Friday, August 31, 2007

Famous Former Student

Yesterday, I opened the local newspaper and on the front page above the fold was a story about a woman who had been stabbed to death outside of a south Glendale alcoholics anonymous meeting last Wednesday. The accused killer was a 23 year old homeless male by the name of Hector Marroquin.

Not mentioned in the article was that Hector was a Glendale College student; in fact, I had Hector twice in my developmental reading classes, English 188 and 190, a few years back. I knew that he had problems; he was somewhat odd, showed some strange symptoms, laughing inappropriately; I had to take him out of class for him to refocus, and I tolerated his need to leave early; he freaked if he wasn’t allowed to sit in his particular seat; had frequent absences; seemed like he was off his meds sometimes; other times he was quiet and serious. I tried to get him to go to the health center for evaluation. He put in the lab work hours and finished assignments. We got along; he responded to positive attention, but seemed to crave respect. He passed both of my classes. He seemed to have a big problem with women; he didn’t get along with women instructors.

Now he’s finally killed someone, a woman he probably didn’t even know. In retrospect, it seems obvious that the guy was borderline schizophrenic when he was at GCC. This might have happened on campus.

I think we need to have some kind of campus dialogue about this. We instructors are frequently the first to notice odd behavior in students. We need to know what to do, who and how to refer the person. We need to think seriously about how to interrupt behavior which could become lethal.

Over the years, I’ve had the clearly paranoid, depressed and openly delusional. One student revealed to me that he was actually Jesus Christ; I told him that if he was Jesus Christ, he would know that I drop students who don’t show up for two weeks. I hope he really wasn’t Jesus.

Monday, August 20, 2007

What I'm Reading Lately

Up to this point, I haven't been very interested in the Harry Potter series by J.Rowling. But with the completion of the last book, year 7, I thought I'd read the entire set over the summer vacation. I wanted to see how the author and her characters have progressed from book to book. I've just finished books 1 through 5 and am working on book 6. By far, I felt that 5 was the best so far; deep, integrated, complex and satisfying, with a embedded critique of facist government in response to outside threats. As Harry has matured, so has the books, with book 1 quite the child-like romp through the magical wizarding world. Book 6 is promising to be even better; I like the message that permeates the books that adults don't have all the answers and have their own mix of good and bad motivations as well as times when they are simply stumped.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Hi Reading Students,

Classes start Tuesday, September 4 for the Tuesday-Thursday classes and on Wednesday, September 5 for the M-W-Friday classes. Mr.Doyle has a meeting off campus on Friday, September 7, so those classes won't meet on that day. If you wish to add any of the classes, please show up on the first day. Enrolled students who don't show up the first day of class will be dropped and replaced by added students.

Now that the business is taken care of: Welcome to class. Hopefully in this class you'll pick up tips to improve your college reading, including vocabulary building, better comprehension of what you read, the ability to read critically, and to help you better think for yourself.

Please show up on time, commit to the class, get your books ASAP. You are expected to respect the educational environment. You will be required to do at least an hour of lab work online each week from our class web page at

The main textbook is "Introduction to Critical Reading". It is a collection of readings, poems, stories and articles. Everyone needs a copy. I use the same book for English 188 and English 190, so you may already have this book. New and used copies of the book are in the bookstore, but if you can find it cheaper on the internet at, or any other bookseller, you can get it there. Just make sure you get the latest edition. The other book is the class syllabus. This book is available from the bookstore for about $10, but you may also download and print a free copy off the internet by going to our class web page ay Everybody needs a copy of this. We will work on the lessons in class, and the book must be filled in as we work and be finished by the final exam. Part of your participation grade is determined by completion of the syllabus book.

This first week we will go over classroom basic information and procedures. We will also do a preliminary standardized reading test for which you'll need a pencil and a scantron answer sheet. You must also finish the first week of lab work at

I have a meeting off-campus on Friday, September 7, so classes meeting on that day are cancelled this week. Buy your textbooks and do the week 1 lab work. See you next week.