Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The English 101 Fall Cruise-Week13: Of Commas, Verbs and Nouns

Captain's Log: December 8, 2015

Week 13

The crew returned refreshed after the American holiday weekend, Thanksgiving. Now, final preparation for writing of the final exam paper, the research theme, is in “full throttle.” 

On Tuesday I spent time providing answers to the grammar review quiz at the end of Chapter Two of Bare Essentials. Crewmembers had worked in groups to do this quiz. Now, I provided the answers as well as explanations. In addition, I asked them what mechanics/grammar issue seemed to challenge them the most. Answers? They responded that commas, subject-verb agreement, and pronoun-antecedent agreement errors seemed to cause them the most dismay. 

Monday, November 30, 2015

The English 101 Fall Cruise-Weeks 11 and 12: Time for Research!

Captain's Log:  November 30, 2015

Weeks 11 and 12 

I am combining these two weeks because I met with this crew only one day for the two weeks. Why? I met on Tuesday of Week Eleven; then, on Thursday I had some personal business that I needed to address. Thus, I made arrangements for a substitute captain to be in place of me; I requested that she would continue to work on the crewmembers’ grammar/mechanics. 

For Week Twelve, I had already arranged that this crew not have a formal session. I wanted them to use this time to work on doing research for their upcoming final exam paper. So, on that Tuesday I was in my office available for “walk ins” for those who wanted to discuss any work assigned. There were a few who took advantage of this opportunity to come and talk with me. Nice! And that Thursday was an American holiday, Thanksgiving Day, in which most crews on the various academic cruise ships are relieved of duty and not expected to attend any sessions.

As for the Tuesday session of Week Eleven, I continued my discussion regarding research techniques and the various reasons for the importance they be learned. And in my effort to prepare them for all kinds of writing experiences, about seventeen minutes (17) before the end of the session, I assigned an in-class paragraph. The topic? Why was what I was discussing relevant to their lives? Next week, Week Thirteen, I shall return their graded paragraphs. 

Besides such an exercise being good for them, it was good for me. I was able to assess how well they were learning the techniques of good paragraph development, including topic sentences and concluding sentences. Also, I could see what grammatical aspects I would still need to emphasize as the time on this academic cruise is coming to an end.

And in 1971…

Dear Diary, March 16, 1971

Things went on ok with the 2/1 class. They viewed that (some mind you) that I gave too much homework. Some quibbled about my qualifications as a teacher. They feel that I get upset too quickly. The regular stuff.

I took their criticism with little back talk.

The Romeo and Juliet lesson went on nicely.

Today has been a pretty good day all round.

Dear Diary, March 17, 1971

It was interesting to watch the 2/1 class quibble over each other’s proposed lesson. [I gave them the task of getting in groups and determining some things they would like for me to teach and some items they would like to cover/teach in the next two class sessions.] I think it did them good.

I was really busy tonight checking my 4/5s exams.

The one thing that never changes is the exams and papers to check!

See you next week!

The English 101 Fall Cruise- Week 10: The "Jay Leno" Quiz

Captain's Log: Monday, November 30, 2015

Week 10

On both Tuesday and Thursday, I spent a lot of time focusing on mechanics errors and on the proper development of parenthetical citations and works cited entries, following the MLA format. 

I have spoken passionately (yes, I mean just that) about the importance of the ability to research and document what one places in written work as well as what one says. This is an outgrowth of the political fervor in the United States at this time. There are candidates who make statements about building walls to keep people out of this country but have shown no clear research about the feasibility or practicality of such an expenditure, especially when the proposal for another country to pay for this architectural venture. I have likened this idea to my wanting to build something and expecting a neighbor who does not want that “thing” to pay for it. Hah! I could see how many Americans would like that idea. 

Yet, on a more personal side, I have tried to make my budding student captains understand the importance of the ability to research for their own personal needs. For example, at present I have been experiencing some health challenges. There was a device that some doctors mentioned might be an alternative to be placed in my body. I did some research about this device and discovered, depending on the company that devised it, it could cause more harm than good. Two of these companies were being sued for some of the problems caused, not all, however. So, when I went to visit the doctor I was an informed patient, not a patient “lamb led to slaughter.” 

I wanted my captains-to-be understand that they might in the future have to be the advocate for the health decisions for a loved one or for themselves. Ignorance has never been bliss; if anything it might only lead one to a blissful death or serious repercussions. Many began to grasp the reason for the importance for research and the ability to be able to check things and document what they and others say and write. Indeed, these can be life and death issues.

My approach to running these sessions have always been to bring up information that might immediately affect them. Theory would be fine, but most young trainees of today have not found theory valuable unless a dose of reality can be found in the mix.

Also, this week my trainees could take advantage of earning extra credit. They were to submit a paragraph that focused on the poem each liked the best. The poem had to be one that was in the book, Community College Students’ Literary Collage, the supplemental work used in this course/cruise. From 12 pts. (A+) to 1 pt. (E), every student who wrote on this topic would earn at least one point. Also, this assignment gave students/trainees another opportunity to implement the lessons learned about citing (when paraphrasing and quoting verbatim) and those lessons taught about paragraph development and avoiding the common mechanics/grammatical errors.

Finally, on the Thursday, after my continued discussion of the above, I gave my “Jay Leno Quiz.” I have done this every semester for years. I wanted to make my student/trainees aware of what they know about current events. Yes, I have continued to make this quiz an extra credit activity. Generally, ten or eleven questions will be asked like the following:
  • Name one of the current Republicans campaigning to become the Republican candidate for president of the United States.  
  • Name one of the current Democrats or Independent candidates campaigning to become candidate for president of the United States.  
  • Name the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
  • How many justices are there on the US Supreme Court  
  • Name one of the women justices.  
  • Name at least one Kardashian. 
  • Name one major international crisis facing the world at present.  
  • Name the governor of this state.  
  • Name a law that has recently been passed in this state that has stirred up controversy. 
  • Explain why you think the captain/professor is asking these questions.

Time and time again, there are few who can answer any of these questions, except for identifying the vice president of the United States and the ability to name a Kardashian. Um, have I been concerned about the lack of knowledge and lack of concern. Yes, and I have expressed that concern every semester I receive these same results. 

I have recognized that when Jay Leno (the former TV host of The Tonight Show) asked similar questions of the man/woman on the street, the production team had to do little editing. Folks in this country know so little about their government. Folks lament that terrorists might take over the United States. Hah! My concern as an educator is that the ignorance and lack of concern to know about more than entertainment persona by many Americans has the potential to give those who want to do harm to this country the fodder needed. 

OK, enough of my “soapbox.”

What happened in the 70s when I was a captain in training?

Dear Diary, March 14, 1971

Working hard today. This Sunday will be the last that we (Cheryl, my roommate) will spend together in this house. She’s going to live in the dorm next semester [semesters ended in mid-March]. I shall miss her.

Dear Diary, March 15, 1971

Can you believe this is the first night in weeks in which I can peacefully sit and contemplate?

Received a letter from Aunt Rose and Uncle Tom (written 1-17-71—Whew!) It was nice to read. 

Well, I let my 2/3s criticize me. The results were:

  1. ½ of ’em think I’ve been understanding;
  2. They didn’t think their assignments were relevant to their lives (except for the letter assignment);
  3. They were bugged by my emotionalism and my giving too much homework;
  4. They liked my accent and my patience.

Well, I guess I’m not too bad.

I’ll have to be careful with my emotions. I think they hit the nail on the head.

After so many years as a full captain, I still let my emotions/my passion come out; however, I do my best to make it a positive and controlled expression. Yes, while I was a trainee my beloved students in Sheffield, England helped shape me into the captain/professor I have become today. I shall always treasure them!

The next entry will be coming soon. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

The English 101 Fall Cruise-Week 9: Preparing New "Captains"

Captain's Log: Friday November 13, 2015

Week 9

This week, Tuesday and Thursday, I met with every candidate individually. I find individual conferences one of the most important aspects of preparing candidates to become captains. They bring their work, in this case the research plan and the first body paragraph for the research theme. I am able to assess each person’s work and each candidate has an opportunity to ask me questions s/he may not feel comfortable to ask in the class sessions. I must say I really learn about each candidate during these conferences. In many cases, a true bond is established. 

I must say this is a key aspect of being a captain training future captains. And I say anyone who wants to be more than a good captain but an exemplary captain, must be committed to those who are put in his/her charge. This means s/he must be willing to put in the extra time. Individual conferences take that extra time. However, I know these conferences are definitely worth every 25 minutes per candidate/student. And after over thirty-five years, still, I become exhilarated when I hold conferences; it is an opportunity to serve as a teacher, advisor, and confidant.

My personality is intense. I have high expectations of all of my candidates. I truly have never taught a candidate that could not learn. I have, however, taught candidates who have low expectations of themselves. And some were just plain ol’ lazy. I do not tolerate laziness. I expect my candidates to do their best, and best does not mean a high grade. If the student’s best is a grade of C, I can accept that. However, if he earns an A- and that is not his best, I cannot accept that. However, this intensity and setting of the bar high does not always bring out the best in individuals. And I must keep this in mind. Still, I do know that when I meet with my candidates/students one-on-one, I manage to convey my sincere concern about them as a person. So, for my personality and my desire to give personal help, I believe strongly in the benefits of conferences. 

As I reflect I believe I realized many years ago, as a student teacher, that my intensity demands that I mitigate this intense characteristic.

Dear Diary, March 11, 1971

Today my 4/5s asked me questions about America. It was really nice. They told me a few things about their country. I found the discussion quite enriching.

Saw Paul, an Ed student and we had tea together. He told me where I could go and get my Youth Hostel card in London. Will do!

Dear Diary, March 12, 1971

A very trying day. I admonished my students on their tactlessness. They couldn’t take it. And so, like babies they went crying to Mrs. Beech saying I would not listen to ’em; I had overworked them, etc. What plurps me is that they didn’t come to me first. I have little respect for such immaturity. Mrs. Beech meant well; however, I feel she was a bit unprofessional to come to me and give me a lecture on their (students’) say so. Oh well, it’s over. However, I’m quite upset.

Yes, even a full-fledged captain had to learn to crawl (a baby/student teacher) before she could walk.

See you next week!

Monday, November 2, 2015

The English 101 Fall Cruise Week 8: Of Poems and Children's Short Stories

Captain's Log: Monday, November 2

Week 8

On Tuesday, the first item of business was to have the crew sign up for individual conferences for the next week, beginning on Tuesday and ending on Thursday. While meeting with each crewmember in another room so to maintain privacy, I shall have the crew as a whole working in groups. 

While in groups of three or four, they are to take on the task of working together to set up the outline and theme comparing and contrasting the following from the work Community College Students’ Literary Collage:

  1. Two poems
  2. Two of the children’s short stories
  3. Two characters in the children’s short stories

This task will take two days. There will be one grade per group. I have done this kind of activity on other cruises. It has proven to be very successful, especially in teaching comparison/contrast and making certain crewmembers really learn to implement this writing style. What about the possibility of a “shucker and jiver’ ” in the group? Well, before any new captain should try any group work, on the very first class meeting, s/he should establish clear authority and that no nonsense will be tolerated by any crewmember. Then, it is less likely that an irresponsible behavior will occur in group activities. Still, there is always the possibility of an aberration. So, I make it clear that I should be contacted via e-mail if such an aberration occurs. Then, I shall contact that crewmember to check on the situation. This type of back up “up front” disciplinary approach is effective.

After every crewmember signed up for conferences, the class session continued. I focused on discussing what would be expected for next week’s individual conferences. Every crewmember is to bring the following:

  1. The outline that would include parenthetical citations
  2. Only the first body paragraph for the research theme
  3. A works cited page covering only the sources mentioned in body paragraph 1

The outline format I have devised and used for years makes is effective in letting this captain determine the quality of the thesis sentence, topic sentences, examples being used, and the key sentences to be used in the concluding paragraphs. And with the paragraph, I shall get a good idea how well each crewmember will be setting up the research theme. 

On Thursday, I continued discussion about the research plan that is due next week. Then, the remainder of the session was focused on questions and answers regarding how to set up parenthetical citations and works cited entries for books and web articles. The handbook used has an extensive list of samples. Some crewmembers become overwhelmed. So, I have guided them to the samples that they are most likely to use. I sensed they felt more relieved. 

Next week, the individual conferences will take place. I look forward to them. Conferences give me an opportunity to give the kind of individual attention that I feel is paramount for a captain really to train future captains. It is in these conferences that I learn more about my crewmembers than just about their writing challenges. True rapport and bonding can take place. And that is what really helps one become an effective captain.

Something very special happened on Thursday. Two former student captains contacted me. One came into the session room after I dismissed the crew. He let me know he wanted to let me know that he was doing well in the 102 English Cruise. He wanted to let me know that I had prepared him for the advanced cruise. Then, another former crewmember sent me a note via his sister who is a member of this semester’s crew. I was so very touched. He let me know that I had, indeed, prepared him well. He decided that instead of becoming a captain he was entering a police academy. As long as he was able to implement what he had learned, I felt so good. These are the moments when I am reaffirmed that I have made the right choice to be an academic captain.

And to think this began so many years ago. . .

Dear Diary, March 5, 1971

I sat in the staff room and was entertained. They discussed a lot of hot topics. Indeed, the place to go, if ya’ want to be in the know is the Staff Room.

Dear Diary, March 7, 1971

Two months I have been here. That’s a long time. I hope the postal strike [yes, the UK was in the midst of national postal strike] ends. The postmen are voting today.

Dear Diary, March 8, 1971

The Postal Strike is officially over! Hallelujah! 

Dear Diary, March 9, 1971

A thrilling day with my students! My 4/5s really appreciates Romeo and Juliet. And my 2/3s are doing fine with their play. I am enjoying watching them.

Dear Diary, March 10, 1971

An ordinary day.

Mr. Pinion came in and observed my teaching my 2/1 class. He was quite pleased. He said I’d make a fine teacher. I’ll try God.

Well, that is a good way to end this blog entry. See you next week!


Monday, October 26, 2015

The English 101 Fall Cruise: Week 7: "Comparison and Contrast"


“My drug of choice is teaching. And the interaction with my crew/students is my medicine.” This was what I have told my crew. And this week happened to prove this to be very true.

I shall discuss the relevance of the above statement before this entry ends.

If you recall I tried a different technique presenting comparison and contrast. Instead of my lecturing about this style of writing, I wanted to see how well they would be able to discover how this style of writing is done by listening to the podcast I set for them and the sample presented in the handbook. They were to bring to this session their effort at setting up the outline and theme. How well did this work? Not well.

Yes, there always will be a few who figure it out. However, as a whole the crew found it frustrating having to compare and contrast the items assigned: “Gee, Captain, this was hard. I spent hours trying to figure out what made these characters the same and different. There were no concrete answers. I really had to think because the answers were not easily found.” I agreed. Having them try to compare and contrast two characters or two poems was challenging. Even having them compare and contrast two images was still difficult. As others shared their frustration and difficulty, I recognized they had tried, but they did, indeed, need lectures and more. 

So, I told them they could re-write this assignment. As they requested I gave them more choices. The rewritten comparison and contrast assignment could be about any two items—mother and father; parent and child; softball and baseball; etc. I saw relief on my crews’ faces. They could handle subjects of choice that were more familiar. They did not have to go into depth to ascertain the similarities and differences. They could handle the familiar, things they knew answers to, but not work with items that did not have specific, one answer to; that is what the original assignment required. 

Then, it dawned upon me that most of my crew were very young and very used to being tested and taught to pass standardized tests. Many experienced an educational system that forced teachers to teach to these tests. And these tests have negated, from my perspective, creative thinking and the ability actually to handle the realities of real life, where there were multiple answers, many that could not be found in a multiple choice set of pre-programmed answers. And that was the real challenge of the comparison/contrast assignment. As one of the crewmembers stated: “It was hard.” 

And their sharing and questions were a wonderful stimulant for me. They kept me on my academic toes. Then, a crewmember asked if I would say more about this work on Thursday, and my eyes began to water with tears.

Their medication lasted just for so long until the inquiry occurred. 

About five minutes before I was to walk into that crew session, I received a phone call from my superior stating I had to leave the ship and be hospitalized. Why? From a MRI searching for another health challenge, a blood clot was found near my heart. One might call me crazy, but I needed my “drug and medication”—teaching and the interaction with my crew/students. So, I attended the class session. 

Of course, I knew I had to stop the session and explain the reason for my tearing up. I did. I had to let them know there would be no training session on Thursday because I was pretty certain that I would not be out of the hospital by then. However, I did encourage them to send the re-written work to me via e-mail as attachments.

And, after my giving a clear but brief explanation (quite honestly, I did not know that much about my condition), I resumed teaching. And my crew, I knew, were wondering why I was there. I could see the expressions on their faces. At the end of this session, I wished them the best and reiterated that “teaching is my drug of choice, and, you, my crew/students, are my medication. That is why I am here, and, if I did not have to be hospitalized, I would be here on Thursday. However, even I have to follow orders.” Then, I dismissed the session.

Yes, even captains have personal lives. Still, as captain I did all I could not to stop teaching. So, while in the hospital, I graded work sent to me. Indeed, the hospital staff remarked about my devotion to my crew. However, I just told them that this was a different way I was getting my “drug of choice.”

Now, let me reflect on many years ago…

Dear Diary, March 2, 1971

Today my classes were great! The guys of 4/5s really enjoyed the way I am teaching Romeo and Juliet. This made me feel good. I look forward to reaching this class every time.

Dear Diary, March 3, 1971

A busy and decent day.

Dear Diary, March 4, 1971

My 4/5 class really socked it to me. Their discussion topic was “Sex.” They touched on every point. I was surprised, shocked, informed, and humored.

The ignorance of some of my students about certain basics surprised me. To think a 15 year-old girl states that a girl cannot get pregnant the first time of sexual intercourse. These girls and guys will be leaving school soon. Something should be done.

The guys’ opinions were shocking. Young 15 year-olds already resolving themselves to the fact that after two years of marriage one’s wife becomes frigid and it’s ok to go out with other women to have sex when wife is pregnant. Good Lord, what next?

Yes, what next, indeed? See you next week! 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The English 101 Fall Cruise: Week 6: "Standard English Dialect"

Captain's Log: October 21, 2015

On Tuesday, the crew submitted their outlines and themes. As you might recall they were to discuss three messages contained in the five adult short stories. Hopefully, the discussion in the literary circles and, then, an open discussion about possible messages in the previous Thursday’s class would provide sufficient material for them to write the paper. 

I could tell there was sense of relief by many of them when they submitted their work. This was their first assignment in which I would grade the content presentation and mechanics presentation. 

Upon garnering the papers, I turned my attention to the mechanics. There was a sheet that I had given them a few weeks ago. It had a compilation of various grammatical errors they had made on the first paper submitted. No names were attributed to any of the errors. I had them get into the same literary groups (I believed that familiarity would be good in this case). Then, they worked to correct the errors. 

I walked around listening to their efforts to figure out what the errors were and how they should be corrected. Very seldom did they ask me for help. Great! The only way anyone could really learn, s/he must actively be in the process of trying to learn (figuring it out for himself/herself) after guidance has been given. I had given this guidance in an earlier crew meeting. Furthermore, with the written work submitted, I would point out and identify the mechanics errors and suggest chapters in the handbook they should consult that explained the error and how it could be corrected. So, I made certain crewmembers were not left in an academic canoe without a resourceful paddle.

I timed the discussion for the different errors, beginning with those with a comma. Then, after each timed interval, groups would share their answers. I would let them know if they were correct and make certain they knew WHY they were or were not correct. This proved valuable. So, toward the end of this Tuesday crew meeting, I instructed that they come to the Thursday meeting prepared to continue the discussion about the other errors.

On Thursday, they did. They got back into their groups. And the same format of timed discussions, sharing of answers, and receiving of my feedback occurred. When we moved to the errors that involved pronouns and verbs, I took more time giving feedback. I pointed to them how they could avoid, for example, unclear antecedent errors and pronoun-antecedent errors. These have always been the bane of many crewmembers past and present. 

Another major issue has been the difficulty with the use of 3rd person singular verbs and present and past participle verbs. And these errors have become more pronounced when crew members would write sentences containing irregular verbs. It's not uncommon to have have sentences like the following: “I seen the man”; “I done seen the man”; “I did saw the man”; “I have took the job”; “She has wrote the paper.” 

All grammar textbooks address these issues. Bare Essentials, 15th edition, the one used by this captain does so, too. It has an extensive list of irregular verbs in their four major groups and the helping verbs that go with each group as well noting the one group that does not ever have a helping verb before it. 

One example would be the following:

Group One Group Two Group Three Group Four

see saw seeing seen

The list of helping verbs for each Main Group is presented, for example:

Group One Helping Verb Group Three Helping Verb Group Four Helping Verb

do is has/have/had

There is a note making it clear that no Group Two Main Verb has a helping verb before it.

So, in this way, I explained and justified why some of the structures commonly written were not correct Standard English dialect structures. Yes, note that I use the term “Standard English dialect.” I believe very strongly that other dialects are very legitimate and are more than appropriate to use. Still, I have made it clear that the academic cruise line I am hired by requires that I teach them to master the Standard English dialect. 

Like it or not, this is the dialect one needs to master to navigate successfully in continued academic work and in corporate America. Still, I encourage that they learn and appreciate various dialects and know when it is appropriate to use different dialects, depending on the environment they are a part at a given time. 

The ability to code switch should be a language skills they learn to implement. And throughout my teaching, I continuously code switch while conducting sessions. Still, they were grasping the necessity to understand the rules of the dialect this cruise line commissioned me to teach.

Yes, there are the helping verbs if one would choose to use the passive. I note that “is seen” is correct. Yet, since writers should avoid the use of passive voice structures, it is preferable for the crew to implement the use of active voice structures when writing. So, for the Group Four Main Verbs, I encourage them to use any of the Group Four Helping Verbs with the Group Four Main Verbs that will keep their verbs in the active voice.

In about midpoint of this crew session, I gave them back their outlines and themes. Oh, for the most part, they did well. The mechanics corrections they saw on their papers began to mean even more, and the discussion I had presented about the verbs and pronouns became even more relevant to them. Then, I encouraged and answered questions they had about their own particular papers. 

Next, as the session was getting close to the end, it was time to move to a different writing assignment that was to be submitted at next week’s Tuesday meeting—comparison and contrast. I have taught this method so many times—lecture, provide the sample in the handbook, entertain questions, and give the assignment. I did not follow this pattern. I wanted to see just how well they would use their critical thinking skills with the help of the discussion and sample outline and theme provided in the handbook. 

After reading the children’s short stories and poems in Community College Students’ Literary Collage, they were to choose from one of the following:

  1. Compare and Contrast two characters in any of the short stories;
  2. Compare and Contrast two poems from that same book;
  3. Something different, choose from the over 40 color images on the pass-protected site of Bare Essentials and compare and contrast any two of those images—their choice of images.
So, I was doing something totally different. I wanted them to use their inductive reasoning skills to develop the outline and paper based on what the handbook presented without my lecture. Um, let’s see what will happen!

Now, let’s look back when I was an academic fledgling/student teacher in Sheffield, England at Jordanthorpe and, yes, mishaps did occur that had little to do with teaching but a lot about learning how to live and take responsibility for these mishaps.

Dear Diary, February 24, 1971

The discussion on drug addiction wasn’t so successful. They [4/5s] had not read up on the issue as I had suggested. However, I shook them up a bit. I really enjoy teaching.

Ash Wednesday—I fasted.

I started it off with a splash. I didn’t plug my hot water bottle tightly [to make a long story short, during my stay I slept with a hot water bottle since there was no heat in the bedroom]. I woke up this morn with a soaking wet bed and me. Of course, Mrs. Hendy [her name was Mrs. Henderson; she and her husband were whom I stayed with during my exchange visit; she preferred to be called “Mrs. Hendy”; she and her husband were very nice.] was panicked when I told her. However, when I returned home from a day of teaching, the mattress was dried and ok. I offered to pay for it; however, she said it was ok.

Mr. Pinion came in to see me teach and was pleased. He gave me some good points of criticism.

Dear Diary, February 25, 1971

Another hardworking, however, rather satisfying day. I presented ROMEO AND JULIET to my 4/5s. I used the album WEST SIDE STORY with it. They really appreciated it, and they learned something, also. That’s the most important thing.

For years I have thought of teaching it this way and, now, I know it really works.

Ok, let’s see what happens next week in 2015 and what occurred so many years ago. Every experience leads to growth. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

The English 101 Fall Cruise – Week 5: Despite Illness, The Captain Forges On

Captain's Log: October 12, 2015

I began this week “sick as three dead dogs.” I spent the Saturday all day in Emergency with severe abdominal pains. After the blood tests, the scheduled drinking of a solution, upheaving of the liquid solution, re-scheduled drinking of the solution, preparing me for a CAT Scan, and, finally, the CAT Scan, a doctor gave the diagnosis of my malady—severe diverticulitis. So, the remainder of the weekend, I chose very carefully what I would eat. Oh, this little health challenge sparked another one—chronic back pain. Yes, I definitely felt the “rudder on this captain’s ship” was in serious need of repair.

Why have I shared this? So, many times (perhaps, as captains we promote this falsehood), that captains/teachers do not have lives besides preparing lessons and checking papers. And even my blogs may have given this impression. As professionals everyday we must walk in that crew session prepared in spite of personal situations; that is what we are being paid for; that is what I teach my crew—not by words but by actions—by my very presence and “giving-it-my-all” attitude. And that was what my crew witnessed on Tuesday, not a martyr but a professional “taking care of business in spite of.” 

By no means would I expect a crewmember to attend a meeting or conduct one if severely ill. I would consider that silly. For me, teaching is “my drug of choice.” On the very first day of my meeting my crew, I told them: “I shall work to give you 200% effort, so, when I am ill, you will get 100%. And when I “croak,” you will get 75%—yup, I shall try to teach you even from that ‘ship in the sky.’ ”

So, why this passion? For beginner trainees many have not been used to committing themselves to anything, most definitely, not their studies. Some have come from family backgrounds that have demonstrated little “stick to something” or have not seen loved ones maintain a job for a length or time, sometimes, due to past economic challenges or personal weaknesses. 

For many, education has not been the highest priority in their environment or for themselves. So, a captain of a college training cruise, beginner’s training course for new enlistees, might be the first person whom they get a steady dose of “no foolin’ around and no parents will be comin’ on board to intimidate the teacher or not even show any support at all.” In a college training ship, the captain does rule. Expectations will be high of, not only of the student crewmember,  but of the captain, too.

I could tell from last week’s meetings that I had set the bar high and they were starting to rise up to it. In other words, I had set the tone with my own mixture of humor, hard work, and high expectations. Missing this early in the cruise unless I was totally bedridden was not an option I wanted to choose. I did not want to miss the Tuesday meeting. I did not.

And when I entered that crewmember meeting, not walking as quickly but walking, and I saw their faces there all ready to learn, I knew I made the right choice. They had their first full papers with outlines placed on a front desk as I had instructed (at last Thursday’s crew meeting) they should do. And it was very evident they were ready to discuss what they had written as well as work on a grammar exercise I had given them. I placed them in groups to share answers; then, I asked various groups for their answers. And I let them know if they were correct.

Yes, I knew from their faces they were concerned. So, I did not ignore the “elephant in the room”—me. I stated: “Well, you recall my saying I would give you 200% every day and 100% whenever ill. Today, you will be getting the 100%.” They smiled, and the session continued.