Running, Writing and Restlessness

Two weeks ago, after an honest realization that my writing is going nowhere (2 articles in the works, neither of them even close to satisfactory), I decided to invest my time and energy elsewhere: my running. I challenged myself to run 100km (just over 62 miles) in 2 weeks. This morning I met the challenge, completing 103.5km (64.33 miles) in 6 hours, 37 minutes (11 runs in total).

In spite of my inability (read: fear) to run a race, running has given me great satisfaction. This is a goal that I’ve managed to achieve because it is a truly selfish accomplishment…I have nothing to prove to anyone, I set my own pace, I defy myself.

This is so conspicuously different from my writing, which has waned considerably. With each sentence I write, I imagine endless challenges from reviewers and critics–unsupported theses, poor discussions, irrelevant conclusions. After an entire academic year (the one immediately subsequent to tenure) in which I was given endless administrative duties, I find myself unable to write. I need to find a way to write for me first, then for an audience…to make my writing analogous to my running. And then maybe this restlessness will pass, maybe…

Annunci

I broke (almost all) the Ted Commandments

I wasn’t going to write a post complaining about a conference, but then I clicked a link and read the post (from which I borrowed the image below) and realized it was a “sign”…I had to share my nasty experience.

On Mother’s Day, I was scheduled to present at the 29th annual conference of an American Italian association. As the process with all conferences, I submitted a proposal in late November, was notified in late January and the program was released in March. I was disappointed that I was presenting on a Sunday morning (session started at 9:30) because I realized that my tweeps on Twitter, the subject of my talk, would probably not be online on that day, at that hour. Then I realized it was not just any Sunday, but Mother’s Day, and that my parents were going to be in town visiting, so I was also annoyed. I opted, however, being the conscientious presenter that I am, to attend rather than pull a no-show.

  • Sunday morning arrives, I wish my mother a happy mother’s day and leave the house at approx 7:45.
  • I drive into the city, the traffic through the Holland Tunnel paralleling what I expected Twitter traffic to be that morning.
  • I arrive to the conference location at approx 8:15.
  • There was another presentation on Italian literature in the room in which I was to present. I waited in the corridor for that session to let out. It finally did, 15 minutes later than scheduled. So our session was late.
  • I was the 4th of 4 speakers.
  • It was a technology session.
  • None of the other speakers could figure out how to use the two trolleys of technological equipment.
  • There was no one to help out. I became the designated tech assistant.
  • At this point, we are approx 25 minutes late to start. Speaker one speaks. Nasty.
  • Speaker two presents. Interesting talk on podcasts but really nothing new.
  • Third speaker speaks…for 35 minutes!!! Chair of session does not monitor time nor stop #3.
  • Session ends at 10:45.
  • I am told to start my presentation at 10:50. Screw the PowerPoint, I don’t have time to load it up on the various trolleys. I am angry…visibly.
  • I log onto Twitter (need a hard connection, no wireless). Internet connection weak. Twitter community very quiet.
  • I tell them students enjoyed it, try to explain the benefits.
  • At 10: 55, first interruption from a speaker in the next session. Chair tells her we still have 5 minutes.
  • At 10:58, chair of next session comes in and says “we have people who need to catch flights and they want to know how much longer you will be?” Angrily, I bark, “Give me 1 and a half minutes!”
  • Check Twitter replies. Limited shoutouts.
  • I tell them if they are interested in my work to read chapter 4 of the Calico 2009 Monograph.

The end. Can you determine how many of the Ted Commandments were broken in this story? 😉

10command

Thanks to Tim Longhurst (The TED Commandments – rules every speaker needs to know) you can see the list in an easier to read format below.

  1. 1. Thou Shalt Not Simply Trot Out thy Usual Shtick
  2. Thou Shalt Dream a Great Dream, or Show Forth a Wondrous New Thing, Or Share Something Thou Hast Never Shared Before.
  3. Thou Shalt Reveal thy Curiosity and Thy Passion.
  4. Thou Shalt Tell a Story.
  5. Thou Shalt Freely Comment on the Utterances of Other Speakers for the Sake of Blessed Connection and Exquisite Controversy.
  6. Thou Shalt Not Flaunt thine Ego. Be Thou Vulnerable. Speak of thy Failure as well as thy Success.
  7. Thou Shalt Not Sell from the Stage: Neither thy Company, thy Goods, thy Writings, nor thy Desperate need for Funding; Lest Thou be Cast Aside into Outer Darkness.
  8. Thou Shalt Remember all the while: Laughter is Good.
  9. Thou Shalt Not Read thy Speech.
  10. Thou Shalt Not Steal the Time of Them that Follow Thee.

Arriverderci AP Italian?

Just 4 years into it…and now this!

In the fall, I had published an article on Italian teacher training in Foreign Language Annals (the journal for the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages). Shortly before its publication, the editor had asked me to comment on the then recent decision of the College Board to no longer support the financial costs of administering the Italian Advanced placement exam. Here is my comment:

Worth noting are the results of the inaugural year of the Advanced Placement Italian Language and Cultural Exam, particularly with respect to New Jersey. Villa Walsh Academy in Morristown was recognized as an Exemplary AP Italian Language and Culture Program for small-size schools that “lead the nation in helping the widest segment of their total school population receive an exam grade of 3 or higher . . .” (The College Board, 2007, p. 52).

Notwithstanding the national results for the inaugural year, the College Board has announced the imperiled position of the AP Italian exam. Practitioners, politicians and ambassadors, and community supporters alike have mobilized in support of the exam (as evidenced by messages from the president of the American Association for Teachers of Italian, various letters of support, a recent meeting of the Ambassador of Italy to the United States with the College Board, etc.). It is the hope of this author that the ongoing negotiations with the College Board will soon yield positive results for the future of the AP Italian exam.

Here we are, just months later, the AP exam has been discontinued, with this ray of hope from the College Board:

[w]hile AP Italian will not be offered in 2009-10, if at some future date the funding partnerships needed to support an AP Italian program arise, the Board of Trustees will consider renewing work to develop and offer the AP Italian course and exam.

Between the two announcements, the Italian community came together and worked very hard to try to raise the $1.5 million (originally $4.5 but reduced in negotiations) required. This community raised a good chunk of the money, but everything was contingent upon the Italian government’s contribution of more monies. Unfortunately, the Italian government did not come through.

In an email sent today to the AATI, the president of the teacher’s association made the following comment:

By not having an AP in Italian, the Italian language acquires in certain quarters of society a de facto second-class status.

My personal take on this situation

I first read about the College Board decision on Jan. 8 in an article in the NY Times. Once the initial shock wore off, I did two things: tweeted it and then wrote an email to the president of the AATI. In his reply to me, he referred me to two other news articles: The Washington Post and the LA Times.

Having read the latter article, I was a tad annoyed that the presentation of stats compared Italian AP examinees and Italian high school programs nationally and in the state of California to Spanish. Uh, hello?! Did the journalist not reflect on the status of foreign languages in the US and realize that Spanish is not just another foreign language but rather a language of the US (since it does not have an official language)? I also emailed him and tried to explain to him that his presentation of the statistics was not an equitable comparison for Italian. I used the adage “comparing apples and oranges” and that Italian has always been and should be compared to French and German, the other foreign languages that maintain a foreign language status in the US, unlike Spanish, which is a second language for all intents and purposes. Well, his reply to my request for a follow-up paragraph accurately representing the reality of the Italian AP exam within the context of foreign languages was rather dismissive. So I will, for the sake of making some noise, post it here. In 2008:

  • Italian AP had 1,529 examinees and increased by 18% since 2007.
  • French language AP had 20,675 and German 5,259.
  • Both, however, experienced a decrease since 2007 (-5% and -3% respectively).

Yes, economically speaking, the exam is not financially feasible…but we are growing, not at the initial projected rate, but let’s face it, we aren’t Spanish!

What options are available?

First and foremost, the idea of taking the test via computer vs. pencil and paper. Terminally Incoherent’s blog post about electronic test taking gives some examples as to benefits and pitfalls of these types of tests. Financial justification by the College Board cannot be the only reason to go this route.

Next, find more money. We are in the midst of the worst recession since pre-WWII across the globe. Can we really be expected to find more money? Unfortunately, Italian has been considered the “stepchild” of modern foreign languages, given the limited number of speakers of it world wide (according to Wikipedia, Italian ranks 20th in terms of native speakers, and it is an official language in: Italy; Vatican City and San Marino, both geographically located within Italy; Switzerland; Croatia; Slovenia). So to whom can we turn for financial rescue? Obviously, Berlusconi’s government is unable to fulfill previous promises given Italy’s economic turmoil. Italian Americans? Many of them who have already generously promised monies must be applauded. They recognize the value of maintaining language in tandem with culture (funny how many people label themselves Italian American but cannot speak the language and for the most part, don’t encourage their children, grandchildren to study the language/cultural formally).

Another possible strategy? Find ways to lower the cost of grading the exam. I have never been involved in grading it (but I have been invited to be a reader this summer), but I can appreciate the entire grading process. Language learning isn’t just right/wrong answers, it is negotiation of meaning, free writing, persuasion, narration. There is also an oral component that needs to be evaluated. Finally, the 0-4 grading scheme is revisited every year in light of the test-takers.

What else can be done? I’m not sure.

I hope that we can reinstate the AP exam in the future.

7 facts about me

I have been tagged by Seth Dickens for the ‘Seven Things You Probably Don’t Know About Me’ Edubloggers thing. I’ve done a couple of these in the past so forgive any repetitions for those who’ve read my past lists.

The rules say you have to:

  • Link your original tagger(s), and list these rules on your blog
  • Share 7 facts about yourself in the post – some random, some weird
  • Tag seven people at the end of your post
  • Let them know they’ve been tagged

Here are my 7 facts:

  1. As a child, I used to sing at weddings, on stage with the live band…my parents would always buy 45s (anyone remember those?) of new Italian songs and play them incessantly. By the time I was 2 or 3, I was singing Il cuore è uno zingaro at weddings (not very appropriate, eh?).
  2. I saved my neighbour years ago (when I was in university and still living with my parents). One hot summer afternoon, my mom sent me to drop something off at her house and when I got there every shade was pulled, every light off and every window closed. I peeked through the sliding door in her kitchen and saw her sprawled on the floor. I managed to open (I don’t know how) her living room window without breaking it, slid inside and called 9-1-1. Not truly heroic but helpful.
  3. As a part-time university gig I worked at CompuCentre (a Canadian chain of computer stores in a mall) for minimum wage & commission. It took me at least 4 months to sell my first computer (actually sold 2 of them that same day). Customers would come in and “talk” to me about computers, but would by them only from the male employees because apparently I wasn’t “geeky” enough.
  4. I’ve don’t like video games…never have. I don’t know if it is a hand-eye coordination thing, or rather I don’t like to play if I can’t win thing…
  5. My first teaching assignment as a graduate student at my alma mater was an introductory Italian course. There was only one professor who was an expert in second language pedagogy but he did not train TAs unless you enrolled his course. The senior lecturers who led the program did not provide any training either and it was baptism by fire. It didn’t take me long to realize that I was not going to teach Italian the way I had been taught it but it took me a quite some time (and some grad courses) to learn strategies and techniques for language teaching.
  6. I enjoy physical labour. This is something I inherited from my father. Although I do enjoy it, I’m not good at it. I walk away with cuts, scars, scrapes, bruises and other injuries that I won’t mention here.
  7. My dad was a white hat (i.e., foreman) of a construction corp. in Toronto pretty much since he immigrated to Canada. He was very much a “hands on” worker and I admire him for being able to, even after he was diagnosed with degenerative disk disease, be productive and accomplish so much. So now every time we are in Toronto and do something that requires us to drive by one of the highrise complexes or skyscrapers that he worked on, he starts his “I was working on this building when…” tour of Toronto. He remember precisely the year, the company with which he worked and the memorable family event that occurred while he was there.

Now I choose my 7 victims:
AJ Kelton
Laura Nicosia
Claire Siskin
Sarah Robbins
Sharon Scinicariello

Gina Miele
Michael Heller

i’m making some noise!

A number of weeks ago, Melanie McBride suggested that I make some noise about Web 2.0 technologies and user rights. I am an avid user of these technologies who appreciates the level of engagement of social media, and a scholar who would like to continue to implement these computer-mediated communication tools as regular instruments to my foreign language teaching and learning repertoire.

Last fall, after exploring Facebook for a number of months, I was put off by it for a number of reasons, in particular the excessive spam continuously received after adding modules…and that was extremely frustrating given that the modules are fantastic and that is one of the greatest features of FB. OK, I am sure there is an academic use of FB that I could have contrived, but I tired of it before I could investigate it further and develop something. In addition to this, a NY Times article from December 2007, I posed the question “Is Facebook Public?” and found this concern to be quite valid as a researcher/scholar. Then, with other FB issues “Leaving is hard to do” as a former user I do feel that I have no rights. 

So then, what options to I have? Not to participate? That would be wholly unacceptable to me, as I am a technophile / Web 2.0 aficionado. There is a call to create a personal policy that gives users rights and real options (I strongly urge you all to complete the survey Social media: Essential user controls) because we have every right to control and own what we choose to share. We tend to show greater ownership when it comes to e-commerce but not social media. I wonder why?

P.S. Did you ever notice that after you delete a tweet on Twitter, it actually doesn’t “disappear”… compare my archived tweets of less than 48 hours ago….

  

to those from tweetscan…

 

@biz what’s going on?

this is not a post

pipe.jpgI wonder if sometimes we don’t get carried away with blogging. When we “publish” a post, is it to validate whatever we say, feel, believe? At times, do we find ourselves needing to write and publish the words to give them credence as much to ourselves as to others? Words are power, so seeing them in BLACK AND WHITE gives us power through them, no?