Jul 022012
 
 July 2, 2012  Posted by at 8:53 pm Education, July, Truth, Writing Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  2 Responses »

June 28, 2012

Ever get the feeling you were really in the wrong job? Okay, maybe that’s too broad a phrase, so let me put it another way. Ever have the feeling that you loved your job but would be so much happier without certain individuals?

Okay, that just makes me sound like a psycho-killer about to gun everyone down in an orgy of violence.

Let me rephrase that.

I love tutoring. I love helping others become better writers. I enjoy making presentations and teaching SAT classes and teaching middle-schoolers, and running an ESL class and-

Are we seeing the pattern?

Recently, though, this article struck me like a hammer full of Thors. That were also trains. It seems that, in New York City, a private tutor can get anything from $150 to $300 per hour. Let me put that into perspective. If I were to privately tutor here, I could be expected to charge anywhere from $15 to $25 depending on the subject, time, and a host of other factors. Even teaching a class pays about $30 an hour when you average it out. Oh, and my regular job pays even LESS than private tutoring. And it’s part-time only. Because the university can’t afford to pay us full-time wages.

The article raises a few points. The tutor who is the central focus of the article claims that sometimes it’s not so much tutoring as it is managing. She does basically what a parent would do in a normal situation: make sure the kid got his or her homework done.  That’s not really tutoring. That’s… well, that’s babysitting.

The article also mentions something which I wish parents would get through their heads: not every kid is special. Some eat paste. Some don’t want to try. Some are so thick-headed and spoiled from years of their parents giving them everything and treating them like royalty that we, the tutors, are seen as little more than “the help.” I swear to you that one kid at one of our camps was given a brand new car when he was fourteen. FOURTEEN! He totaled it (as one would expect), and his parents just bought him a new car.

If I could get paid even $30 an hour for the job that I do, which is WAY more than resource management, I would be happy. I realize a private tutor makes more because the hours are not consistent and they often-times see one or two students a day, and this may only go on for a short while… but WE have to see hundreds of students every semester on top of creating the content for presentations, then giving said presentations, reading their books to make sure we’re caught up, and many of us are also qualified to teach as instructors.

Stories like this make me sick. It’s one thing to be wealthy. If you earned your way to the top, good for you, but please understand that this colossal waste of money makes those of us living on a bean and rice diet out of necessity a bit uppity. It makes us uncomfortable. It lets us now that as the middle class suffers, some people can still dole out a week of our pay for a single hour of glorified baby-sitting.

There’s no moral here. Just needed to get this off my chest.

Jun 082011
 

Behold! You've made apples.

June 8, 2011

Cooking is an art. It’s like writing in many ways. You can add a dozen spices and spend hours working on something like Indian food, a dish that has more plants in it than a greenhouse, and get something that mixes flavors in unique ways to create new sensations. On the other hand, you could use five or six ingredients and make pico de gallo, slow-roast some pork, and you have dinner. Likewise, writing can involve in-depth research and Alan Moore-like layers of meaning and reference, or writing can involve a simple poem on a greeting card that will nevertheless move a person to tears.

Everyone should know how to cook, and you don’t have to make anything fancy. In fact, some of the best meals are the ones made from scratch with only a few ingredients, and if you’re on a tight budget (what artist isn’t?) allow me to share a few of my favorite recipes and some tips for artists who wish to stretch that food dollar.

Keep in mind that I’m assuming you know how to boil water, cut vegetables, and otherwise not murder yourself with a fork.


Mini Cooking Table by ~vesssper on deviantART

Buy in Bulk

If you have a Sam’s Club or something similar nearby, get membership and go shopping. Trust me. The bill may seem huge, but remember that you’re buying olive oil, spices, and canned goods to last at least several months. Don’t buy fresh fruits and veggies here, though, since you’ll likely not go through them before they expire. Instead, stock up on the following:

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper
  • Minced garlic
  • Carlo Rossi wine, either burgundy or chardonnay
  • Assorted spices

It really depends on what kind of cooking you want to do, but I find that almost everything I make ends up using sweet leaf basil, cumin, dill weed, crushed red peppers, oregano, rosemary, and thyme. If you prefer, you can also get Lawry’s Salt since it’s already a combo of several spices.

I also highly recommend stainless steel pots and pans. Stuff with Teflon tends to chip and wear away if you use it a lot.


Food by ~yimin94 on deviantART

Think Like a Camper

While it might be tempting to just buy instant meals since they’re so darn quick, think about all the sodium and other crap you’re going to be putting into your system. While we may have been brought up with the image of mom slaving away over a hot stove for hours to make a great home-cooked meal, it doesn’t take more than a few minutes of preparation for quick dishes, and even things that take hours usually just require you check in on them every once in a while. Also, do the math on how much it costs to make your food from scratch versus buying ready-made meals.

It’s a HUGE difference.

For a budget, chicken and fish are king. Think fresh veggies or, if you know you won’t use them for a while, canned. In general, avoid things with ingredients you can’t pronounce.

You’ll even find that eating healthy isn’t some yuppie dream. It’s affordable and preferable.


HEALTHY-FOOD2 by ~JackBeretta on deviantART

The Three Basic Food Groups

My dad and I both cook using the dump method. You take the meat, you put it in a pan, and dump a bunch of spices, veggies, whatever.

Done. You made dinner.

Let’s be more specific.

Get a batch of fish fillets. Tilapia works just fine, although Mary and I have also used catfish. I’ll use lime juice, dill weed, minced garlic, and a touch of butter for fish, and then fry them in olive oil. You could also poach them in the pan with a bit of white wine on low heat, reduce the wine and fish oil, and you end up with a thick sauce for your freshly cooked fish.

Chicken? That’s easy. Mix a cup of white wine and two cups of orange juice, then add a dash of olive oil, sea salt, pepper, and a little rosemary. Let the whole thing simmer on low heat for two to three hours. All you have to do is stir it to make sure it doesn’t stick, and when the whole thing is reduced to about a cup or less, you end up with an amazing orange glaze you can use on chicken. Now cook the chicken and add the glaze before it’s cooked all the way.

Beef usually calls for a marinade of beer (cheap 40’s will do), sea salt, pepper, marjoram, lime juice, cumin, and a bay leaf. Let it marinade for an hour or so, or overnight if you can, then cook the meat on its own, reduce the mixture the meat was soaking in, and you’ve just made beer gravy.


Beef, It’s What’s For Dinner by ~gracefuliamnot on deviantART

One Recipe To Rule Them All

You may notice a pattern here. Pretty much everything involves liquid, preferably booze, being simmered down into a thicker sauce for the meat itself. The process is slow, but worth it. It does take between two to three hours depending on how much liquid you have (sometimes minutes for really small amounts like with the beef), but the end result is the same. It’s quick to put together and requires little preparation beyond just getting to know the ingredients and knowing what goes good with what.

You can even make your own tomato sauce by mashing a handful of tomatoes, some wine, and adding basil, oregano, olive oil, sea salt, and pepper. Add some water, let the whole thing boil until it’s reduced to a thick paste, and you’ve got the best pasta sauce you’ve ever tried.

Once you’re comfortable with a few dishes, start adding things like pasta and mess with different techniques like baking, frying, poaching, etc.

Being an artist means sacrifice. Unfortunately, part of that sacrifice translates as a tight budget. I’ve found, time and time again, that just following a few simple rules and taking the time to learn how to cook is one of the best things anyone can do to not only

Plus, the girls dig it when you can whip up beef burgundy with a side of garlic-vinegar French fries.


One Great Dinner by ~BuddhaRocks on deviantART

Let’s get to some links to get you ready for the end of the week.

  • My old professor, Tom Chiarella, wrote this wonderful article on how to be a good boss. It’s so, so true.
  • If you’re going to throw a party and you want to advertise on Facebook, please make sure you set the settings to “private.” Otherwise, you might end up with 1500 guests.
  • And finally, if you need more proof that it doesn’t take much to make wonderful art, check out this video. One woman. One looper. One voice. That’s it. See you Friday! Also, let me know if you try anything on this article.
  • The internet is now classified as a human right. Can I stop paying now?

 

Feb 252010
 
 February 25, 2010  Posted by at 7:07 pm February Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  No Responses »

Porn and social studies... Man, homeworks going to be WEIRD.

February 8, 2010

When I was in high school, teachers sometimes used films to highlight points in science, English, and history classes. We’d read a short story, then watch an adaptation of it and try and find the differences, discuss its themes, and otherwise enjoy the lesson more because the lesson came alive. Even the kids who didn’t like to read could participate, though not as well, as the ones who read. Science films let us see our lessons instead of just reading about them, and in a world where multimedia now applies to everything we do, it’s really the next logical step in education. Films are a new tool.

And every new tool needs a determined opposition. Click on the image to go to the story.

If you skip the link, here’s the deal. Council Rock high school students are protesting a movement led by several parents to ban the use of R-rated movies for educational purposes. The school uses films such as Schindler’s List, Merchant of Venice and Saving Private Ryan to supplement lessons, and the district already has a policy that allows parents to not give permission for their children to see the films. Some, however, say that this creates an unequal playing field and R-rated movies should be banned completely.

Said one concerned parent, “Do we not have filters on our computers? These movies are potentially harmful to our children…I can’t help but think that these things will have an effect on our children. There are many other school districts in the area that have excellent educational programs that do not allow Rated R films to be shown. So why do we?”

Oh the children. Who will speak for them?

Several hundred high school students have signed petitions asking the school board to not proceed with the ban, but as of this writing, no action has been taken.

Yeah, because high school is already such wonderful preparation for the real world, right?

There are really two issues at work here. First of all, do these movies enhance the learning experience? Secondly, are these movies harmful?

Let’s talk about the second issue first. Are movies harmful? The parent who gave the above quote seems to think so. How is a movie harmful? Will it teach children that certain kinds of behavior are acceptable? That really depends on the individual movie. One of the movies referenced is Saving Private Ryan. It’s bloody, violent, and features scenes during one of the most far-reaching wars of the last century. High school students won’t see these images of men getting cut down by machine gun fire and suddenly come to the realization that they too must get a fifty-caliber machine-gun and go PCP-monkey-crazy on someone.

These are the kids that play GTA, remember? This is the Modern Warfare generation. They know what it’s like to see someone get shot in a FICTIONAL account because THEY’RE the ones doing the shooting. They may be desensitized, a by-product of society taking a much more lax view of violence, but they aren’t going to suddenly see the Battle of Normandy and get some insight into violent behavior. At best they’ll realize that these kinds of things actually happen, that real people have suffered in wars, and maybe they’ll get a certain respect for the men and women that actually put a uniform on then put their lives on the line. Besides, if a student can see history, even a recreation of it, it makes the lesson much more real.

Movie ratings are a knotted affair, so all I’ll say is that an R-rating is not the harsh stamp many people think it means. The MPAA says:

An R-rated motion picture may include adult themes, adult activity, hard language, intense or persistent violence, sexually-oriented nudity, drug abuse or other elements, so that parents are counseled to take this rating very seriously. Children under 17 are not allowed to attend R-rated motion pictures unaccompanied by a parent or adult guardian. Parents are strongly urged to find out more about R-rated motion pictures in determining their suitability for their children.

An R-rating doesn’t mean much concrete information. What, may I ask, is an “adult activity” and an “adult theme”? I guess showing people working in a cubicle farm would be considered an adult activity. Is menopause an adult theme? Not a lot of teenage girls with inactive reproductive systems. And what exactly does “hard language” mean? If I use the word “pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanokoniosis,” I think most people would consider that hard language. I can barely pronounce it. The rating, as many other people much more highly qualified than me have said, is highly subjective and open to debate. It’s, at best, a highly imperfect gauge of a film’s content and themes. Furthermore, the argument that we have filters on our computers and should use the same kind of logic when shielding students misses one very crucial point. YOU set the filters. You can put them up, lessen them, increase them to eleven, whatever. But it’s YOUR choice.

This brings us to the second point. Everyone learns differently. Some people are visual learners and others need to read information. Some learn by hearing. In a class, I try to use as many senses as possible. Pictures, diagrams, charts, hands-on activities with groups, anything to get the kids motivated. I’m sorry, but high school students need a swift kick in the pants. They can be… well, dense.

I’m sorry, but I loved my students and I wanted them all to succeed, but I’m a realist. I know not all of them will pass. I know it. They know it.

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If there were movies that actually taught English and writing, I would have shown them. The sad thing is that parents, according to the article, didn’t say much other than the movies were inappropriate and they might hurt the students.

How?

How does a movie hurt a 14-18 year-old? Does the DVD jump out of the case and slit someone’s throat?

The movies work. The students themselves, the ones being “affected” by these images, are the ones who are lobbying to keep them. They’re saying the tool works, and yet some parents still want to take them away based on the fear of the hypothetical student hearing a naughty word or otherwise seeing something bad.

Next they’ll be dancing!

I’m speaking as a teacher, tutor, and writer. If a tool works, we need it. We’ve coddled the students in this country so much that you can actually pass high school without doing any work. Seriously. The United Independent School District in Laredo, Texas, will pass students for the sake of moving them to another level on the theory that they’re not going to pass their current grade level, so they should try in the next one. In this way, a student who never passes a single gradel can graduate high school without any comprehensive reading, writing, reasoning, mathematics, or even study skills. Budgets get slashed and teachers have their hands tied by bureaucracy and the ignorance of a few paranoid parents.

If I’d had the time and resources to show movies, I would have done so if I felt the movie would contribute to the lesson. You can’t discount any strategy when you’re trying to teach. If you need to bring hand-puppets and do voices, do it. Learning is a skill. Many people don’t have it. Teachers need to pick up the slack and use whatever means possible to make sure the students retain knowledge. Movies are one such tool. It’s not like the district was showing Showgirls or Battlefield Earth.

Now THAT would be a crime.