It is finally sinking in: I am graduating on May 14, 2021! Winter 2020 has been a dark struggle for me as well as for everyone else. But I managed to survive. The pandemi years have been a test of our resolve, and there had been time, I have been mentally exhausted, lying on my bed, defeated and bone tired. Now I see the light: submitting my MA Thesis, graduation, and summer. I am getting excited to be walking with my fellow graduate students, while our proud graduate advisor, Dr. Zamora, cheer us on. Thank you, Dr. Zamora, for your empathy, compassion, and support!
Wearing a Mask for 6 Hours a Day and Revisiting my Literature Review
Monday, April 19, was the first day of a regular in-person school day. It was nice to see my students, but I also saw the repercussions of remote learning, which is the addictive urge to be on one’s phone, checking notifications. I had to remind my students, even the best of them, to put their phones away. Trust me, I have also developed this nasty habit of checking my phone when I am bored. By being mindful of my habit will help me, along with my students, to break this habit. Also, I am getting used to wearing a mask for the entire work day: from 7AM to 2:30 PM. At the end of the day, I rush to my car at the end of the day, I rip off my mask. It is difficult to teach with a mask on. Throughout the day, I find myself struggling to communicate with the students.
“Can you repeat that?”
“What did you say?”
In response to this problem, I find myself using my visuals, more slides, more JamBoards, more written words.
As for my research proposal, I went to check to see if there were any updates in my research areas of online grammar checkers that was not already noted on my Literature Review. And I could not find any other research. So, I spent more time revising and editing my Master’s Thesis in preparation for peer review tonight.
Since my return from Spring Break, I have been experiencing some spring blues. Although it is officially Spring, it has been chilly and rainy outside. The weather to an extent impacts my mental health; on sunnier days, I tend to feel happier, while on dark, gloomy days, I feel tired and sad. I am tired on my quarantine routine. To add to my anxiety, we are returning back to school on April 19 with a full-day schedule with a 20-minute lunch break. We have been following a Hybrid Schedule with a 1-hour break and with an early dismissal on Wednesdays for deep cleaning. For some reason, we do not need deep cleaning on Wednesdays anymore? Also, during this period, I am trying to finalize third-marking grades and to file my 2020-2021 taxes. This past week I have been busy tending to mundane tasks, so I was only able to edit my passion project. I look forward to listening to Ryan’s project.
On a whim one cold October I bought a bag of 50 daffodils. The firm, sturdy bulbs I carefully planted on my yard as if I was planted buried gold. My neighbors even stopped by to ask, “What are up to?” Yes, I was always up to something, some project, some reason to be outdoor during the pandemic. Or as other neighbor said to my daughter, “Your mother enjoys toiling on the land.” I like that imagery. Nonetheless, I waited after two snowstorms, worried about my bulbs, knowing that there were asleep with warm organic fertilizer on top of them protecting them from the wrath of Mother Nature.
Writing just like planting daffodils is a slow process. It requires patience. Now, I am see the fruits, or shall I say, the daffodils of my labor. Their tiny roots are now bursting from the ground, as I greet them with a huge grin. “I have been waiting for you.”
My writing has been slow and steady, and I continue to polish my writing as I reach the final stages of my writing process. I realized that my writing process very fluid: brainstorm, research, outlining, more research, read, revise. write, reread, and first draft, second draft, and now third draft. My deadline is May 3.
Here is a brief update: : No Zoom meetings. No technical glitches. No MIA students. No creating lessons. No stress. I am devoting this week to revising my article. I am excited to revise and edit tonight with my writing partner. I am also excited to listen to my classmates’ presentations, which are little bits of themselves.
(P.S. I am excited to share a link of a draft of my article.)
This week was productive in terms of working on the oral presentation , submitting in the thesis for the 3-Minute Thesis Competition, and registering for my in-person graduation in May. I am accepted my invitation for the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society. I have been writing a draft of my scholar article in hopes of submitting it by May 2021.
In the backdrop, I was thinking of victims of March 16 Atlanta Spa shooting. Then I scan the headlines, “Hate Toward Anti-American Women.” Why hate toward Asian women? According to Russell Jeung, professor of Asian American studies at San Francisco State University, he believes that “there is an intersectional dynamic going on that others may perceive both Asians and women and Asian women as easier targets,” he said. Research shows that Asian women are perceived as “meek,” so they are easy targets.
Am I a target? When I was shopping at the Lotte Asian Market I thought about a possible shooter in the supermarket. I shuddered at the thought and ran to my car and locked my door. I also thought of adding pepper spray to my arsenal of hand sanitizer, Lysol spray, and Clorox wipes. I am still deciding on whether to purchase the pepper spray. I always safe in my neighbor, perhaps my most dangerous encounter was a deer on my block.
And I thought 2020 ended, but it seems that this is a consequence of all the Chinese virus and Kung-fu virus rhetoric of 2020. It appears that 2020 and all its implication will not fade, even with hope of the vaccine and return to normalcy. It brought out suppressed hate, fear, and darkness.
Yesterday I watched sadly the shooting in King’s in Boulder, Colorado.
On Sunday, March 14, 2021, my analog atomic wall clocks and cell phone clocks in my house were automatically and efficiently adjusted to Daylight Savings Time. As for my natural rhythms, no so much. I have been feeling more tired than last week, and my students are also complaining of being tired during our daily check-ins. I told them that it will a tough two weeks ahead of us with cold, dark days; today we had light snow drizzles and the temperature dropped. We are counting the days until our much needed Spring Break. I am trying my best to motivate myself so that I can motivate them. Every day is a struggle.
As for my thesis, I am proud to say that I am in the process of registering for Research Day and plan to submit my thesis for the Thesis Competition. After my presenting my research and receiving feedback from Dr. Zamora, I am revising my scholarly article by adding signposts to organize the three parts of my article: Introduction, Autoethnographic Short Story, and Research. I will post a draft by the end of the week.
José’s ten. Looks six by size, twenty in the eyes.
Down the school-morning street José ambles along dotted lines of busses and cars spitting exhaust like expletives. They disturb his meditation, a few final moments of peace.
José is frail but upright. Smartly stitched hand-me-downs hang from his slenderness. Soles flop beneath battered shoes, long worn but hanging on if only by a lace.
José pauses in the schoolyard where fairer kids laugh and scurry unaware of this, his battle; of this, his burden; of these, his borderlands. Behind him: cracked sidewalks, frosted nights, belonging. Before him: playgrounds manicured, classrooms heated against some sorts of cold, earnest lessons about a world that doesn’t see him.
Still José moves forward; what feels in his stomach a backward sort of forward.
Pausing in the doorway José straightens his shirt, trying to dust away the stains of ancestry.
Pausing in the doorway José clears his throat, trying to spit away his alien voice.
Only then, becoming Joey, he crosses into school.
(Republished with permission from Paul C. Gorski)
This poem speaks to me in so many ways in that it reminds me –and so many others–immigrant story. Growing up. I was given a name “Tu Nhi” or in translation, First Born. It was a respectful name that conveyed my birth order and the significance of my position as the eldest of three children. My siblings were Chieu and Tu Lan. Second-born and third-born did not carry as much significance as first-born.
When we started school in Morrisville, Pennsylvania after arrival from a Malaysian refugee camp in the 1979. I skipped kindergarten and started first grade. Throughout my educational experience, my first days always went like this:
My teacher was struggling to pronounce my name, so I stepped in to help. That always been my first-day-of-school experience, which I do not bemoan. However, when I was a senior in college, trying to find a good job with medical insurance, I got another collective societal response.
“Mr. Pham, we regret to inform…”
Suddenly, I became my Dad, Mr. Pham. My name was foreign, difficult to spell, even more difficult to pronounce, and gender neutral. After sending 30-40 resumes, I realized that my name was “too foreign” for Human Resources personnel. So, I conducted an experiment. I sent out resumes with different first names: Elizabeth Pham, Samantha Pham, Anna Pham.
One weekend when I was home from college, I casually asked my aunt which name she liked. Without hesitation, she said, “Linda.”
So, I started sending out resumes with “Linda Pham,” and it worked! I had several interviews and finally landed a job with Prentice Hall. Go figure. I did not change anything else on my resume except my first name.
I have been experiencing more headaches in the past couple of days and couldn’t discern the reason for these headaches. It wasn’t my time of the month nor was I dehydrated. I was popping two Extra Strength Tylenols every six hours, then I became worried that I was taking too many painkillers. What was causing these headaches? I thought with dread, brain tumor? I needed to nap. After my nap, I was stressed that I did not complete grading my students’ quizzes nor did I work on my research proposal nor did I wash a load clothes. I just slept, and afterwards, I still had my headache. I groggily got up of bed, stumbling to the bathroom.
Today I had an especially good day, a headache-free day. I completed a lot of items on my To-Do List and did not have to take any medication. I went outside to shovel the slushy snow provided with me with much-needed fresh air. After some manual labor, I felt energized, ready to check off more items on my laundry list.
When I am overwhelmed, I get stressed and when I get stressed, I get anxiety, which triggers headaches; and I have been experiencing anxiety since March 2021. However, the headaches are now less frequent since my family have all been vaccinated and have adjusted to pandemic life. We will continue wearing masks and social distancing. So, life continues; so, the research proposal continues.
I revisited my Central Inquiry and revised my slideshow for my upcoming March 9 presentation. I wanted to recenter myself so I do not lose some sight of my purpose and felt that I was going down this proverbial research rabbit hole.
Central Inquiry: Critics argue that students mechanically accept suggestions from online grammar checkers without understanding the grammatical underpinnings. Although some students may mindlessly accept editing suggestions, online grammar checkers, similar to calculators, are actually tools of empowerment that help provide equity in the classroom and support learners who lack cultural and linguistic capital. (Working Thesis)
In terms of research, I checked to see if there was any no research published on online grammar checkers. No, there was not. Then I wanted research to help me answer, Why should we care about educational equity? Enters Paul Gorski who reminds me that “We have the power, and of course, the responsibility to ensure we do not reproduce inequitable conditions in our own classrooms and in our schools.” I am going to continue reading Gorski’s book Reaching and Teaching Students in Poverty: Strategies for Erasing the Opportunity and working on my autoethnographic short story.
-Wallace examines the power dynamics in American usage. He argues that the elite, the
SNOOTS (or grammar snobs), are the authority in terms of usage. They determine right
and wrong in American usage, which is problematic in writing studies since the writing
authorities are generally white and male. In the writing classroom, the authority is white
Semke, Harriet D. “Effects of the Red Pen.” Foreign Language Annals, vol. 17, no. 3, 1984, pp. 195–202, doi:10.1111/j.1944-9720.1984.tb01727.x.
– Semke shows that students’ writing skills improve with a combination of positive
comments corrections on their papers.
Delpit, Lisa D. The Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy in Educating Other People’s Children. 1988, doi:10.17763/haer.58.3.c43481778r528qw4.
– Delpit examines the culture of power in the classroom and in writing pedagogy. She
argues for a student-centered classroom and writing as a process. She presents a
divergent perspective of white writing teachers teaching other people’s children and
how faculty of color are often marginalized in their professions, which is quite
problematic since divergent points of view are dismissed, rejected, and suppressed.
Ferenz, Orna. “EFL Writers’ Social Networks: Impact on Advanced Academic Literacy Development.” Journal of English for Academic Purposes, vol. 4, no. 4, Oct. 2005, pp. 339–51, doi:10.1016/j.jeap.2005.07.002.
-Using human ecology theory, Fernez examines how ESL students’ social
environment (a network of friends, classmates, and co-workers) impact the students’
acquisition of advanced literacy skills. However, if marginalized students lack the
linguistic capital at home and do not have access to writing tools at school, then they
are to hone their advanced literacy skills.
Pitard, Jayne. “Using Vignettes Within Autoethnography to Explore Layers of Cross-Cultural Awareness as a Teacher.” Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, vol. 17, no. 1, Nov. 2015, doi:10.17169/fqs-17.1.2393.
– Pitard uses vignettes (or anecdotes) to serve as a “window” into a different culture. She distinguishes autoethnographies from short stories by connecting the self to the larger cultural text, and the self to the larger social context. Since I am interested in the larger context of writing pedagogy, I am planning to write an autoethnographic short story.
Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed: 50th Anniversary Edition. Bloomsbury Publishing
-Freire Argues for liberation of the oppressed by breaking the chains of a
conventional education that focuses on memorization. Instead, education should focus
on problem-solving and critical thinking skills. He encourages dialogue between
the teacher and the student.
The Problem of Othering: Towards Inclusiveness and Belonging. (2017, June 29). Othering and
McCracken provides background on the founders of Grammarly, Max Lytvyn and Alex Shevchenko, who want people to write well. The writer Harry McKraken who writes for a living uses Grammarly to help him find errors.
Moré, J. (2006). A grammar checker based on web searching. Digithum, 8, 1–5.
Naber, D. (2003). A rule-based style and grammar checker. Citeseer.
On Students’ Rights to Their Own Texts: A Model of Teacher Response on JSTOR. (n.d.).
Retrieved May 11, 2020, from
-Moré claims that teachers should treat students’ writing with respect. The teacher should
return control of writing to the students by adopting the mindset of helping the student
improve as a writing and not comparing the students’ writing to an Ideal text.
Potter, R., & Fuller, D. (2008). My New Teaching Partner? Using the Grammar Checker in
Writing Instruction. The English Journal, 98(1), 36–41. JSTOR.
-A seventh-grade teacher, Reva Potter, describes her positive experience of teaching
online grammar checker. She concludes by saying that she can teach technology
and writing simultaneously.
A Phenomenological Research Design Illustrated-Thomas Groenewald, 2004. (n.d.). Retrieved
I was introduced to Paul Gorski’s “Becoming Joe,” which was a poetic loom at the process of assimilation of Jose. As I read the poem, I am reminded of my name and how strangers struggle with my name Tunhi, which prompted me to informally change it to “Linda.”
hooks, bell. Teaching To Transgress. United States, Taylor & Francis, 2014.
Noddings, Nel. Happiness and Education. Cambridge University Press, 2003.
Gorski, Paul C.. Reaching and Teaching Students in Poverty: Strategies for Erasing the Opportunity Gap. United States, Teachers College Press, 2017.
“Class Inequities Beyond School Walls and Why They Matter at School”