A new kind of family under the same roof

When my daughter told me she was finally making the move from the east coast to the west and would be living with me in my 3 bedroom condo, I was ecstatic. Immediately, I started bustling around, shifting furniture, purging from overloaded closets and drawers and prepping for the new arrivals. Yes, plural, because along with my daughter came my darling, cherished then four-year-old grandchild. I pictured a house bursting with fun, love, purpose and companionship. Oh, and I had a 27 year-old Korean housemate in one of those bedrooms. No problem!

In the last year plus, I’ve learned a…

As a writer, editor, and English instructor, the Oxford comma is a confusion avoidance device. That reason alone justifies its existence and use. I teach it to my international students and correct for it in editing because many people aren't aware of it and their series structures can become clunky. Heaven forfend!

Adults, managing complex lives, jobs, responsibilities, and relationships often bury long-held dreams or even suppress the notion of dreaming. Especially in the midst of a pandemic, core desires may feel selfish and unrealistic, yet psychologists tell us that dreams and actions toward achieving them are healing and therapeutic.

It is a feather’s width between a dream and a reality.

As a Peace Corps volunteer, and English Language Fellow, and as an ESL instructor, I have happily served my country, students, and profession for over a quarter century. Nothing keeps the mind active and curious like teaching. Every class each quarter is different, so the start of a new quarter is kind…

Intensive English student, 18-year old Minh, connects to a communication platform, clicks on a class, and enters.

Writing IV students meeting online

Gone are the usual human stimuli: movement, gesture, action, eye to eye contact, touch, and bodies.

Present are postage stamp images with perhaps a larger image for the teacher.

The online world has swallowed up the traditional classroom experience and along with it, the sense of knowing your classmates, sharing a laugh, and developing a one on one relationship with the instructor.

I can hear the arguments from readers already. Hey, we talk on the phone regularly and feel closeness and a full…


Have you ever been in pain? Not the stubbed toe kind of pain, but the brain searing pain of, say, corneal erosion, giving birth to a baby hippo, or living with the destructive force of pancreatic cancer. Pain can be off the chart, advanced to such a level that there are no words. In that bubble of agony, patients feel completely helpless, which is a mental state that leads quickly to depression, fear, and anxiety.

Strangely, pain is something that we have been taught to either accept or drug, but the amount of drugs needed for the worst kinds of…

Photo by mohamed hassan form PxHere

Today a colleague passed around information regarding a new app. It is a tool specifically designed for online instruction. In practice, the new app follows the students’ eye movements to see if they are getting “help” beyond the resources allowed OR if someone is in the room providing answers! I haven’t mentioned the name of the app because I don’t intend to avail myself of its innovative features.

Academic cheating and plagiarism is a reality in any classroom, and, in the world of online instruction, the desire to “get help” becomes a siren song of mythological proportions. Why? The primary…

Photo by form PxHere

Skills Inherent in Proficient Readers

Those of us who are readers may have a difficult time deconstructing the reading process to determine the precise intellectual and cognitive benefits of this time-honored practice, but just in terms of literature, or fiction, I’d like to outline a few. 1. The ability to follow a plot through changes in scene and character — the ability to cognitively differentiate between what is written on one line in the text and subsequent line(s). 2. The ability to follow, understand and anticipate dialogue as it moves between two or more characters and to and fro between…

I am a sardine. And you?

Wearing a fish placard as a crown, google eyes to the right, finned tail to the left, one demonstrator among 35,000 in Rome Saturday, December 14th, spoke up, saying, “People were looking for someone to start this, and so many people wanted to say, ‘Enough’, ‘Enough to this way of doing politics… ”’

The night before, while on vacation in a medieval village, I accepted an invite to accompany Italian friends to another Sardine evening. Soon, wrapped up warm, I stood amidst a similar crowd all waving, wearing, and cutting out in real time the shape of little fish, sardines…

When choosing a place to eat, whether breakfast, lunch, or dinner, my inner Goldilocks algorithm runs through a well-trained series of decisions and “if/thens”.

Will I splurge? Mostly, no. Budget? Usually, yes. It’s a short response that eliminates restaurants serving crab, great cuts of beef, roasted chicken, amazing salads and anything organically-grown-and-flown-in-today-from-Sweden. In fact, options edge toward the pedestrian but aim still for tasty. American? Breakfast is served all day. Reasonable portions? Yes! Italian? No, I’d rather eat Italian in Italy. Teriyaki? Why does the chicken taste like it came out of a blender? I used to like that place…

Look for something with immediacy or obscurity.

BACKGROUND — I might not be able to beat City Hall, but I have managed to put a wheel clamp on teen students’ tendency to avoid the required readings by looking for summaries, spoilers, and answers online. Trying to teach One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest or Catcher in the Rye? By the latest count, Cuckoo has close to 3 million links on Google. Catcher has 17 million. The student-in-a-state-of- avoidance can scan and copy whole synopses, analyses, or reviews and never crack the cover of the actual book.

I’ve become a master at finding the source of student plagiarism…

Barbara Castleton, M.A.

Writer, ESL instructor, editor, traveler, seasonal ex-pat— my life is both an intentional and serendipitous circumstance. Motto — “Buy the ticket, and go!”

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