Wednesday, April 20, 2005

A note concerning student dedication

Recently, I received an absolute treasure of a note from one of my students. I mean, this is one of those items that represents a moment in your life that only a physical memento can capture.

And no, it was not a note thanking me for my hours of tireless devotion to the education of my students. Nor was it a note praising my research efforts or even my work on the No, this was one of those priceless notes that define the boundaries between student and professor.

I was lecturing in one of my classes. I had been a long day and I was in my second 80-minute lecture of the day (and if you ask my students, I’m sure they will tell you I get 90 minutes out of our 80-minute class periods).

I’m talking about how technology transfer has changed newsroom culture in the U.S. and the students are in various states of engagement. The ones on the front row are super engaged. The students on the second row are somewhat engaged, but I can see them drifting in and out at various points. And of course, there are some of the students on the back row who may or may not have heard a word I had said. It was just one of those days.

Half-way through the lecture, one of my students rose from the seat he/she occupied (name and gender obscured to protect the student’s identity), walked up and dropped a note in front of me on the podium. Then the student turned and walked out of the classroom.

I did my best to ignore the person, though I have to say that can be quite a feat when someone gets between you and the class you are lecturing. I paced to the other side of the room, lecturing away, and then returned to the podium to advance a Powerpoint slide.

As I did so, I glanced at the note and fought down a snicker. It was written in green ink on a torn piece of notebook paper.

Here’s the note:

In case you can’t make out the text, it reads:

Professor Stevens!
I came into class late so I couldn’t tell you that I have to leave early. Sorry

It was the “Sorry” that grabbed my attention. And the matter-of-fact tone. Of COURSE the student couldn’t tell me about the early departure. Coming into class late can have that affect on classroom discourse … ;-)

I could go one with my reactions, but I had best curtail them. I don’t mean to belittle the student involved, and the note did bring a surge of laughter to a otherwise exhausting afternoon.

I will treasure the note always.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

The gifts that bind

After our long day of play (see last post), Bethany and I traveled from Saginaw to Keller to see our friends Kelly and Christi Roméo. We had planned to have dinner and see a movie, but managed to get to their house rather early in the afternoon.

The Roméos informed us that they were not going to be able to attend our shower in Austin this coming weekend. And since they weren’t going to be there, they wanted to give us their present ahead of time. And so we officially received our first wedding gift.

The Roméos gave us four sets of our antique dayware. This tremendously generous gift ensures that we will have dishes to eat off of when we return from our honeymoon in late July.

So now it’s official: we have received wedding gifts. There’s no backing out now …

Saturday, April 16, 2005

A Day of Play

So much activity, so little time.

On Saturday, Bethany and I loaded up and went to Saginaw to see my nephew and niece play sports. Aubrey, my niece, had a soccer game at 9:30, followed by my nephew Bradley’s soccer game at 10:30 and Bradley’s baseball game at 11:30.

As it turned out, Bradley had photos taken on this particular day, so we skipped his soccer game.

So, we first went to watch Aubrey play soccer. This was the first sporting event of hers I have ever attended. Aubrey has always been quite shy and tends to be reserved in the public, and today proved to be no different.

When we arrived, Aubrey met us by running circles around Bethany and I, giggling and squealing. We settled in on the sideline and waited for the game to begin. Then something happened. As near as I can tell, it was either that Aubrey was told that she shouldn’t wear sunglasses on the field or that she was told not to kick the ball until the referees were ready. In any event, Aubrey quickly wilted and was reduced to standing sullenly on the field, not responding to anyone around her. Michelle (her mother) quickly went out and scooped her up and it took some time for Aubrey to get over whatever trauma she had endured.

A little while later, Aubrey retook the field. As she warmed up with her teammates, she seemed to be in high spirits. But once again, something was said or done that upset her and she was soon reduced to standing alone and crying in the middle of the soccer field. The ball would roll towards her and children would streak past, but Aubrey merely stood motionless and quietly sobbed until she was once again scooped up and consoled.

Sometimes it’s just tough being a little girl …

We also were able to spend time with my brother David, who brought my other niece, Alyssa, along for a visit. Alyssa is two years old and is quite an entertainer. She would smile at us to draw us in and then give us the most pathetic looking frown you’ve ever seen. Then she’d burst out giggling. Too much fun, I suppose.

Aubrey came out of her shell around Alyssa. The two had a big day, playing and jabbering with one another. Last summer, one of my favorite pictures of the beach trip was one where they stood staring each other down. This weekend they struck a similar pose, but Alyssa has grown so much that the difference was quite startling.

Of course, Bradley had a big day. He went three for three and scored three runs. On one defensive play, he cleanly fielded a ball, tagged the runner and then threw out a player at second. His quickness and agility were way above the level of most of the other kids.

In fact, during warm-ups, the coach had to keep increasing the distance between the players because Bradley kept pouncing on the ground balls, keeping the other kids from getting any practice in. He’s becoming quite an athlete.

After the game, we all went to CiCi's pizza for lunch, where we celebrated both of my parents’ birthdays. It was a long and full day, but it was good to spend time on fun activities for a change.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Bringing up the house?

Whew! As if getting ready for a wedding and an overseas honeymoon weren't enough ...

Bethany and I spent Friday looking at a house at 2816 SMU Blvd. It's a cute yellow house located four blocks from campus, to blocks from the tennis courts, 5 blocks from the SMU Barnes and Noble and La Madeleine. So, needless to say, EXCELLENT location.

The house is a two-bedroom, one bath house with a living room, dining room, kitchen and a study. There is SO MUCH storage space (nearly every room has two closets), including several built-in bookcases.

The back yard is rather large, and has several good trees. There is a concrete slab for outdoor furniture, which would make a great place to hold outdoor get-togethers.

The interior is bordered and painted in antique white. There are several pics of the inside, and the house really seems to suit our style.

There is central heat and air (not a given in these old houses), but there is also a fireplace.

My favorite feature is the study. The previous owners built in a custom computer desk with lots of work space.

All-in-all, the house looks promising. We are looking to rent it, not buy it and should have a final decision within a few days.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Cards, a great excuse ...

While I was in Austin, I managed to spend an evening with my friends eating a home-cooked meal and playing cards. So, ok, this isn’t news. We’ve played cards countless times.

So maybe this blog article is just an excuse to show off a pic of Zachary Munger. ;-)

Heeeeerrrreeeee’s ZACHARY!

Monday, April 11, 2005

Deep in the Heart of ... Online Journalism

Whew! Just got back from the 2005 International Symposium on Online Journalism. This conference, hosted by the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin is a unique experience where academics, professionals and students (and this year, even some bloggers) get together to discuss trends and issues facing the media due to changes in communication technology.

The conference is the brainchild of Professor Rosental Alves the Knight Chair in Journalism, the Director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas and the UNESCO Chair in Communication at the University of Texas at Austin. Rosental was the professor I cut my teeth under at UT, and it is always good to be back in Austin and seeing familiar faces.

This year's conference was particularly good, but I am so tired, I'm going to need a while to process and digest my notes before I use any of them.