Friday, 5 October 2018

Octobering

Here we are finishing up the sixth week of the semester moving into fall break! I am excited about this fall break for a couple reasons:

1) I get two extra nights at home that I wouldn't usually get with my commute.
2) A week from today I will be helping to host our 2018 Bloom Women's Retreat. Our theme this year is "Change Begins With Her," and I'm so excited about what the weekend will look like.

Burke Administration Building
I will talk about the retreat in November, but I want to cover my first six weeks as an Assistant Professor in the Fall 2018 semester at Olivet. The first six weeks have been, in turns, a total blur, a dumpster fire, a smooth sea, a confusing maze, and an unexpected surprise. That is, to say, it has been an adjustment for sure, but it's gone well. My commute from Madison is definitely one reality that I've had to adjust to. I generally leave my house in the wee early morning hours on a Monday, and then I do the reverse drive on late Thursday evening. I work from home (and get appointments done, etc.) on Fridays. I am staying less than a half mile from my office. I have walked a few times, and it takes me  about 10 minutes from the door of my house to the door of my office, and that includes a walk across a busy intersection and walking up four steep flights of stairs. I have one long commute and then literally no commute after, so it works out.

I was excited to jump into teaching at Olivet. As I've recounted a few times now, I feel like a totally different person, and I'm for sure a totally different teacher than I was when I adjuncted two ENGL 109: College Writing I classes in the fall 2011 and spring 2012 school year. Life was very different. I had just graduated with my BA in English, Wade was finishing school, we'd just gotten married, we adopted our puppy, Finley, and we were living in a 600 sq. ft. guest house. One thing that is the same is that on the first day of school this year I wore the exact same red shoes I wore on the first day in 2011. I got those red shoes in college, I think, and I still love them. They're my first day shoes!
First Day Teaching at ONU 2011

First Day Teaching at ONU 2018
One of my favorite parts of the new gig is my office. Wade helped me get it all set up, and with a mix of Harry Potter, travel, and elephant themed decor, it feels homey and cozy to me. I like to come in, turn on my lamp, wax melter, and AC fan to get some soft light, smell, and air moving through the office as soon as I get in. It's a sweet little nook that looks out at a lovely Catholic church and over a large tree that is currently turning from green to red as we move into autumn.





I've enjoyed my classes thus far! This semester I have 84 students. That's far more students than I've ever had before. I teach these 84 students in four different courses: ENGL 109: College Writing I (two sections), ENGL 306: Advanced Writing, and ENGL 311: Business Communication & Technical Writing. I do have two teaching assistants through the English department, and they are wonderful. I could not get the grading done that I would need to without them. My students are currently working on academic proposals, documenting online processes, and reviewing food TV shows on Netflix. The variety of audiences, purposes, and genres that we explore in these various classes continues to astound me. The lived realities and experiences that these students bring with them and those that they are preparing for make these classes dynamic and exciting to teach.

To begin the year, there have been several events. After new faculty orientation, Wade came down and attended the President's Dinner with me. We also had a meeting to welcome back the majors, and that was fun to get to meet them. Getting reacquainted with Olivet's campus and culture has been somewhat odd, sometimes disappointing, but mostly exciting. I think administrators and teachers really do try to do the best they can, but I think the most refreshing part about being back at Olivet is the students. They are smart, motivated, and open. They interrogate assignments, issues, and theories with respect and an awareness of the world around them that I don't think was as tangible when I was as student. It makes interacting with them very rewarding and engaging.

The ONU English department this year is focusing on the theme: "Voice: Finding Yours, Celebrating Others." I really like this theme because it takes both individual and communal experience into account. It asks students to reflect on what it is they know, how they know, and what they want to learn in the future. In all the arguments for a liberal arts education, I think the recognition of the value of voice and experience has to be one of the most crucial to recognize. I'm glad to be in a department that values that as well.



Apart from figuring out this new teaching life, there have been a few other special moments to celebrate thus far this semester:

1) My friend, support, and writing group member, Casie Moreland, defended her thesis at Arizona State University on Wednesday, August 29th, 2018 and became DR. CASIE MORELAND. I FaceTimed into just the very first part of her defense, and even what I heard in that short snippet was so, so smart, well put together, and engaging. I'm so proud of her hard work and dedication!


2) On that very same day, also the day I started classes, I got an email with an acceptance for two items for the 2019 Conference on College Composition and Communication. I've been to several Cs conferences, and I was so glad to be invited back to this one. The conference is in Pittsburgh, PA this year, and I'm really looking forward to presenting my own work on a panel presentation as well as serving as a committee member for a feminist workshop.


3) My yittle sister stick turned 28! We are now only one year apart which means that my thirtieth birthday must be just right around the corner. I was actually pretty sick from catching the ONU Virus of 2018 that ran rampant across campus about week three, but we went out for a delicious dinner of mussels and frites at Sardine in Madison and celebrated her birthday.


4) This summer I was invited to participate in an event at my MA institution, Illinois State University. As a theoretical framework, the ISU WPA, Dr. Joyce Walker, has championed the pedagogical use of Cultural Historical Activity Theory in the Writing Program. The event in November is a CHAT Retrospective on how alumni from the program have used the theory since leaving ISU. I will be presenting and reconnecting with friends, and I'm looking forward to it!


One of my favorite parts of this past week was how I opened class. I know it can be tricky to be just a few days before a break but still at school. Inspired by The Good Place: The Podcast, I asked my students at the beginning of every class: "What's good?" I told them what was good in my life was that my puppy, Finley, turned seven this week. Since we first brought him home to Bourbonnais, I was glad to celebrate his birthday there as well. My students responded with wonderful responses. Things like, good sleep, boxed water, times with missed family and friends, engagements, and live music. Let's all remember to take the time to celebrate what's good. 




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