Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Three, Two...

The fall 2015 semester has come to a close! That means that now is the time for editing, reflection, and getting ready for next semester. This semester was the semester of "threes," while I see next semester being the semester of "twos," which will then hopefully lead to the one thing: the dissertation!

Fall 2015

This semester, I taught three different classes. At ASU, I taught the upper division (meant for sophomores and above) courses ENG 217:
ENG 301 students working at the board.
Writing Personal Essays and ENG 301: Professional Writing. At Chandler-Gilbert Community College I taught an ENG 102: First Year Writing class that was comprised of non-traditional students. The variety in classes, schedules, and focuses was a bit challenging to balance at times, but I can really say that I had some of the best students. This is the first semester that I have not taught any 18 years olds. This happened by coincidence, but I noticed the difference in some marked ways:
  1. My students were very articulate about their needs from the very beginning of the semester. Many first time college students are not sure what they will need from a professor or a class in order to be successful, but I would say the vast majority of my students this semester approached me within the first couple weeks of the semester to tell me their learning needs or ask me very specific questions. 
  2. The students were also able to stake their ground in issues more readily and firmly, most likely because they had already had class discussions and interactions that enabled them to form opinions prior to entering my classroom. 
  3. My students this semester were less willing or ready to adapt to new styles of learning. As my teaching is heavily informed by the genre studies model, I have noticed that 18 year olds can understand and adapt readily to that style of instruction and composition. Some of my older students struggled a bit more to grasp the reasoning behind the model or the shift in thinking. 
I really like teaching 18 year olds, but I appreciated the differences in the students populations this semester. Of course, the classes were also very different, and the teaching persona that I had to enact in each class shifted as well, due to the institution, course content, and student goals.

The cover of a children's book composed
by an ENG 217 student for their
final course project.
One last note about teaching this semester is that I can really say how thankful I am to have been initially taught how to teach in a genre studies model. I really struggled with the concepts at first, but once I got on board, I can say it has revolutionized every class that I have taught and taken. Stemming from scholars like Anis Bawarshi, Mary Jo Reiff, and Elizabeth Wardle, the genre studies model states that genres are not just static categories, they are dynamic compositions that are created for a purpose and a specific audience. In the classroom, that means that I don't teach essays (except for the first assignment in my ENG 101 class), I teach white papers, professional letters, memos, advocacy proposals, blogs, memoir chapters, podcast scripts, research reports, and the list goes on and on. This makes my time teaching and grading so much more enjoyable, and it makes the students take aways from the class so much more tangible and rewarding. Here are just three student comments on genre use in the classroom from this semester:
  • ENG 102: "I'm glad that in your class you had different assignments done in different formats. I think before this class I only knew one, but now I know a few more that will help in the future." 
  • ENG 217: "I never would want to be an English teacher unless it was teaching the stuff you taught us, real life writing." 
  • ENG 301: "I really appreciated [learning] how to construct with memos and how to use genres. I am already using it in my job now when speaking with other companies or prospective employees."
This semester I also took three classes. Well, really, I took two classes and completed an internship. I took a class on how to teach professional writing from Dr. Mark Hannah, which obviously helped me teach ENG 301. I took a class on feminist and composition theory from Dr. Trish Boyd, and that helped me to prepare for my dissertation work. Finally, I completed an internship with Dr. Ellie Long that was eye opening in terms of institutional communication and opportunities. The logs from the internship as well as the final products of this work can be found under the "Internship" tab on this blog.

I also submitted three documents towards the completion of my doctoral degree this semester. In a simplification of the requirements, my Ph.D. will be completed in five steps:
  1. Course work 
  2. Two portfolio papers & a bibliography submission
  3. A comprehensive exam based on the bibliography
  4. A dissertation prospectus setting up my dissertation work
  5. Writing and defending the dissertation work. 
I plan to have steps 1, 3, and 4 completed by May, but I was able to submit step 2 at the end of last semester! The portfolios and bibliography can be tough to get approval on, but I have a wonderful committee who gave me feedback and approved my work for submission. The above elements, as well as three cross country trips, a trip to Europe, my participation at Fem/Rhet, and planning for SWES has made this semester a busy one. Glad it's done, but I had a lot of fun.

Spring 2016

In a preview for spring 2016, I see things slowing down at least a little bit and coming in set of twos instead of threes:
Abby and awesome SWES committee
members sending proposal responses and
mapping sessions. 
  • I am taking two research methods courses, both outside of the English department, but I hope that both will very helpful to me in coding and using data collected from my ENG 217 class in my dissertation. 
  • I will be teaching two hybrid courses. I have never taught hybrid courses before, so I am looking forward to that change. I will again be teaching ENG 301 at ASU and ENG 102 at CGCC. 
  • I will be attending two conferences. The first is obviously the Southwest English Symposium, which my co-chair, Abby Oakley, and I have been making good progress towards, and the second is the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) in Houston, TX in April. I am presenting work with my ISU colleague, Laurenn York, which I am really looking forward to. 
  • I also plan to complete at least two, and hopefully three, of the steps towards degree completion listed above. Fingers crossed! 
Starting a week from today, I plan to take a two week break. Breaks are important, even if there is still a lingering guilty conscious saying "you should be working!" But I will break. And eat. And breathe. And laugh. My parents will be spending Christmas with us in the desert, and then I will be going to the mountains with friends for New Years. I don't think it gets much better than that.

I will conclude with a quote and a photo of, what I think, is one of the most beautiful places on earth: a small portion of the San Juan Mountains in Durango, CO, that I can't wait to visit again soon.

I opened each of my classes with this quote this semester, and then in a round table reading that concluded my ENG 217 class, a student read it again. I believe that it beautifully and honestly encapsulates the work and struggle of a Ph.D. student, as well as the hope and purpose of the work we do:

“And then you just do it. You just dig in and write it. You use your body. You lean over the computer and stretch and pace. You write and then cook something and write some more. You put your hand on your heart and feel it beating and decide if what you wrote feels true. You do it because the doing of it is the thing. The doing is the thing. The talking and worrying and thinking is not the thing. That is what I know.” ~ Amy Poehler
Wishing all a truly happy and restful Christmas season and start to the new year. Cheers.