd half of the semester:
* No written assginment the week before Spring Break.
* Reading "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" over Spring Break-- you can start next week since you have no essay to write!
*Quiz on the story the MONDAY we get back from Spring Break.
*We will be working on our research papers for 3 weeks in March/April.
*You will have reading assignments during that time but no essays-- only the research paper.
*After the paper is done, we will study poetry and create a journal. I will give you specific prompts to respond to in the journal. It is a creative, not a formal, assignment.
*Finally, you will have your skit assignment (but not until we are completely done with the research paper).
*Your final exam will also be take home, like the midterm.
Hang in there!
What have you learned this semester about writing thesis/topic statements??
Midterm is due on FRIDAY. Print it out, circle the answers, and turn it in! That is it!

You can only accomplish what you think you can accomplish, so THINK BIG! YOU CAN!
I was very disappointed that so few of you read your assignments last week. It is very important to read your assignments; future readings will be quizzed.

We only have one more essay; the week before spring break, you will have no written assignments. You will have several weeks like this so that you can devote time to your research paper. After the paper is due, there will be no more essay assignments in this class-- only creative ones. Stay on task, stay focused, and you will be on your way to a successful finish in English 1302.

Most of you have been writing for over 13 years of your lives... you can do this!
The deadline is nearing for the creative writing contest! If you win, you will get extra points in this class!
I'm happy to re
What a difference a decade makes!

When I was in college, nobody had cell phones; there was no facebook, and only rich people had computers.

Our professors strolled in before their first class and strolled out after their last; they didn't send us email updates, post lecture notes online, or ever offer to help in any way. Heck, we were lucky if they knew our names-- by the 3rd consecutive semester of taking their classes! I'm referring to undergrad school, not graduate school, of course. Grad school is different-- it is intimate. In grad school, you call your Professors by their first names (well, if you want to!).

If we were tardy, the door was locked. If we turned in a late paper, it either went into the trash bin or had an "F" across the entire first page. There were no study guides, no take-home tests, and no second and third chances.

Our reading assignments were THICK-- at least a novel a week in freshman English. We wrote an essay a week as well, and trust me, there was no Professor offering to help us with a thesis statement, nor any discussion of what that or a theme is-- we were supposed to know it or know enough to find out what it is. And if our paper didn't meet the criteria, well, it bled red and received a failing grade.

Research papers, well, those were 10-20 pages in length.

Everything is different now. Professors are asked to care whether or not their students succeed (and we do!). However, it does sometimes feel like the more we offer to help, and the more "slack" we give, the less respect we get. Even with more effort and more attention to teaching the writing process, offering outside help, free tutoring, etc., student writing is still not up to par overall. Professors across the disciplines are seeing this.

Are the students lazy? Did the school system let them down? What has changed?

Do they want something for nothing, or deep down, do they want the harsh instructor who treats them like adults and expects a high level of academic achievement?

I am not making judgments; I am just curious as to what students expect from college these days. I have no answers, only questions.

These are my thoughts, and I invite you all to share yours.