Thursday, November 7, 2013

Think Different

I posted this on my personal blog, but I wanted to post it here too. It's an Apple ad from 1997 (it's also in the movie Jobs). This is the real one, and it's for all the people -- especially students writing about the world -- who say things like "That's just the way it is" or "Things will never change." Maybe what we all need is a little more crazy!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Film Festival

There's a Halloween Film Festival today and students can submit scenes. I like to have a few ready, just for fun.





Monday, October 28, 2013

Poetry pre-brainstorm

I ask students to brainstorm some poetry terms/ideas before we discuss poems. Here's a list.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Dia de los Muertos

I walked past Ms. Finney's room and noticed the students doing something that looked like it might be interesting. So I stopped for a second and I was kindly invited in. The class was making skulls for Dia de los Muertos, which they'll later decorate. Looked like fun!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Bat Dad

We listened to some music during peer review sessions today. The music was from The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises. One student told me about Bat Dad on YouTube. I thought it was funny, so I'm posting it here.

Taylor Mali -- "The The Impotence of Proofreading"

Watched this in class to get students in "the mood" for peer reviewing each other's papers:

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

"Everything That Rises Must Converge," Part 2

I sometimes make students write a "sequel" or an ending to a story. They did it in groups, but I wrote a couple of my own to Flannery O'Connor's classic, "Everything That Rises Must Converge." Here they are:
The first one:
Regretting the way he chastises his mother, Julian charges back towards the bus stop, his mom suffering on the ground. As the bus approaches, a moment before the stop, Julian jumps in front. The bus screeches to a halt after the intense impact.

Julian’s mother regains her senses after her momentary disorientation. She remembers getting hit with the purse, but she isn’t sure how she ended up lying on the ground.

“Julian?” she calls out. “Julian, where are you?” She gets up and walks back towards the bus stop, searching. She continues to call his name.

She sees the blood on the road first, then on the front of the bus. She sees legs poking out from under the bus, but she doesn’t recognize them at first. “What happened here?” she asks anyone who’s listening.

The bus driver, a black man, waits outside the bus, pushing people back as they crowd in around the legs and the bus. “Ma’am. Stay back, ma’am. There’s been an accident.”

Julian’s mother then recognizes Julian’s pants. All at once, she cries out, “My boy! My sweet Julian!”

“You know him?” the bus driver says. “He just come out of nowhere, ma’am. I didn’t mean to. It was almost like he done it on purpose.”

The bus driver wraps his arm around Julian’s mother. She breaks down and cries into the man’s chest. As she wraps her arms around him, squeezing as if he were her son, darkness seems to arrive instantly as Julian’s mother enters the world of guilt and sorrow.
The second one:

Julian’s guilt and sorrow began to overtake him when he couldn’t find anyone to help. He ran to his mother and squeezed her tightly, with little control of his bodily motions. His hand pushed in on the soft spot behind his ear and something began to happen.

Julian’s mother’s mouth opened wider than should’ve been possible. Julian could see inside his mother and the color of metal caught his eye. She was a robot. Her mouth opened wider, revealing small, white being. It had a head too large for its body and was, in total, the size of a small kitten. It was controlling Julian’s robot mother, and it had been for some time.

Julian wanted to yell for help, but he was too surprised to speak. He opened his mouth and nothing came out. The being jumped from the controls and kicked Julian in the face. Julian fell to his back and the being quickly pulled out a small, metal device that paralyzed Julian.

“You stupid humans,” the being said. “We’ve been fooling you for years.”

“Ughhhghghghgh!” Julian said.

“You can’t speak. I’ve paralyzed everything but your brain so I can conveniently explain what’s been happening before you die. You see, I’m from a planet called Whiteness. Not only did we take over many of the white people on your planet centuries ago, but we also engrained racism into your world’s culture. We almost won with Hitler. But then it all fell apart. You Americans are stubborn, but we’ve succeeded so well that you can’t even be a good non-racist. Julian, you just want to use black people to be mean to your mother. Stupid humans. Lately, we’ve used social networks to make a comeback. We’re taking over!!! Long live Whiteness!!! Ha ha ha ha!!!”

With that, The little, white being stuck his small arm up Julian’s nose and pulled out his brain. He got back in Julian’s mother and closed the door. She stood and walked away as if nothing happened.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Grading Contracts: A Link

Some people who read this know that I also blog for The Chronicle of Higher Education. I wrote, there, about trying a grading contract. Here's the link:

I thought some of the comments on that post were interesting and some students and other professors might want to see what was said.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

A Blog for the Book

I don't plan on updating it often, especially when the school year rolls around, but there's the link anyway. Some sample chapters from Same Track, Different Track. And a coupon. And a giveaway.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Same Track, Different Track by Isaac Sweeney

Same Track, Different Track

by Isaac Sweeney

Giveaway ends August 16, 2013.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Summer Job

After realizing I have tons of DVDs around the house, I decided I needed to get rid of some. So I opened an Amazon store. So far, I've sold about $100 worth of DVDs and I have about 100 left to sell. Here's the storefront:

I also published a book. Read about this decision here and you can buy it here.

Monday, April 29, 2013


Earlier, I reported that Sweenglish would have a YouTube channel. It will but, thanks to some conversations with administration at RBC, I've decided to change the name. It did have "RBC" in the title of the channel, but that now seems unwise. Having RBC in the title would require more moderation than I would like to have, so I've created a new channel with a different title. It's called SweenglishTube. It will host some student projects in the fall semester, along with "likes" that students and I think are relevant.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Reminder!! Student Research Awards!! Deadline is APRIL 26!!

The Friends of the Library are giving away student research awards. There are two prizes. Top prize is $200 and second place is $100. The deadline is April 26 at 5 p.m. Read about the rules here.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Film Festival

There's a film festival on campus. Students (and maybe faculty?) can submit clips in different categories or original films to win prizes. I can't win, but I'll probably submit just to up the competition. Here's what I'm thinking.

Best credits:

Best fight:

This could go for best hero, villain, or line of dialoge???
Best chase.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Students have introduced me to a spoken-word poet who has some education-related videos on YouTube that I think are pretty awesome. They make me think, so I'm sharing them here. I've also "Liked" these three using the sweenglishRBC YouTube page, which will be more lively in the fall semester.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Are you inspired to save a life?

RBC's chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, the national honor society for two-year colleges, will hold a fundraiser softball game on campus. Money raised will benefit Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a foundation that fights breast cancer in a variety of ways. More information on the game and how to register will come soon. In the meantime, check out the donation page here.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

This is what I do on Spring Break ...

... I look for cool websites and other things that I can use as intelligence-boosting resources (for me and/or students). I'm a huge fan of Pawn Stars on The History Channel (it's a good thing because they play it ALL THE TIME). The pawn shop dudes often consult a book expert, named Rebecca Romney (I don't know if she's related to Mitt and I don't think I care). Anyway, she has a Facebook "public figure" page where she posts cool things about books and authors. Here's an example of a nerdy and awesome thing she has posted recently:

How about some Whitman, today? Whitman was likely only able to get his Leaves of Grass manuscript first published because he had friends in Brooklyn who owned a press.

Whitman spent a lot of time at the press. He had experience with printing himself and wanted to be in on the project to ensure it reached his high standards. He even set about ten pages of the type himself. Only 795 copies were printed.

She also has a blog.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Great Resource

I just found a great resource for me, a blog-loving professor.

Just discovered it and can't stop reading. I'll share more thoughts later.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Taking a Class I Teach

I enrolled in a MOOC (massive open online course) via Coursera. It's English Composition I, which is a class I usually teach. I plan to do all the work, but the reason I signed up is to get a better idea of how a composition class could be taught online. Here's the Coursera link -

Here's a video preview of the course - (also embedded below). It seems I share some of the same views as the instructor.

I'm kind of excited.

Now for a little background: I had signed up for another Coursera course, called Fundamentals of Teaching Online, but I've since unenrolled because I found some bad reviews online that turned me off. The course also had a start date of "to be determined" so I moved on. Now, I'm ready to see what all this MOOC stuff is about.

Friday, March 1, 2013

NBA Skills Challenge and Peer Reviews ... a link

Some people reading this may know that I write for The Chronicle of Higher Education. I'm linking to something I wrote over there because it was inspired by some students this semester. Here's a chunk of the post:

"In peer-review sessions, the pressure is on the students. They have to judge and be judged, and too many of them put on the “too cool for school” air (many have the same attitude at other times, but I see it most during peer-review sessions). Like the point guards in the Skills Challenge, it’s the students who don’t care how they look who seem to get the most out of peer reviews, or out of class in general."

Read the whole thing here.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Stuff For Your Brain at RBC

A few things are happening on the Richard Bland College campus that people may be interested in:

  • It's summer. Not much is happenening on campus. I'll update when I can.

Friday, February 22, 2013

What is Mnemosyne (ma-az)?

Mnemosyne, commonly referred to as MA-AZ, is Richard Bland College's art and literary publication. I'm co-advisor, in charge of the wordy stuff (as opposed to the more visual stuff). We are an online publication, found at and we accept submissions year-round. The "Literature" page has submission guidlines, but we basically accept anything that has to do with words. Submissions are open to RBC students, faculty, and staff. If you're reading this and you want to submit, send a submission to or Right now, we need submissions and volunteers.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


I love brainstorming with others. When ideas bounce around the room, it's completely energizing. To top it off, judging from their blogs, students seem to like brainstorming as well as a learning tool. For fun, I took a photo of the board. It may be hard to see here, but here are some ideas from a "family" paper. Kudos to RBC's sociology classes (and others) for getting some killer ideas into the kids' heads.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Good Day to Die Hard: a brief review

I have a long and personal history with the Die Hard films. I'm confident enough in my Die Hard knowledge to even call myself an expert. If you care about reading about how John McClane was like a father figure for me, search "Daddy Die Hard" on Amazon - it's free. For one reason or another (like my age), I never had the chance to see McClane on the big screen. So I have been looking forward to this movie for a long time and I saw the earliest showing I could find.

I read some early reviews of this film and it didn't look promising. Weak story, dull action, too loud...  these were some of the complaints. I don't know, maybe nostalgia works wonders on me, but I liked it. Sure, there were parts that could've been better. I'm not crazy about the scale of the movie; the greatness of the first one was because of the claustrophobic feel, among other things. I'm also less than impressed with the villains in "A Good Day..."; another piece of greatness from the original was its villain, Hans, who is one of the American Film Institute's top villains of all time. And sure, the newest sequel has some weak plot structure, especially the first 20 or so minutes, when McClane goes to Moscow and happens upon his son (and a bunch of stuff blowing up). Perhaps the biggest let down for me is McClane's loss of reluctance. He's always been sort of reluctant to kill people and do what had to be done, but in here, he's pretty gung-ho.

Then there's the good stuff. Some of the action sequences are a hell of a lot of fun. Yeah, they're not all perfect, but they're still fun. The helicopter is way cool (and brings up some memories from the first movie). Some moments even took a sentimental tone, and they worked well. And the one-liners, the McClane-isms, if you will, were funny and well-timed (much of this was missing from Live Free or Die Hard, the previous sequel). I especially liked the famous Yippee ki yay ... because it was preceded by "The things we do for our kids" and followed by a crazy action-movie/superhero-ish act.

In a nutshell, it's not Citizen Kane, or even the first Die Hard, but it's fun, humorous, and it'll probably induce some nostalgic feelings for fans of the previous films. Bruce has still got it.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Blog Talk

Today I was a faculty presenter for the RBC library's brown bag lunch series. I talked about blogging as a teaching tool and a little about my Chronicle of Higher Education blog. Below, I've pasted my notes and links to student blogs (and my Chronicle blogs) I used as examples. If you are a student, you are reading this, and you made the "Blah!" list, try to do better in your next posts. Also if you are student, you are reading this, and you haven't written any posts, get to work!

Here are the notes:

Some Talking Points/Links – Student Blogging


Reading Responses (Journal. Reading for comprehension. Interaction with texts. Thoughts into word form.)


               Not very insightful


Not that innovative:

               Some of my colleagues at JMU used blogs in the classroom

               Here are some other examples with some different approaches: (prof’s blog), (student’s blog for class), (Isaac, show this one)



-I (and the rest of the college community) get to know more about students

-Know one another and learn from one another. A kind of interaction that isn’t always so easy in the physical classroom.

-Opportunities for shy students to have a say.

-Practice writing. Finding a voice. Putting thoughts into words.

-Responding to each other’s posts (as opposed to a journal that exists by itself)


-Accountability. Involvement from the “whole world.” An author of a story, essay, or article you’re writing about may even read what you’re writing.

-Retention of information (works with physical journals too).

-Can spur ideas for further writing (works in a physical journal too)

-I can sometimes see what people are learning (if anything).

-Less plagiarism.



-It’s hard for me to keep up with all of them, especially comments.

-The usual – people don’t do it or do the bare minimum.

-Public forum, so they may say things that anger others (is this a con?)

-If they plagiarize, could be legal consequences beyond RBC.


-Beyond words (fun pictures and stuff):


Helping each other:


Disagreement among students:


Beyond the walls (ENG 101 and 102 mix a little):


Blah! – short and underdeveloped. Could be more intriguing.


Good – I like all of these, mostly because they provide some insight.



Some Talking Points/Links – Chronicle Blog

-How it started:


Lots of Comments (top five):


Discussion Forums:


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Misfit and the cat in cahoots??

Just a fun thing to talk about that I didn't get to with class when we discussed Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man is Hard to Find." It's possible, based on clues from the text, to connect the cat, Pitty Sing, and The Misfit together. For those who don't know the story, in a tiny nutshell, a troubled family has a car accident and is come upon by an escaped convict, The Misfit, and his two goons. The Misfit and his little gang kill all members of the family (the grandmother, her son, her son's wife, and their three children). The family's cat, Pitty Sing, lives and The Misfit picks him up at the end, presumably to keep him forever.

Here goes:

-In the story, Pitty Sing is kept in a basket (imprisoned), escapes, and causes the car's accident. The Misfit is in prison, escapes, and causes the family's ultimate demise.

-They both snarl.
        --"the basket under it rose with a snarl and Pitty Sing, the cat, sprang onto Bailey's shoulder"
        --"'No pleasure but meanness,' he said and his voice had become almost a snarl."

-And again, Pitty Sing is the only survivor from the car. He nuzzles The Misfit and the Misfit picks him up.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Ending to "Hills Like White Elephants"

Today, I had students write/summarize an ending to the Hemingway story. I wrote one too. I tried to take a picture of it. Let's see if it shows up. By the way, check out the reference to The Glass Menagerie and Tom's "opium dens" speech.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

"Wallpaper" Not Such a Popular Story

The reason I like "The Yellow Wallpaper" so much is because it's not always clear what's happening. I don't need clarity; I just need possibilities. I like the different interpretations of the story. Mostly, I read it as an allegory, where a woman is trapped in her marriage, position, life, etc. Kudos to the students in class with the guts to say, "I didn't read it that way." This attitude will get you far.

I should give a (late) disclaimer now. My taste for fiction leans towards the more depressing. I usually read things that require interpretaion, things that have a level of ambiguity. Most of the things I choose are sort of dark and there's often death and/or desertion. And if there's not death and/or desertion, then there's probably a different darkness element. The next story I've assigned for class (to be read for Friday, Feb. 1) is Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants." If the students weren't crazy about "The Yellow Wallpaper" (pun intended), then they're probably not going to like "Hills Like White Elephants" at all. In the past, students have come to class not knowing what the heck is going on in the story. Almost always, a few have figured it out. I told them to be thinking about what the "operation" is. We'll see.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Lots of Blogs ... LOTS!!

To tell you the truth, it's been a little hard to keep up with them. Lately, I've spent my spare time adding url after url to the list to the right. While the blogs are still pretty informal, I have asked students to stay on topic a little more this semester than last semester. And I've added my ENG 102 students who have no other option but to write in response to some of the readings. I'm really enjoying the responses so far. Most of them are rather insightful and they seem to be serving the purpose of helping students get ideas from their minds into word form.

On a fun side note, I sent an email to Sherman Alexie's agent so the agent can let him know that students are writing about one of his short stories ("The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven"). His agent says he's too busy to respond to all correspondence, but she will pass it on. The possibility that an author of one of the stories we have read in class may be reading students' responses to that story is intriguing. I've dome something similar in the past when I had students read First Blood. Turns out that David Morrell, the "father of Rambo" is a very accessible author; I emailed him directly and he responded directly, answering some student questions about the novel. This semester, my 102 students are also reading Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Maybe Chabon would like to know this and comment on students' reactions??

Thursday, January 24, 2013

So It Begins ...

I have about 100 students writing blogs this semester. All of their links will eventually be on the list to the right, which automatically puts the most recently updated blogs at the top. Please take some time to read them and comment. Some of them are from ENG 101: Writing and Research, where students can write in response to readings, class activities, or other approved topics. Other blogs are for ENG 102: Intro to Literature, where students have to write in response to readings. So far, they are looking pretty good, I think.

Friday, January 11, 2013

School's About to Start

School starts Monday and I'm once again incorporating blogs. This time, though, I'm doing it for all five of my classes -- three ENG 101: Writing and Research and two ENG 102: Intro to Literary Genres. I'll still use this site as the host for all of them. I'm working on organizing it so it will be more reader friendly.

My syllabus language for the blog changed ever so slightly. Here it is:


Each student needs to create a blog. You will create one blog post per week (starting week 2 through week 12) in response to readings. You will also need to comment on other students’ blogs. We will try to use Blackboard to share our posts with each other. Blog posts are usually 200-300 words, but you are welcome to write more. Comments need to demonstrate that you read the post you are commenting on. These will be graded on completion unless there is a clear lack of effort.

The blog serves a few purposes. One is that it acts as a journal and helps students get their thoughts out of their heads into word form. Blogs should also create, in students, some sense of accountability because the blog posts will be on the web for the world to see.

If you have a spare moment, I would appreciate you reading a student's blog now and then, maybe even leaving a comment.