Monthly Archives: February 2017

Tara Olivero: Teacher at Homestead High School and Writer at Book Riot

Tara Olivero is a teacher at Homestead High School in Fort Wayne and a contributing writer at Book Riot. She graduated from Ball State in 2014 with a degree in English Education. In this post, she discusses her job as a high school English teacher and how her time at #bsuenglish helped her find her passion for teaching.

How would you describe your job?

My main career will always be my teaching career – I’m in my third year of teaching in Fort Wayne at Homestead High School. As any other high school teacher knows, it’s an exhausting job but one that’s personally satisfying beyond all compare. I also have two side-gigs outside of teaching. I’m a contributor at Book Riot, which I really love because it gives me a platform for my own writing. And my “purely for fun” job is that I work at an Escape Room in Fort Wayne on the weekends; I also write blog posts for the Escape Room’s website.

What’s a typical work day like for you?

I usually try to get to school between 6 and 6:30, so I can set up all the documents I need and make copies for students who have laptop issues. That’s when I don’t oversleep, of course. I teach five classes of freshman high school English, where we do the standard reading/writing you’d expect. I also teach one class of juniors and seniors in Film Literature, Tara Oliverowhich is essentially how to write thoughtful and critical analysis of films. After school, I’m usually still there until 4 or 5, either running one of the clubs I sponsor (including the school’s Creative Writing Club) or helping the theatre department with costuming. At the end of the day, I’ll finally head home to grade papers, work on my current Book Riot pieces, or pet my cat.

How did your English major affect your career path?

I know for a fact that I wouldn’t have the teaching position I have today without an English major. One of the strengths I bring to the table in terms of serving my students IS my English content knowledge. While I’m always trying to work on improving my teaching strategies, inclusion of technology, etc., I know I never have to worry that I’m not hitting at the heart of the books we read in my classes and the structure and content of the essays my students write.

When I was student teaching, I was overwhelmed with the experience, too. I didn’t realize how stressful it would be until I was already in it, but I knew that I wanted to teach English more than anything. I was armed with so much knowledge from my English classes, and I knew how painful it was to be in non-English classes at Ball State and see that writing was something that plenty of other students desperately needed to work on. All of that made me want to teach English even more. Reading comprehension, critical analysis, and the ability to put that comprehension and analysis into words are some of the most important skills high school students need to master, so I’m honored to have a part in that now.

What skills did you pick up in your major that have proved useful in your job?

The English Department did a bang-up job helping me hone my analytical writing skills. Until I started teaching Film Lit, I didn’t realize how helpful it was that I can actually write well. I’m able to show my students examples of my own analytical writing that they can use as models for specific tasks, which is nice.

The instruction I received in my writing classes also helped me hone my style and build my confidence in my own writing. The voice present in my writing and my passion for literature, both of which grew throughout my time as an undergraduate, helped me land a spot as a Book Riot contributor. For the longest time in college, I was a “quasi” book blogger; I ran a YA book blog but didn’t interact much with the blogosphere because I was intimidated. I feel like I can run with that crowd now and not feel inadequate, which is partially because all of the Book Riot people are lovely individuals and partly because I know I’m now a decent writer when I put in the time and care about what I’m writing.

Is there a particular class or professional opportunity that you remember having a big impact on you?

The young adult literature class impacted both the way I teach English, especially the way I run the student-chosen summer reading activities in class in the fall, and my experience writing for Book Riot as a critical reader of YA fiction. The ideas that were covered in that class – how to talk about tough subject material, how to tie in relevant current events, etc. – were more helpful than I could have anticipated. I also know that the entire education program, but specifically the English education classes, helped prepare me for how to design the best reading and writing lessons that I can.

What advice would you give current English majors?

If you’re trying to get onto a writing staff, be brave and apply when there are job openings, even if you think you won’t be good enough! You never know until you try. Write your passions and your voice will come through.

The Twittersphere is on fire right now, and Book Twitter is one of the greatest social platforms you can engage in. There is so much critical analysis happening in 140 characters, it’s madness. So find some authors, publishers, book bloggers, etc., to follow so you can get in on all of that action. It’ll also help you make connections that can further your own aspirations once you graduate.

Save all of your notes! I had to teach The Scarlet Letter my first year at Homestead, and I knew I had taken such great notes in Dr. Habich‘s class, but I tragically couldn’t ever find them.

Morgan Gross on Balancing Work and Life as a Grad Student

Morgan Gross is a current #bsuenglish graduate student pursuing a PhD in Rhetoric and Composition. Below, you can view a video starring Morgan and detailing “A Day in the Life of a Grad Student.”

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4sXqNEWUk4&w=560&h=315]

Originally from Texas, Morgan has taken the opportunity in her new home to make many long lasting friendships, including current grad student Kelsie Walker and #bsuenglish alum Elisabeth Buck. She provides advice for students considering graduate study below.

gross.jpgGrad school is HARD. I’m going to say it again, for emphasis. Grad school is REALLY HARD. My work keeps me busy, for sure, and my life isn’t all just fun and friends. In the video, you can see me walking around campus, teaching ENG 213 Intro to Digital Literacies, and studying, studying, studying for my comprehensive exams, which I took in January 2017 and passed! You’ll often hear people talk about grad school as isolating. After you finish course work, that’s kind of true. I read something like 125 books/articles just to prepare for my exams. Now I’m working on the dissertation, which boils down to engaging in an extensive research project and then writing, essentially, a book. That’s a lot of quiet time, a lot of introspection that I’m engaged in for the final two years (let’s hope) of my degree. Of course, it’s work that I (almost always) enjoy, feel excited about, and find meaningful.

I guess I’m promoting an idea in this blog post that likely won’t be new to you. The idea is that we strive for balance in all that we do, and the grad school experience is no exception. I work hard at school and my assistantship—often long hours, in chairs that hurt my body, and occasionally with doubts about the payoff. But I also enjoy my life, and friends are such an important part of that. As often as possible, I try to find ways in which I can bring business and pleasure together. From working quietly at a café next to each other, to attending and presenting at conferences, to co-authoring a book chapter for publication, I’ve been able to merge my friendships with my academic interests and pursuits. For some, you might prefer to keep the two separate from each other, but for me, having shared interests with my grad school besties invigorates and motivates my scholarly/professional life.

Here’s my shout out moment: Elisabeth and Kelsie, you two have commiserated with me during the difficult moments, you’ve offered distractions when I really needed them (and, let’s be honest, sometimes when I didn’t), and you’ve started with me what I know will continue on as lifelong friendships. My hope for any potential grad students reading this is that you’ll find new friends in your grad program who will do these same things for you. My advice to potential grad students is that you build your own luck by putting yourself out there and taking chances. Ball State offers plenty of opportunities to get involved and meet people—via the Grad School, the English department, the Writing Program community, and so on. You might be surprised at how well it turns out.

Meet Our New Academic Advisor, Jennifer Wells

New #bsuenglish academic advisor Jennifer Wells earned her undergraduate degree from Ohio State in 1990. She was always interested in liberal arts, but started out as a film major before she chose to pursue an art history major. She has a passion for studying abroad that she hopes to share with her students. 

preview-chat-jennifer-wellsWhat are your office hours?

My office hours are Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5 pm. Occasionally, I have meetings on Wednesdays, so Wednesday mornings usually aren’t good. A lot of students schedule appointments. But if somebody walks in and I’m free, I am happy to see them.

What are you currently reading, if anything?

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. You need to read that book! It’s a real story. And it’s about a woman who, back in the 50s, had ovarian cancer and the hospital took some cells from her. She eventually passed away, but her cancer cells grew like nothing they had ever seen. So they started using her cells to do experiments on and they’ve made all this medical progress just from her cells. And it talks about her family and how they didn’t know the hospital was doing this and it gets into a real medical-ethics murky area. Lacks’s cells are still alive. Her cells are still growing from the 50s. They just keep regenerating and regenerating and growing new cells.

What is a book that you think everyone should read?

I have a book that I love. It’s fiction. It’s very small, it’s a very quick read. But it’s called Rain by Kirsty Gunn. It was something I just picked up on a fluke at a bookstore. I read it and I was drawn right in. It was just something I completely related to (even though it takes place in New Zealand and I have no experience in New Zealand). I still felt like I was right there. It was about a twelve year old girl and her family.

What are the biggest mistakes that you notice students tending to make?

Probably the biggest one we see here is waiting too long to take the Writing Proficiency Exam or not even realizing that students have to take the exam. Another common mistake is that students wait too long to come see me before registration. So they’re waiting until the last minute and then they can’t get in. I think it’s a good idea just generally to check in with me. I want to know that you’re okay and things are going okay, even if it’s boring or you don’t really have anything to talk about. And it helps me to get to know the students.

Are you working on any projects at the moment?

Really, I’m still just learning. They want us to update the four year plans for students on DegreeWorks. So I’m kind of getting used to that. I have other advisors I talk to and we all help each other. I don’t really have other projects yet. I know we are going to be looking at doing some group advising  before summer and fall registration starts, so hopefully we’ll have some more information about that coming up soon.

What are some of your hobbies and interests?

I have always been interested in art. So, I do paint, I do a little bit of sculpture. And back home in Columbus, my family is involved with a scholarship at Ohio State. It involves making a gigantic cake shaped like Ohio Stadium. It’s about a 300-pound cake. My cousin started it as a dare one year. We’re still doing it 26 years later. I paint all the little figures we put in the stadium and around the stadium. It takes nine of us about a week (with people taking off work and everything). We’ve raised more the $150,000 for students and it goes straight into a scholarship fund.

What piece of advice would you offer your students?

Don’t be shy to ask for help. The one thing virtually every other former college student I ever talked to says, “I wish I would have taken advantage of the resources I had in college. Why didn’t I do that? I should in the writing center, I should have been in the math tutoring center. I should have been in all of that.”

Patrick Collier on "Everyday Life in Middletown"

In this interview, #bsuenglish professor Patrick Collier discusses his Virginia Ball Center seminar “Everyday Life in Middletown.”

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What did the project entail?

These Virginia Ball seminars are semester-long projects where students get up to 15 credits for their participation, the teacher gets a fellowship, and that gets him or her out of teaching responsibility or any other responsibility on campus. The subject of the seminar was “Everyday Life in Middletown.” Middletown, I assume you know, is Muncie. There’s this history of Muncie being referred to as Middletown since the ’20s when the Lynds did their sociological study in Muncie and it became a national best-seller.

The idea of the seminar was that we would bring the theoretical tools of the study of everyday life to the study of Muncie, or Middletown. Everyday Life Studies is an interdisciplinary field that has been developing over the last couple of decades. … It studies the stuff that actually typically escapes notice in history and in other academic fields. Everyday life is the stuff that tends to go unrecorded. We do actually spend the vast majority of our waking lifetime being in everyday things but they aren’t the things that “make up our life stories.” The whole idea of Everyday Life Studies is to try to record what everyday life is like and analyze what everyday life is like. A big part of Everyday Life Studies has evolved into coming up with ways of studying it. … It’s been developing as an academic field over the last 20 years or so.

To put it in a nutshell, the Virginia Ball seminar really has three components: one is the theory of everyday life, the other is the whole Muncie/Middletown phenomenon, and the third is the products that we developed out of the seminar. One was this documentary film, and the other is this website that is kind of an archive of everyday life in Muncie as we perceived it. Roughly, we spent the first month of the class studying theory of everyday life. We spent the next four or five weeks doing a study where we recruited informants, people who live in town who were willing to record their everyday lives for us. They kept day diaries that they wrote once a week, sort of recording everything they did, and answered questionnaires that we sent them once a week asking them a bunch of questions about their everyday lives. The remainder of the semester we spent developing the website and finding ways of representing that data and finishing the film.

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Professor Mike Donnelly Publishes Book (And More December/January Good News)

Prof. Mike Donnelly‘s book, Freedom of Speech and the Function of Rhetoric in the United States, was released on December Donnelly book15.

Prof. Jill Christman recently had two essays published: “The Alligator and the Baby” in TriQuarterly and “This Story” in Phoebe: A Journal of Literature & Art Since 1971Prof. Christman is also chairing the conference committee for AWP this year and will be delivering a welcome address on the opening night of the conference.

Prof. Lyn Jones‘ immersive learning class explored #blacklivesmatter for Rethinking Children’s and YA Lit. Their magazine is out now! Download the BSU NOW app to read the #blacklivesmatter edition.

Prof. Pete Davis‘ fourth book of poetry, Band Names, will be published this fall.

Prof. Matt Mullins had two filmpoems (“Aubade” and “After Image”) screened at the 5th Annual International Video Poetry Festival in Athens, Greece.

Prof. Mai Kuha is serving on the steering committee of the newly formed Ecolinguistics Association.

Prof. Emily Rutter published “Contested Lineages: Fred Moten, Terrance Hayes, and the Legacy of Amiri Baraka” in the African American Review (vol. 49, no. 4).

Recent #bsuenglish graduate Lauren Birkey (December 2016) was hired at Spotted Monkey Marketing in Muncie. Go Lauren!

#bsuenglish student Elyse Lowery had three poems; “Crosshatch”, “Blood and Diamonds” and “Five Cigars;” accepted for publication by The 3288 Review. They will be published in late February 2017.

Students Brittany Mayfield, Josh Mooshian, and Julia Robben presented a project called “Mock Spanish” at the Unity Connections Conference on January 21, and they facilitated a substantial discussion on linguistic diversity and inclusion following their talk. The project was inspired by Prof. Kuha’s ENG 220 (Language and Society).

#bsuenglish MA graduate Heather Gemmen Wilson recently had two pieces, “How to Deceive Yourself” and “Divine Tantrums” published.