SOL ’15 Day 31: See Y’all on Tuesdays/About Flickr Photos for Illustration

I was so happy to discover this morning that Slice of Life will continue as a Tuesday club for us writing teachers. This has been my first Slice of Life. L-Squared became my major interaction here. Am I the only male Slicer? I only really missed one day when my keyboard went out, and I had a routine doctor’s appointment that afternoon. Early in March, the computer was slow and missed the midnight cut-off with a last minute post. Another time I didn’t notice the cut-off was 12:00 midnight Eastern Standard Time. So I’m 28-31; over 90 is an “A,” right? Slicers remember that  next Tuesday is a week away.

Some of y’all may recall that when my keyboard cratered, I started doing some massive spring cleaning. Yesterday and this morning were similar days, for the Neighborhood Services inspector is coming over today sometime between 19 minutes ago and 4:30 Central Standard Time. This will be my third rodeo; keeping a 2/3 discount on my apartment depends on passing. The aroma of generic Pine-Sol and bleach spray have left the air. Windex doesn’t have much of a smell.

I’m going to leave you for now with something helpful and happy: Flickr–the photo-sharing branch of Yahoo. Illustrations are essential for a textbook should you be writing one. You’ll learn the world of Creative Commons copyright rules. Attribution Only is the best; just list the URL of its creator. Sometimes you can get lucky and succeed in getting permission for re-use, the second friendliest category. The old school copyright symbol–a “c” inside a circle–means “Stay away from their stuff, except for looking.” There are other categories in between these two extremes.

Illustrating is really fun; you can flesh out model essays you’ve had for years. Photo choice can be so obvious at times, such as those Favorite TV series and Favorite Movie essays. It’s possible to get amusing with photos too, just like many a model grammar sentence. My pet peeve in grammar has to be the Apostrophe Splice. A singular noun that doesn’t show possession doesn’t require an apostrophe; therefore, I have a Jolly Roger flag next to it. A third person singular present verb doesn’t need an apostrophe either. Thus, I have a factory sign warning to keep fingers away from rotating saws.

Humor, whether verbal or visual, is an aspect of textbook (or essay) engagement. Multicultural topics and a journalist’s interest in youth culture help too. Looking forward to staying in touch. I’m @bohemiotx on Twitter too. See you here next Tuesday.

SOL 15: Two Persuasive Essays: Why I’m Not a Hippie & Why I Buzzed my Hair

Sometimes the model essays in my Developmental English/Writing textbook ramble long enough to be appropriate for College Composition, and here are two back-to-back cases about my changed hair style. One of the songs by the jolly visiting singer-guitarist at church yesterday had to do with him getting a short haircut once his hair started thinning out all over. After his gig, I told him about our parallel evolution.

I wrote, “Why Mr. Meyer Is Not a Hippie” after I started substitute teaching in the local school district. My introductory paragraph cited the the Second Principle of Kwanzaa–Self-Determination; its lesson is if we don’t define ourselves, somebody else is going to do it for us. My thesis statement noted that I’m too young to be a 60’s era hippie with different music and fashion interests, merely a moderate liberal, and too hard-working and establishment centered.

First of all, my hair style was long in the back but not touching my ears. I listen to music alien to hippies, such as 80’s style hard rock/heavy metal: Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and Thin Lizzy–together with Regional Mexican music: tejano, duranguense, norteno, and metalero–and 60’s-70’s soul/rhythm-and-blues (my original favorite genre). Iron Maiden has recorded plenty of “good soldier, not war criminal” songs, such as “Aces High,” “The Trooper,” and “Two Minutes to Midnight.” No hippie with their peace at all costs creed would support the lyrics of a former British Air Force pilot; that is, Bruce Dickinson the singer.  Soul singer, Bobby Womack, once wrote “Harry Hippie,” a song lamenting his lazy, pot-head brother. As for all the Mexican music, for starters, instruments like accordions, tecladors, and horn sections would be alien to hippies.

A pleasure-crazed hippie would be unlikely to research the fine points of grammar nor volunteer with non-profits, First I belonged to Tyler 21 ( an urban planning group), and wrote an annotated link page for Northside Development–my former 90% minority neighborhood and where Texas College, the HBCU where I taught for five years is located. Later I joined East Texas Human Needs Network (ETHNN)– a help-the-poor network bringing together organizations that assist with housing, health, education, employment, and transportation, Then I was invited to join the Community Health Worker (CHW) Coalition because of my knowledge of the community and ability to explain health from a paraprofessional level. Actually “policy wonk” would be a much better label for me than hippie for at least the last dozen years. I include a photo of Dr. Richard Florida of the University of Toronto, who developed the Creative Class model for economic development. Cities need the four T’s: talent, tolerance, technology, and territorial assets to draw in other professionals. That means having a community that is welcoming to those artist, musician, free-lancer types.

Finally in Summer 2009, I got my first short haircut in 23 years because it was thinning so badly. This led to the second essay, “Mr. Meyer Gets His Hair Buzzed.” I warned my audience that future would-be employers rate you on neatness, character, personality, and knowledge. They can claim that a hip appearance isn’t neat and the sign of a bad character. They can’t take your knowledge away, but they can surely put a “glass ceiling” on it. Some bigots claim a long-haired man is probably stupid or an outdated relic of the Sixties, as I recall my final conversation with an ex-administrator friend.

My Don Quixote goal of being a scholarly model for bohemians means nothing if such kids are considered “enemies of the state” by the school administration. East Texas is far more conservative than Dallas. Then I started hearing about the “school to prison pipeline” complaints by those who note racial disparities on suspensions. Later I admitted that my previous essay’s explanation of post-hippie music was probably my weakest argument. Moreover, I neglected a couple of favorite singers getting short hair before me.

So anyway, this has been the gloomiest Slice of Life, but then I worry about what will happen to all the young adults covered in tattoos. Are they going into a few safe, progressive careers? Will they move far from here? The last Flickr picture in this two chapter section streak is entitled, “Hippie Face Vector Portrait.” I include the subtitle, “Do you assume he’s stupid?” But after all, today is World Bipolar Day: March 30, 2015!

SOL 15 Gratitude on Sunday the 29th: Church Pot Luck with Musician & Yesterday’s Neighbors

Anna Gratz Cockerville of Two Writing Teachers developed this Slice of Life for December when people are stressed waiting in line to buy presents among other things. Ms. Cockerville provides six fine categories for gratitude prompts, so this is a lesson plan that teachers can really return to throughout their careers

I just got up from my computer zone because a young dad and his two sons are gleefully playing soccer in the apartment atrium. I called out to a neighbor, “Now that’s a fun dad!” For the second time in two days, I asserted to a parent that soccer is a great game for little kids to start early because dribbling is way easier in soccer than basketball. Yes, I just felt gratitude.

Everything happened in the right sequence yesterday. A friend at Stanley’s Famous Bar-B-Q told me about my new neighbors–the journalist ladies–having a garage sale. I bought a cute door mat shaped like a paw for only $2. Their house is one of the oldest on the block–1922! My street is an eclectic hodge-podge with an air conditioning store, cabinet factory, little houses, two apartment offices, law offices, indigent health care, a child psychiatrist, a hospital branch for new moms, etc. The BBQ place has curious neighbors: a methadone clinic, a money-lending place, and a shoe repair store!

The journalist ladies have three adorable cats and a gray tabby kitten. The Siamese and the brown tabby sat around with their paws tucked under. The gray cat was the toughest of the four to get a good cellphone picture because she kept squirming around–probably in heat. It was a fun house party: a bunch of ladies half my age and me taking pictures of cats.

Later I returned to the BBQ place and met a long-lost former student, now all grown-up together with her sisters and brothers in law. One of the sisters happens to be an ESOL teacher at my favorite local secondary school, so we had a lot to discuss. I stayed there until closing. Since the BBQ place is closed Sunday, they had leftover chopped beef, so the chef gave it to me!

The last Sunday of the month is potluck at my church, so I took some BBQ with sauce on it–a far cry from my usual vegetable side dishes. We had a visiting minister who plays guitar and sings funny, heart-warming songs. He not only did a guest service but performed after the potluck lunch. Guess what? I showed cat pictures to the older ladies sitting around me, including of course, Earl Grey–the cat across the street. My joke about “We’ve been together for 11 months” is sure to get a laugh.

I have had a lot to be grateful about this weekend. When I look at Anna Cockerville’s categories for her gratitude assignment, I can see elements of an adventure with friends, places that mean a lot to me, and this slice is a letter to all of these folks!

SOL Saturday the 28th: On Discovering Nancie Atwell through Anna Cockerhill of Two Writing Teachers

Anna Cockerhill of Two Writing Teachers tweeted articles about Nancie Atwell, the winner of a $1,000,000 Global Teacher Prize. Ms. Atwell has written books and even founded a school: The Center for Teaching & Learning in Maine. I read the article by Jordan Shapiro at Forbes, who was at the ceremonies in Dubai, one of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). What an exotic setting for such a prestigious award! The Ruler of Dubai/UAE Vice-President was in attendance, as was Bill Clinton!!

Mr. Shapiro was already a fan of Nancie Atwell before the event and was hoping she’d win when the ten finalists were named. Shapiro proclaimed that Ms. Atwell is “empathetic, creative, and playful” in an era when such qualities are not esteemed enough. Shapiro also observed that Ms. Atwell “prioritizes student autonomy, voice, and empowerment.”

You can follow the school on Facebook; reading the “About” section was all it took. They’re art-friendly, have units that combine social studies and science, and special no bullying prevention.

Being a part of Slice of Life has made me more optimistic through stories like the Nancie Atwell saga.  It’s essential to be able to defend the philosophy of your textbook. A few years ago, I discovered the sustainability in composition work of Derek Owens of St. John’s University at the National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE) website. Dr. Owens urges teachers to let students write about their environment. Let them be good reporters. Then I found the #You Matter paradigm of Angela Maiers of Iowa because I followed her back on Twitter while my jaw dropped to the floor. Now we’re even friends on Facebook too. I really love her article in which she explains that heart-breaking things are your passion because you want to do something about it.

Cyberspace has expanded networking exponentially; meeting like-minded educators happens without leaving the house. Hang in their fellow Slicers; now we’re a little community.

Slice of Life, Friday the 27th: FABSONY, Acronym for the Coordinating Conjunctions

Today, I propose that grammarians use the acronym, FABSONY, for the Coordinating Conjunctions, instead of the usual acronym, FANBOYS. It is my belief that a far better visual image results from the FABSONY acronym, for we salute SONY, a giant Japanese radio and TV company and its founder, Akio Morita. On the other hand, FANBOYS brings to mind teenage serfs forced to fan their monarch in the era before democracy. Could such activity be only the “tip of the iceberg”? Let FANBOYS stay in the past!

Here are the words used as coordinating conjunctions: “for, and, nor, but, or, nor, and yet.”  Only three out of seven of these words are always used as coordinating conjunctions: “and, or, & nor.”

(1) Usually “for” is as a preposition. “For” is a coordinating conjunction when it means “because.” (2) “But” is usually a coordinating conjunction when it shows contrast–the opposite of “and.” When “but” shows exception, it’s a preposition. (3) “So” can be a subordinator or an adverb. Warning: Here’s the toughest detail of today’s Slice of Life. “So” as a coordinating conjunction shows cause-and-effect in an independent clause. “So” as a subordinating conjunction shows cause-and-effect in a dependent clause. “So” as an adverb shows intensity–perhaps its most common use. (4) “Yet” as a coordinating conjunction means “but.” The adverb version of “yet” is to express something that hasn’t happened, despite expectations.

According to John Langan, the godfather of Developmental English and Reading. the four aspects of good writing are unity, support, coherence, and sentence skills. Learning how to use the coordinating conjunctions is an early stage in learning grammar and also occasionally advanced. I need some more espresso.

SOL 15: Two Funny Ways to Teach Beginning Grammar, 3-26-15

How about hearing a couple of funny ways I taught beginning English grammar? The vast majority of our L-Squared audience isn’t retired, so I’m going to share some memories this morning.

A great man once wrote that if the students can identify prepositional phrases, then they’re more likely to find the subject and not make subject-verb agreement errors. I bet it was John Langan. The typical basic sentence structure in English is Subject-Verb-Object.

Prepositions are usually about space. Here’s a way to illustrate the relationship, “The teacher threw the eraser over the students’ heads.” Yes, I really threw it! Moreover, most prepositions start with the letters “a,” “b,” “o,” “u,” or “t.” I pointed out that feature on my handout or in the textbook too. It’s good to do something funny in the first week of the semester to build the teacher-student relationship.

Here’s another funny antic. Fragments are incomplete statements while a sentence has a subject, verb, and expresses a complete thought. However, “I type,” is a sentence, for it expresses a complete thought and an object isn’t required. “Drives to the basket after a fake in the opposite direction,” is a fragment because there’s no subject. One could change “drives” to “drive” and have an imperative order-giving (coaching?) statement because “you understood” would be the subject. Certainly adding a subject pronoun (he/she) or someone’s name to the start of the sentence would make a good sentence as well. Yes, I actually demonstrated  that favorite basketball move!

Furthermore, teachers who move around the classroom have better class control. Appearing stuck behind the desk may make one look stiff or scared.  Obviously walking up  to a loud student’s desk is a far more common tactic. Normally this is an issue for younger grades, but a remedial English class isn’t exempt from junior high style disruption by the students. By the way, I also substitute taught in all grades: PK through 12 as well as teaching college level Developmental English and Adult ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages).

I hope the Slice of Life audience found these two stunts amusing and will consider doing them some day. Maybe you could do them for review because we’ve passed the mid-point of the semester!

SOL Wednesday 3-25-15/My 1 1/2 Days Without a Home Keyboard–Housecleaning Frenzy

My keyboard cratered for 1 1/2 days, so I had to entertain myself in other ways. Monday afternoon included a routine check-up with my General Practitioner M.D. Her assistant noted that I look happier and seem more productive than last October. A better caliber of friends is the major reason. I’d rather be alone in front of the TV and computer than around a “frienemy.”  Spring has totally arrived in East Texas as I’ve worn shorts the last two days.

Tuesday became a massive cleaning day for two less obvious reasons than general cleanliness: inspection from Neighborhood Services to see if I still merit a discount and a need to find my mail from Cigna Health Spring, a supplement to Medicaid/Medicare.

Sweeping and mopping near the entrance is smart to do early in the day. Dirt can hide under computer wires also. Hanging up jackets that had been on chairs was a clutter reducer, but throwing away outdated mail and other papers was the clincher. I’ve decided to quit saving bags of old aluminum cans because the elderly dumpster diver has probably moved to live with his daughter. I even scrubbed my tub, a really honest move for a near-sighted man. I used my bleach spray on a couple of tables and mopping includes generic Pine-Sol.

I still have more cleaning to do, but I’m well over half-finished. Checking that voluminous literature from Cigna is the high priority item.

Slice of Life 2015: Family Pictures 3-24-15/Keyboard Turns Off Yesterday

There are five family pictures in my house–four photos and a painting. Members shown are Mom (2), Dad, Grandpa (Dad’s), and Grandma (Mom’s).

Dad’s is the most unique for it’s a caricature of him painting a naked lady! This painting used to hang in the basement of his petroleum engineering consultant firm where they met at lunch to play cards. Every employee had a caricature done of them, and the topic was chosen for Dad because he liked oil painting although he did nature paintings, never people.

Mom at age 20 was a model, and she’s wearing a dress with bare shoulders in this framed glamor photo. I just cleaned it with generic Windex; thanks for this slice prompt. Then there’s Mom at age 63–a happy housewife throwing coins over her shoulder into a fountain!

There’s an obituary of my grandpa, Joe Leo Meyer (1874-1944). He was a Dr. Pepper bottler in Palestine, Texas. He mov….(Keyboard turns off Monday morning). {Now that my new accountant friend fixed my keyboard, I may continue; it’s Tuesday night}….Grandpa moved from Alsace, France to Victoria, Texas in 1890 at the beginning of the German occupation. He moved in with his uncle Xavier and learned English. By 1897, he moved to Palestine and began working at the Dr Pepper plant he would acquire in 1925.

There’s a small photo of Mom’s Mom, Charlcye Elrod Nance, amidst the little figurines by my bathroom sink. Close examination reveals her mixed heritage! Various facts didn’t leak out until Mom got Alzheimer’s and revealed her bootlegger stepdad. Then her accent and expression switched ethnicities around the inquisitive CNA, “What cha going to do to me today?”

Anyway, those are my family pictures. Pretty interesting; isn’t it?