Sunday, September 18, 2011

Kirk Barrett- The Pittsburgh Conference

Last March, along with five fellow Sigmas, I went to Pittsburgh to the Sigma Tau Delta International Convention. The talent and humor of almost everyone I met was astounding, and if you were there and missed them, the students from Kuwait were the rock stars of literature—they’re panel presentation on pre-Islamic Arabic poetry was nothing short of exquisite. Combining pedagogy and beautiful language they wove a tapestry of words that showed an opulent literary tradition that is sadly absent from most Western education. In any case, the conference was amazing and an integral experience in my own educational path. Pittsburgh was my second conference presentation (the other being Streamlines, in Dubuque), and I hope to present papers at both conferences again before I graduate next May. If you have thought about going to a conference but are intimidated by the prospect, you are not alone. It can be a scary endeavor, but such trepidation is really an opportunity to let your literary courage get some exercise. It’s a privilege to have a paper accepted, and a wonderful experience to read your work in front of your equally trepidatious peers.

After returning from the Pittsburgh Conference, I received a letter from the national office of Sigma Tau Delta. They informed me I had won the Essay on Convention Theme award. Considering the topic of my paper presentations and essay, I am further humbled at the opportunities I have been given by UNCW’s English Department and local chapter of Sigma Tau Delta; my Wentworth Fellowship, Honors Thesis—and my personal writing for the past few years—is focused on the collapse of Jugoslavia and the Bosnian Genocide of the 1990s. It’s may seem an odd thing for a English major to study, but most of the literature surrounding it (films, especially) I have found to be visceral, genuine, compassionate, and incredibly funny. I hope my own work reflects at least some of this.

Below is the Essay on Convention Theme: “Beyond Words.”

An often-heard phrase in Bosnia is:

There is nothing to say about Srebrenica, you just have to go there.

In June, 2010, I journeyed to Srebrenica in the midst of travels through the Balkans. I sought to view the region as a text; without political agenda. I strove to use an unbiased perspective in the region in order to gain some understanding of the motives of violence and methods of survival. That emotional detachment from the subject of study disappeared when visiting Srebrenica.

The location of the worst genocide in Europe since 1945 is set in a geographic region of natural quietude and breathtaking beauty. Dinaric forests cover sharply-cut mountains interspersed with lush stretches of narrow valleys. Disguised among the mountain woods are mines that have been giving up their silver since Nero fiddled with the devil and Goth kids sacked Rome. After the massacre in July, 1995, Srebrenica has been a place of what may rightfully be called a preternatural stillness.

I visited with a native of Sarajevo who had family in the field at Potočari; their names inscribed in stone at the memorial among the 8,372 listed. In July, 1995, Sıdıka’s nephew was 7 years old. In June, 2010, he was still 7 years old; he always will be.

It was the first time in 15 years Sıdıka had gone to Srebrenica.

While she offered prayers under the open-air mosque, I took portrait photos of the stone monument etched with names of the dead. Afterward, we began the six kilometer trek from the memorial at Potočari back to the bus station in Srebrenica.

We walked together without exchanging words. The only sound was my boots on the asphalt road, my boots on the gravel shoulder, my boots on the damp grass and mud. Her gaze might have never lifted from the ground beneath her feet—I do not know; my gaze never lifted from where I stepped.

The wind occasionally spoke to the trees, the grass, the strip of black road. The wind spoke of where it had been, of what it had seen and heard. The wind spoke of how it felt about the terrain it had passed. The wind occasionally spoke in soft hushed gusts while we walked together.

The wind spoke of many things.

We remained silent the entire distance to Srebrenica.

There was nothing to say.

We just had to go there.


Monday, May 9, 2011

Chloe Miller-As You Like It: Travels and Plans for an English Major

This upcoming fall I will be traveling to London, England to study abroad at Roehampton University. Only a twenty-five minute bus ride to the heart of the city, Roehampton is one of the most beautiful campuses in London. The excitement to study English Literature in England is almost overwhelming. The prospect of studying Shakespeare where his writing actually took place and originated is unreal. I will actually get to go where all of these fantastic writers, like Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, who I admire so much lived and wrote.

When I return to UNCW next spring of 2012, I have a plan of action to become a better-rounded, experienced, and involved English major. Studying abroad will be marked off of my ‘To Do List’, but there will still be a full list of things that come next. I will begin researching an internship to start, as a fulfillment of my Professional Writing Certificate and as a way of gaining more relevance and experience in a writing field. I will look in to obtaining a job at the University Learning Center as a writing tutor. Becoming a certified writing tutor will enhance my proficiency with editing and grammar.

I am so excited for the upcoming year. New activities, encounters, and experiences that will be here so soon, and I’m excited to plan for them. Anticipation and excitement are all I can feel! Only problem is how this excitement and anxiety for summer and traveling may be overshadowing my motivation to get through these final exams! Oh well! London awaits.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Meagan Culkin- A Look at Shakespeare's Italy

Last month I went to Italy for 12 days as a Wentworth Fellow. While there, I studied William Shakespeare, specifically focusing on his Italian-set plays. These included The Merchant of Venice, The Taming of the Shrew, Julius Caesar, and of course, Romeo and Juliet. I centered my focus on the culture and daily life, to determine whether or not I believed that Shakespeare himself had ever been to Italy. This is a common question among Shakespearean scholars, as many will call to question the general terms in which he so often sets his plays. "A city in Italy, A street in Verona, a town square"-- all of these are stage directions continually used throughout his works that caused me to wonder. I was able to take the trip with the help of UNCW and the Wentworth Fellowship and am pleased to say that it was the experience of a lifetime. Every day was packed full of museums, architecture, books, and food, all of which allowed me to learn and grow as a student and a person. This experience was nothing but beneficial, and I would recommend applying for a Wentworth to anyone who is even remotely considering it.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Casey Weaver: Hello from San Pedro, Belize!

I am here as a part of an international field experience where I will complete my last five weeks of my Secondary Education internship. Although I miss my kids at Hoggard High School dearly, I am learning a lot about the Belizean culture and education. My partnership teacher at San Pedro High School is Mrs. Giselle, and she teaches forms 3 & 4 (11th & 12th grade). For the past couple days I have observed and taken part in her lessons; in doing this, I have discovered several differences in public schools in America and San Pedro High School.

Dress Code

At Hoggard, the students are allowed to dress casually as long as it’s appropriate. No tanks, no undergarments showing, and shorts/skirts long enough for girls. In Belize, they have a very strict dress code. Boys are to dress in all white pants and collared shirt with the high school’s badge on the breast. Their pants have to be pocket less, so they can’t hold their cell phones, and they also have to wear white socks with black shoes and a black belt. Girls are to wear white dresses with a colored tie that symbolizes which form (grade) they are in: green-1st form, yellow-2nd form, blue-3rd form, red-4th form. Their dresses cannot be too tight and must be 1’’ before the knee. They have to wear black, closed shoes with white socks and they must wear a small pair of studded earrings. Girls are not allowed to wear make up at school and I actually witnesses a student receive a demerit today and was forced to wash it off.

Cell Phone Policy

At Hoggard, if I were to see a student with their cell phone, I usually gave them one warning and took it away if I saw it again. I would give it back to them at the end of the day, and that would be the end of it. In Belize, students are never allowed to have a cell phone while on school grounds. If caught, their first offense is for the teacher to take it and give it to the office to hold for one week. After the week is up, their parents can come retrieve the phone. For a second offense, the student would receive out of school suspension. Although this may seem harsh, I have yet to see a student with their cell phone out and it’s nice to avoid that distraction while trying to teach.

AIDS/HIV policy

This is a very controversial subject. In America, these diseases are mentioned but hardly ever dealt with because it’s not an issue at high schools. In Belize, it is a grave problem that requires all schools and administrators to discuss about prevention and treatment methods. Since the diseases are only contracted through the transfer of fluids, students are education with preventative methods. If a person is infected while they are enrolled in classes or teaching at the school, they will be allowed to continue classes or teaching without any type of discrimination. If that person if already infected, the others at the school will be notified due to the possible risk of infecting others through physical activities that includes coming in contact with body fluids. I observe in a classroom where a hand-drawn posted illustrated a boy and a girl kissing with the words ‘I am HIV +’. I asked my teacher what the picture referred to and she stated that even people with HIV deserve to be loved. This was very humbling because in America, if someone is diagnosed with such a disease, everyone is very cautious to avoid them and treats them like it’s contagious through breathing.

I have learned a lot at San Pedro already academically and emotionally and it has changed my perspective on teaching as well as life. I hope to soak up everything I can out of this experience and bring my findings back to America to share.

Casey Weaver: San Pedro—The City of Handprints

San Pedro—The City of Handprints
Upon arriving in San Pedro, I quickly noticed all the tiny different colored handprints located on street buildings and road signs leading everywhere around the small town. We were told that the handprints were a part of the town’s Carnival’s tradition, and that we had just previously missed it. San Pedro’s Carnival is similar to the New Orleans Mardi Gras, by the meaning, not size. It takes place during the week leading up to Ash Wednesday and the Lenten season. It is a pagan celebration that allows them to indulge in all the pleasures that they choose to give up during lent. This carnival is put on by the local government and usually lasts a week long, leading up to the painting event. On the very last day of this festival, participants flood the street to paint everyone and everything that can possibly be painted. They use a mixture of water paint and either water or raw eggs to dilute the paint. The goal of this carnival is to paint as many people as you can but, as you can imagine, this ‘game’ is more out of fun than of competition. Although I’m sad that I missed the actual festival, the remnants still remain for the locals, tourists, and teachers to look at.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Joanna Wright-English: Maybe the Most Unappreciated and Underpaid Degree

Jamie Joyner's blog on her reasons for being and English major and pursuing her Master's degree spurred me to reminisce on my own reasons for becoming an English major. One thing I can tell you...majoring in English for Secondary Education is the best decision I ever made for my academic career.

I'm 22 years old and I graduated in 2006 from a High School MTV had its wicked way with located in Hoover, AL. I should have graduated last summer. Obviously I didn't and my reasons are probably familiar to a lot of English Majors. I noticed we all tend to suffer from a "Degree Identity Crisis" once we take that first plunge into English Major-dom. I went to a community college for two years, focusing on my General Studies for no major in particular. I started as a Business Major...made sense to me. Those Majors go off and get their Master's in something technical and can often make a lot of money straight out of college. The money part obviously appealed to me, but the idea of working in a "corporate" world made my stomach turn. I couldn't figure out why until someone I worked with at a Craft store made an excellent point. "I was never, never happy in that environment." She said, sporting a degree in Business Management and being resigned from a very wealthy position in a big corporate company. Now she's stocking shelves and couldn't be happier. Then I bungee'd back and forth between Ecomonics and Graphic Design and Web Design...blah, blah, blah. I am interested in all those things, but the fit didn't seem snug enough for me to be happy for the rest of my life.

Then two monumental things happened that made me sit down and seriously assess my life. My mother died in December of 2008 and that following January, my high school sweetheart of three years joined the Marine Corps. I lost my mother, who supported me in whatever I did and then I lost the one person I could have leaned on to help me heal through the loss. So, I made the mistake of taking a semester off the community college I was spending--cough, wasting, cough--my time at and forced myself to thoroughly examine my life and what I wanted.

And as cheesy as it sounds, I finally asked myself...what on Earth do I love doing the most? Well...I love to write (or ramble, depending upon how many of you are still with me ^.~) and I love to read. Hmm...what in the world could I do where I can read...write...and get paid to do both. I had no idea...but I knew then I had to stop screwing around and become an English major. I LOVED my first class! I was at the University of Montevallo and this class was supposed to be the "hardest" class in the English degree. It was the "make you" or "break you" class...meant to weed out all the "Non-English Majors" (I love that). I passed with flying colors and realized this is what I wanted to do. I didn't know what to do as far as a job went, but I loved being an English Major and I would stick it out as long as I could afford it.

Two semesters later, I had to make another life-changing decision. I married my Marine and he moved up here in Jacksonville, NC. Without the Marine Bases, this poor town would be nothing but forests and farmland. There's a sad lack of educational opportunities here. I was beginning to get scared...what if I couldn't move up here with my husband because this oh-so-wonderful and blessed degree wasn't available in the area?!?!?!?!

[Cheesy Trumpets of Revelation] Insert UNCW! Sure! It's an hour away from where I live and I am probably the only genius (moron) driving a NOT so gas efficient car back and forth 80 miles a day! But in all honesty...I love it here. I love the atmosphere...I love the people...I love finally being involved...and I love realizing at last that teaching English is my calling. A graduate from UAB with a degree in Philosophy said something that stuck with me: "People who truly love and appreciate the humanities enough to devote their career to it are content with the fact that they aren't going to make a dime."

I know I'm going to get on some Math Majors nerves, but hear me out. It breaks my heart when I hear people tell me they don't read books because it's "boring", or they don't read to their children because they think infants don't understand. Math is a skill most people rarely use or never use depending on their career (all English majors who still need a calculator to add, raise your hands [raises hand]). But English, Language Arts, is a fundamental skill we use every moment of every day. It's how we communicate with the people we love, or the people we work with or's how we communicate with ourselves. Letters (archaic, I know...perhaps we could start a movement to bring it back? The Post Office would probably support us), Emails, Blogs, Texts, Facebook Posts (I can't believe I just put that)...these are all ways we communicate and we can thank our English teachers for that. I am anal-retentive about grammar...I can thank my freshmen English teacher for that. Because of her...I don't sound like an uneducated moron when I e-mail my boss about something...or my professors for that matter.

I wanted to be an English Teacher because I realized the difference I would be making in a small community. Helping people develop reading skills, retracing their history through books, or communicating thoughts and ideas in papers, is the best and most incredible way I can utilize my degree.

For those of you who stuck with me to the end, we are now friends (because I tend to talk this much too). For those of you fellow English Majors who question the "why's" and "what if's" of your degree, I hope I helped you realize what a difference we are making as English Majors. Some of the most incredible thinkers in the world, like Jamie said: Lawyers, Businessmen and women, Criminal Justice Members, Politicans...they started right where you and I are.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Jamie Joyner- Why do I want a Master’s Degree in English? Why is English my goal? Thanks to a Professor of mine, the wheels are turning and the words are flowing!

I was recently asked why I am considering pursuing a Masters degree in English. Why am I pursuing a job in the humanities when the economy is awful and the state is cutting jobs left and right? We all know that teachers do not make a lot of money, and the person asking me about my decisions and goals had valid reasons for questioning me. Now that I have had time to reflect (only a couple of hours actually) I now understand the importance of the question and the significance of my answer.
My reflected answer is this. I want to be an English teacher. I technically want to lecture at a four year university or at a community college. This is my goal until Xavier is older and then I intend to pursue my Ph.D. which will develop into a career in modern to post-modern feminism. True there won’t be a lot of money, but I’m not looking to be filthy rich-merely financially stable. There’s also a very small part of me that doesn’t want to leave the realm of academia (I mean come on it’s freaking amazing in here)! Plus I’m pretty certain I’ll be able to find a job somewhere in this country with a Master’s degree and we’re not against relocating.
But ultimately the reasons why I want to pursue teaching at the collegiate level are because of the level of importance that the humanities play in the makeup of our students. In English 101 and 201 we learn how to write and think critically. We learn how to analyze articles and ads. These English classes teach us how to evaluate and use critical analysis which ultimately leads to better communication within the work place and in life.
I want to teach because we need people (teachers) to cultivate the next generation. The vital skills that composition and literature classes teach students are necessary in life. I learned the most about myself as an individual in a literature class. I learned how to evaluate and critically analyze texts which led me to further my understanding of the world. I learned to expand my own personal views and think outside the box. I learned about oppression, freedom, liberty, and personal evaluations in my English classes. I opened my mind and expanded myself. I then took that knowledge and applied it to the outside world and to situations I found myself in. How can I not want to impart that amazing knowledge to future students?
English cultivates our future lawyers, doctors, politicians, and business owners. It adds strength to communication and it is always changing. We have to keep up. The humanities play one of the most important roles in the undergraduate experience. The skills of critical thinking, problem solving, and communication are acquired through these classes. Thus makes English teachers some of the most valued (underpaid) assets to a university.
My love for literature and composition can be traced back to kindergarten when I learned to read. I have always loved books and the knowledge each one possesses individually. That love for reading transferred into a love for writing, which then led me to a love for literature classes. I cannot change my intellectual make up and try to pursue something different; this is who I am meant to be. I can’t imagine not trying to impart that knowledge, even now as a Writing Tutor in the ULC I love giving my “How to write a thesis” lecture. I’m in love and I understand the importance of what it is we do as English majors.
So thus concludes my rant, well so far. I know that an English degree isn’t exactly the best paying degree program. I’m ok with that. I guess if I wanted to make a lot of money I would have tried to be a gold digger (haha) because I wouldn’t have gotten far in the math or science department. You’re supposed to laugh.