You think this class is tough? Check out Auden’s!

tumblr_mb8gp7oZH21qz4v5ho1_1280Think this class requires a lot of reading? Check out this syllabus from a lit class taught by poet W.H. Auden in the early 1940s! (Click on the picture to make it bigger).

Imagine 6,000 pages of reading for 2 credits for 2 semesters! And that 6,000 pages probably doesn’t include the suggested readings!

In comparison, my graduate school classes require 1,000 pages of reading for a 2 unit class. That’s about 100 pages a week per class. And that’s a lot!

To compare again, I assign my college students between 50 and 100 pages a week for a 5 unit community college writing classes.

Read more about Auden’s class here.

School’s Out Forever: Budget Cuts & College Classes

At some point every semester, students ask about creative writing. They ask if we will get to do any.

And I have to tell them no, that poetry and fiction and dramatic literature are not part of the SLOs, the Student Learning Objectives, for the writing classes I teach.

But there are few, if any, creative writing classes offered. In fact, there are few, if any, creative classes of any kind offered any more.

Tonight a student asked the question. And I said no. He pointed out the video posted on this blog and the argument it makes for creativity.

There’s no budget for those classes any more.

Not enough people think the arts are necessary, important.

I hope you watch Sandra Hunter’s video on the topic of these budget cuts to the arts.

PS She teaches writing at Moorpark College. She’s a poet and she writes plays.

Lizard vs Modern Brain & Ancient Dilemmas

In her Op-Ed LA Times article “

Ancient brains, modern dilemmas:

writer K.C. Cole explains how “The human species is uniquely equipped to shoot itself in the foot.”

From the article:

“We have at least two brains working together, more or less. The ancient “reptilian” brain is fast, bossy, sure of itself and never shuts up. The modern brain, primarily the cortex, is reflective, slow, conflicted and often defers to its elder. In the time it takes the reflective brain to give you a long-winded lecture on the perils of sweet greasy food, the reptile has you on your second jelly doughnut.”

The question is, will you let the lizard brain keep you from getting the most out of your classes this semester? Or will you listen to your modern brain that can handle the complex problem of delayed gratification?

Summer Students Celebrate With a Publication Party at Art City July 31

Gwendolyn Alley’s Ventura College writing students  invite you
to celebrate the publication of an anthology of our creative & academic writing

Tues. July 31, 2012
6-9pm Open Mic! Poetry! Music! Art!
Monotypes by Gary Chafe
Stone Sculpture by Paul Lindhard

 Art City
197 Dubbers * Ventura, CA
6pm: Potluck, bonfire, explore, music
6:30pm: Open mic sign-ups
7pm: Open mic

Free—donations for Art City accepted
* Bring a chair * Family friendly *Questions?

Download this flyer pubpartySum2012 Thanks to Lori Lindhard for getting Gary Chafe’s art to us to use. Thanks to Art City–Russel, Paul, Lori, Joanne et al for hosting us and supporting spoken word in Ventura!

Seth Godin’s “Stop Stealing Dreams”–a manifesto about education


Ever since it came out in March, I’ve been meaning to blog about Seth Godin’s manifesto on education, Stop Stealing Dreams.

But I’ve been too busy teaching. And learning how to be a better teacher to write about why it is so important to read that I gave a copy of the following highlights to my spring classes, and I’m assigning it to my summer classes!

It’s a quick read and you can download it for free. Or you can just read the following excerpts and tuck his ideas away for a later perusal…

If you’re more the video type, check out this TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson: “Do schools kill creativity?”

From section 16:

What is school for?

Here’s a hint: learning is not done to you. Learning is something you choose to do.

Continue reading

Alley Reads 3:15s on 3/15, Leads Workshop 3/24

Please join me Tuesday March 15, 2011 at 7:30pm in the Artists Union Gallery for the first reading from my new poetry collection Middle of the Night Poems From Daughter to Mother :: Mother to Son (en theos press 2011).

Danika Dinsmore, who began the 3:15 Experiment in 1993, will be reading and I am excited to hear work from other 3:15 poets in the open mic after my feature.

I have readings, workshops, a party and a book fair scheduled in the next two weeks. Read on for more details. Or download this pdf: ALLEYlaunchdetails1upleft

Read More

via art predator

Dottie, Vlat, Me, You & More at Artists Union Gallery 12/7

Poet Dottie Grossman will read her work in a call and response performance with Michael Vlatkovich (and possibly other musicians) 730pm Tuesday, December 7 at the Artists Union Gallery, 330 S. California Street, at the Ventura Beach Promenade near the big hotel, the parking garage and Aloha Steakhouse. You can learn more about what Dottie does in the video above and get a sample of the process.

The poetry reading is free but a hat is usually passed and donations are accepted for refreshments of coffee and cookies. CDs will also be available for purchase.

An open mic will follow. If you want to read your own poetry at the open mic, arrive 10-15 minutes early to sign up. Since there will likely be a big crowd, poets should keep their readings short: one poem of less than 3 minutes. If there’s time, poets will read in a second round.

I’ll be bringing my students; we will be reading from our end of the semester class publications. I’ll be reading a poem or two as well from my new collection Middle of the Night Poems from Daughter to Mother :: Mother to Son (en theos press 2010).

Below is one more video of poetry by Dottie Grossman–this one’s short and gives you a good idea of what’s in store tomorrow night!

For more poetry, take a ride on the Monday Poetry Train!

Planetary Problems, Botany of Desire, Writing Projects

This semester, my students and I are thinking about the “Triple Bottom Line: People, Planet, Profit.” We started class by reading various essays about “people” then we moved on to planet, thinking about what we eat and how we live, and reading Michael Pollan’s Botany of Desire.

Students have been giving presentations on sections of the book: Apple, Tulip, Marijuana, Potato, and now it’s time to begin the writing process to produce a paper on a topic relevant to planet; I’ll review first drafts today.

Here are a series of questions for us to consider today. Please write a note discussing them to turn in with your draft at the beginning of class.

  • 1. What concerns you most about the planet?
  • 2. What interested you most about what we’ve studied?
  • 3. What did/do you like best about your group’s presentation? Another presentation? What have you learned from the presentations?
  • 4. What is your paper about? What texts are you using? What’s your argument?

Class Activity Invites Students to Share Food & Stories about their culture

Yesterday was our second day of three days of presentations when students share the story of why they have the name they do, bring in a cultural artifact, and share a food with the rest of the class.

What a feast! We had food from around the world–lumpia, chicken mole, hot chicken wings and more which we ate while we watched the film Food Inc.

I’ve done variations of this activity since I began teaching 20 years ago. The current version builds from an assignment I read about online. My students and enjoy really enjoy it: we become closer and we learn about other cultures in a really fun way. It also helps the students work together in groups and have discussions when they know each other’s names and a little about them.

The activity ties in with essays we’ve read by Eric Liu, Brent Staples, Bharati Mukherjee, Maxine Hong Kingston, Mike Rose, Sherman Alexie, Gloria Anzaldua, James Baldwin, Bernard Cooper, Nancy Mairs, and more. On the midterm, I ask a question about what they learned from it.

A Self-Awareness Activity * Presentations of artifact and food by arrangement

Education is all a matter of building bridges. –Ralph Ellison

Insight, I believe, refers to the depth of understanding that comes by setting experiences, yours and mine, familiar and exotic, new and old, side by side, learning by letting them speak to one another. –Mary Catherine Bateson.

Real education should consist of drawing the goodness and the best out of our own students.  What better books can there be than the book of humanity? –Cesar Chavez

The more deeply you understand other people, the more you will appreciate them, the more reverent you will feel about them.  To touch the soul of another human being is to walk on holy ground.–StephenCovey


*To facilitate personal and cultural self-awareness.

*To help you become better acquainted with classmates.

*To give you tools to look beyond stereotypes.


ARTIFACT. Select an artifact that tells a story about your cultural background that you can share with the class. This artifact can be a picture, a coat of arms, or an object (a piece of clothing, jewelry, a tool etc.).  You will probably want to select something that is easy to transport to class.  If possible, choose an item that illustrates something about your cultural background that is not obvious.  We want to learn something about your background that is not readily apparent. If you cannot find a “hidden” part of your background, teach us about what we may not have known about your culture.

NAME. As part of your presentation, prepare to tell us about your name. How does it reflect your cultural heritage?

FOOD. Each person will also bring a family food item to share during class by arrangement.

Turn to your family members to learn more about your background.  If that is not possible, do research so that you have something significant to share with the rest of the class about your cultural heritage. If you do not have an object to bring from home, copy an appropriate picture from a magazine or book, download an image from the Internet, etc.  Remember, the visual component of this exercise is important.

Be prepared to do a 3 minute presentation using written notes to tell the origin of your name, describe your artifact, explain why you selected it, answer any questions, and talk about your food item (when you share it). These notes will be a part of your portfolio. You can write a thought paper on this, but don’t read your TP for your presentation.

When we are finished, we will do an in-class writing activity about what you learned about your background, yourself, and our class from this exercise so you will want to take notes during each presentation. Questions to consider include: *What was the purpose of this activity? *How did this activity help you learn about or increase your awareness of yourself?  Of others? *How does the difference between how you perceive yourself and how others perceive you affect you as a student? *What have you learned about culture? Can you draw connections between this activity and some of the readings?