Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Welfare and Illegal Immigrants: Why we should help them

   There's something on my mind, and, for the life of me, I cannot let it rest. Over the course of my entire stay on Facebook, I’ve read many posts from friends and family which discuss illegal immigration and the state of our country’s welfare system. The two go hand-in-hand and most of the people who post about it, are against both. This troubles me greatly, because the overwhelming majority of those who oppose both illegal immigration and welfare are Christians, and, those who share with me the Catholic Faith.
This morning, a friend posted the following quote from the Bible, which gave great food for thought. She posted one verse, from Matthew 25:35, which reads:

   “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you made me welcome,” and, it occurred to me that there is a strong connection between these current events, and this particular Gospel reading.
In order to fully comprehend what is said, it’s important to include the surrounding verses. Here is Matthew 25:34-36:

34 Then the King will say to those on his right hand, "Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take as your heritage the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world.
35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you made me welcome,
36 lacking clothes and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me."

   With these words, we read about Jesus explaining that giving to hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, strangers and prisoners is what God wants us to do. It is our ticket to His Kingdom. Despite this, there are many Christians who are opposed to welfare and illegal immigration. They are adamant that we should not help the families and children who scramble to cross our borders in search of a better life.
These Christians claim that people take advantage of our welfare system, and, that the Mexican children are bringing drugs into our country and will grow up to take jobs away from Americans, as their ancestors have done. This, of course, is false. Most illegal immigrants labor for below minimum wage, and perform the labor that Americans refuse to do. There are still ads in the Help Wanted section of any newspaper in this country. No jobs are lost.
   Another big fear is that there will soon be more Latinos than white people in America if we don’t close our gates and monitor the illegal immigration situation more carefully. Even our president, Barack Obama, is under fire for not making illegal immigration a priority. Just last week, I read that some conservatives are calling for his impeachment over the issue.
   According to the US Census Bureau, 77.7 % of Americans are white, while only 17.1 % are Latino. These numbers will change over time, but with the US having over 300 million citizens, there would have to be 50 million more Latino immigrants (illegal or otherwise) brought into our country, to bring that percentage up to 25%.
   These people who cross our borders are seeking refuge. They want freedom. They want a better life for themselves and their families. Let’s not forget that Jesus said, “I was a stranger and you made me welcome.”
Welfare is also a hotly debated situation. The US Census Bureau indicates that nearly 15% of all Americans are living below the poverty level. Without a shadow of a doubt, I am one of those, and, I work two jobs. I qualify for welfare, also. I struggle to make ends meet and I’m constantly robbing Peter to pay Paul. I went to college and earned both a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication and a Master of Arts degree in English and Literature, yet, I am unable to find a full-time position in my field. I’m unable to find a full-time position outside of my field.
   When people oppose welfare, they cite instances were a woman in Michigan won the lottery and still collected food stamps, or, how they see people using food stamps at the grocery store to purchase a bag of chips and soda pop, when those food stamps should be used to purchase nutritious food, instead. The percentage of people who take advantage of the welfare system is less than five percent, and, people are given food stamps to help them to be able to eat food. Whether or not that food is healthy is no one’s business. We are not to judge. Where is it written that we must treat the poor as worthless individuals who cannot and should not be allowed to enjoy their lives? Denying people the use of food stamps or welfare assistance of any form, goes against what Christ taught us.
   Here is the remaining portion of Matthew, chapter 25:

37 Then the upright will say to him in reply, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?
38 When did we see you a stranger and make you welcome, lacking clothes and clothe you?
39 When did we find you sick or in prison and go to see you?"
40 And the King will answer, "In truth I tell you, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me."
41 Then he will say to those on his left hand, "Go away from me, with your curse upon you, to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
42 For I was hungry and you never gave me food, I was thirsty and you never gave me anything to drink,
43 I was a stranger and you never made me welcome, lacking clothes and you never clothed me, sick and in prison and you never visited me."
44 Then it will be their turn to ask, "Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty, a stranger or lacking clothes, sick or in prison, and did not come to your help?"
45 Then he will answer, "In truth I tell you, in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me."
46 And they will go away to eternal punishment, and the upright to eternal life.'

   As it is written, this chapter tells us that Jesus wants us to tend to the poor, and the needy, whatever those needs might be. If we refuse to help them (as in “I’m not going to give that homeless guy any money because he’ll just use it for liquor”), then, we are refusing Christ, Himself. Those are His words.
   It is better to give trustingly, than to refuse judgingly.

   That was the lesson that Christ taught His disciples, and, that is the lesson to which we should adhere.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Being an Adjunct Online

Four years ago, I began the switch from teaching seated courses to teaching distance learning (online) courses. My reasons for doing so were directly related to a health issue that kept me at home. When my health improved, I returned to the classroom, but in addition, continued teaching online, as it was convenient for me - a single mother. Moreover, as gas prices rose, that 25 minute commute began to hurt my wallet, which was pretty thin already. Now, after moving to Michigan, some 200 miles away from campus, I teach, exclusively, online. I’d love to be in a classroom again, but, I’ve not found a teaching job in this area (see prior blog article for more on that).

I teach both College Composition One and College Composition Two, each semester. Recently, I was told that I spend way too much time online - a fact that one of my relatives had determined was unhealthy for me. That same person also informed me that I should spend only about an hour, at the most, teaching each day. Initially, I dismissed that conversation, because the person who said it clearly doesn't understand what goes into teaching an online course effectively. Now, two weeks after that conversation, I am perturbed. I'm not just irritated by the fact that what I do is misunderstood so much as I am disgruntled by the fact that what I do is not respected.

I understand that it can be difficult to respect the unknown, so I’ll try my best to describe what I do. At my college, there are varying semester lengths. The traditional semester runs 16 weeks. There is also a shortened semester, which runs 12 weeks, and an even shorter semester that runs either the first eight weeks of the semester, or the last eight weeks of the semester. In the summer, there is a ten-week course, as well.
Because I am willing to teach as many courses as I’m given, I often get thrown into those varying semester lengths. Last spring, I taught five courses (I am now limited to four courses, which keeps me at part-time, and which stems from recent national healthcare changes). Two of those courses were Comp Ones, and three were Comp Twos. One of the Comp Ones was a first half 8-week course. The second Comp One was a 12-week course. The first Comp Two course was a 16-week course, while the other two were a 12-week and a second half of the semester 8-week course. Although the curriculum follows state and college guidelines, each course must be tweaked in order to fit the regulated scheduling. This means that I must change each syllabus to fit the time frame of each course. This also means that although I’m teaching two courses, I still have five preparations.

It takes me about an hour to adjust each standard syllabus to fit its course. I am one of those professors who gives students a detailed calendar, that highlights not just the course description and how grades are determined, but, also, when each assignment is due, and when students should read each chapter of their textbook. Some might say that I’m a glutton for punishment, since I spend hours getting the syllabi ready each semester, but I like to think that I’m avoiding future problems by doing so. Still, all of that work must be completed by the start of the semester, so it doesn’t figure into how much time I really spend working on a day-to-day basis. Nor does the uploading of the various files, the changes made in our classroom management system, or the technical issues which arise before each semester.

A good portion of each semester day is spent responding to student questions and problems. Since the only source of communication students have with me, aside from lectures, is the messaging service provided by Canvas, the learning management system we use, it is important that I respond quickly. In order to respond that way, I must be able to check in on Canvas several times each day. I know there are professors who only respond to student queries once a day, and who feel that is adequate, and perhaps it is? I don’t want to be that type of instructor. In fact, I feel badly if I don’t get to their messages within an hour or so. I want students to count on my reachability. I want them to trust my availability, so I’m at the computer, a lot.
With each new batch of students comes a new batch of lectures, which meet their needs. I have a folder of lectures on my hard drive, which I revise each semester. I also add new lectures to meet these requirements because as state (and now, national) K-12 curriculum is modified, students need more help. The goal in most high schools used to be to teach students how to write proper essays, but, I find that most students don’t know the first thing about citing sources, using commas or even referencing an author (it is not uncommon to find several students referring to the Paradise Lost author as John, as opposed to Milton).

When I first began teaching, 14 years ago, my goals included introducing students to argument-based writing, using outlines and having them write in third person, active voice. Now, students struggle to develop topics. Each year, I find less imagination and more desperation. I can’t blame them, entirely, though. For 12 years, they were told what to read and exactly what their topics would be. Often, they were also given a thesis statement that could be proven by going to a list of websites provided by their teachers. They simply had to write about those topics. It didn’t matter if it was in first person, second person or third. What mattered was that students wrote X number of pages in an academic year. It’s no wonder they can’t think for themselves.
It’s my goal to teach them how to think. Sure, they need to be able to think critically, and that is a key component in both comp classes, but, I do much more to help them get there. I spend a great deal of time combing through current events, not just to educate myself, but to somewhat force students to become concerned about the world around them. Each week, we have at least one discussion group question, and each student must read the specified article, then offer a response of two to three paragraphs. They cannot read what others have written until they post their paragraphs, so it truly forces them to think independently. They also debate these topics by responding to each other’s paragraphs. All of this work is graded and goes toward each student’s participation grade.

I can’t do that if I’m online for one hour per day and am teaching four courses. That’s only 15 minutes per class each day!

Technically, if I’m teaching four three-hour courses, I should be working for 12 hours per week. The powers that be understand that it takes more than 12 hours to teach a course, but, for argument’s sake, I’m paid for 12 hours a week. As far as teaching is concerned, that number is anything but accurate. Grading discussion group questions, alone, takes about an hour each week, per class. Quizzes and essays take much longer to grade. It takes me about 20-30 minutes to grade each essay. The maximum number of students I teach per course is 20. That’s ten hours of grading. Composition One has four essay assignments per semester. Comp Two has three. So, for each Comp One course, I’m spending 40 hours each semester grading essays and for each Comp Two, 30. And those are just for the first drafts! Students are encouraged (and do) revise each essay. That makes 80 hours a semester, per class. But, that doesn’t take into account the rough drafts I read and critique before due dates. Nor does it figure in the time spent responding to students, or writing lectures, or evaluating weekly readings, or…

Yeah. One hour a day just doesn’t cut it. 

Monday, December 30, 2013

Ugh - The Job Hunt

For the past two months, I've been scouring the job boards, classified ads and company websites, seeking positions throughout the Kalamazoo area. Initially, I applied only for academic jobs, because a full-time, tenure track position is my goal. Then, reality struck and I realized that I needed to find a full-time job, period. So, I began applying for everything from administrative assistant positions to director positions and everything in-between.

After a few weeks of nothing, I opened myself up to the wonderful and exciting world of temporary, holiday employment. I had one interview. It was for a sales associate position with Macy's, and I was excited, because I love Macy's! The interview went well. The interviewer said she was impressed with my knowledge and skills. I knew I'd nailed it! I couldn't wait to dig out all of my black dress clothes for my first day of work there. All I had to do was wait for the email that would tell me when I should show up for work. It only took four days for them to get back to me, but they didn't have a position available that was "equivalent" to my "job expertise." They lauded my strong work experience and credentials, then sent me on my way. It was crushing.

I also registered to become a substitute teacher. The process was time-consuming, and by the time I had been approved to be a sub, the Christmas break had begun. Sigh.

The job hunt continued, well into the Christmas season, and, now, outside of it. Most of the positions for which I'm now applying are well outside of my comfort zone, probably because I know that I'm only remotely qualified for them. Take, for instance, the Director of Community Partnerships position I'm applying for today. I'm well-qualified for several of the requirements. I have great interpersonal communication skills. I can write press releases which are generally published without editing, and I discuss various fundraising techniques with priests, bishops and any person of power (religious or otherwise), I'm able to work with all kinds of people (whatever that means), and I have a fantastic ability to fund-raise, because, after all, I attended a parochial school for nine years that enabled me to grow, four to five times each academic year, in that capacity.

What I don't have is experience in cultivating prospective collaborators and donors. That happens to be the key component of this particular position, so, I'm leery of even applying for the position. In order to cultivate prospective collaborators and donors, I should probably know more than six people in the area. (I've only lived here for six months.) And, I should probably have more dressy clothes than casual. I know that this element that will keep them from furthering my application to the interviewing process. Still, I'm going to submit it, because, who knows? Maybe they can look past that?

I wrote three cover letters last night. Two of the cover letters were for administrative assistant jobs, and I wondered, as I began writing them, if I should adjust my resume so as not to sound over-qualified. It's a moral dilemma, because I don't want to lie. I posited the question on Facebook. A few people told me to lie. A few people told me to be honest. It was a draw. The best route (which a few had mentioned, too) is to just sell myself as best as I can. So, asking the question on Facebook now seems irrelevant, but for a moment, it made me feel better. I moved on.

The Sunday classifieds were posted, so I scoured them between writing cover letters. I avoided all of the RN, LPN, CNC Operator, Machinist, IT, CPA, CSW, CENA and other license-seeking positions, because I'm not qualified to do any of them.

"What about factory work? You're not too good to do that!" some have said. Sure, I have a BA in Communication and an MA in English and Literature, but I'll jump into factory work if I need to do that. There were three positions listed, through a temp agency, but, they were for $8 an hour, and required me to work two weeks of 3rd shift, then two weeks of 2nd shift then two weeks of 1st shift, then back to 3rd... and make that rotation for the duration of the position. No wonder they're looking for help! That just might be the biggest step toward insanity I've seen yet, and for $8 an hour? After I pay a sitter, there will barely be enough money left to pay rent. I skipped it.

I also passed on the full-time sorority house director position, because I'd have to live in the sorority house, and it didn't allow for pets. The ad made no mention of children, but I can't imagine raising a child in a sorority house.

So, my job search continues. I'm glad that I haven't lost all hope (though you may have noticed I've become more cynical than normal). I can't live like this forever, and, if I stop applying for jobs, well, I don't even want to think about the alternative. So, let's just say, again, the job search continues.

By the way, if you know of anything...

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

New Work Published!

I know I've been lax in posting to this blog. I've been avoiding writing anything for the past two years.

It all started when I began to get sick in late 2009 and early 2010. Odd things were happening to me, and I insisted that something was wrong. I kept telling my doctor, who would randomly agree to put me through tests. Turns out, I had Stage One Renal Cell Carcinoma.

All of a sudden, everything about me was different. Sadly, my communication plummeted, and I found myself not only failing to blog, but, failing to write or speak about anything.

It's been two years since the symptoms that led to this scare began, and, I'm now ready to move on with my life.

One of the ways in which I am doing this is by writing more poetry and more autobiographical work. Through the Yahoo! Contributor Network, I have posted two new pieces. One is a poem and the other is a short story about one of the best Christmases I've ever experienced.

The link to the poem is here: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/9113893/too_much_too_soon_to_go_insane.html?cat=47

The link to the story is here: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/9117819/the_spirit_of_christmas.html?cat=43

Please, feel free to comment on each of these at the Yahoo! site. I am paid for these, but only if people actually go to the site to read them. Comments help the Yahoo! team to see that I am a valuable addition to their group.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Favorite Stamping Blogs

Several of my friends from Snagging Stampers have been blogging and sharing their artwork with the world. I laud them, as I'm very sporadic with my own blogging. It's a shame, too, because I always have something to say!!! LOL

Anyway, I wanted to share the link to one of them today.

This is Shelly's blog and it's very cool!


Please stop over and have a look at her wonderful ideas!!

Monday, February 02, 2009


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Love is Masochism

From a woman's perspective... This sounds vaguely familiar. I talked about this earlier in the semester, with regard to my situation, and why I am a 40-year-old woman with no desire to be in a relationship.

For me, the inherent problem with love is that it involves a complete release of emotions that I'm not capable of releasing. It's not that I'm not willing, rather, I truly believe I'm not able to express them. That makes me cold to most people.

***As a parent, I am completely in love with my daughter, but, that is a unique love that only a parent could comprehend. It is nothing like the love between two adults who are sexually, emotionally, physically, whatever.***

For a very long time, I've realized that I harbor a coldness about myself when it comes to relationships with men. What is terrifying about this, is that I am an incredible actress. There are very few people who really know me, and only one man who does... did. I can act like I care... I can act like I'm giddy or silly or stupid, as Mike put it, but, that's not love. It's acting. Often, I find myself acting one way around one person, and completely different around another person. Neither know me, really. I just don't allow them to get that close to me.

As I do with my family, I build that proverbial wall around my heart and disallow anyone to penetrate it. I act as if I care, but, in all actuality, I don't. Sometimes, I act so well that I almost fool myself into believing that I could be falling in love, but, when all is said and done, and I'm able to walk away, unscathed, I didn't.

I get over relationships quickly, and never look back. I don't spend weeks, months, years, whining about them, or crying about them. I don't understand how people can do that to themselves. Love is masochism. I've yet to experience anything related to love that isn't masochism.

It's a bewildering topic, Mike. Thanks for presenting it to your fanbase.