Monday 18 December 2017

An Instagram Story

I received this email from a student in my English 1 class after the end of the semester. So kind! 

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Conference, Conference, Class

This semester seemed to fly past. It feels like yesterday that I was writing my example blog post for my students, "Three Pieces of My Puzzle," and publishing it here. All in all, it was actually a great semester. I was able to work with about 60 pretty awesome students, attend two really inspiring conferences, and even apply myself pretty fully to the job market. Being on the market is almost a full time job in and of itself, and I plan to write a full blog entry detailing my experience in the spring. In this blog entry, I want to talk about the two fall conferences that I attended (one academic and one non) and review my experience teaching three sections of English 1 at Madison College.

Feminisms & Rhetorics 2017

In October of this year, I traveled to Dayton, OH to present at the 11th Biennial Feminisms & Rhetorics conference. I stayed and presented with my awesome writing group, Casie Moreland and Jessica Boykin. The conference was hosted at the University of Dayton from October 4th to 7th. I was there from October 3rd to 6th and then flew home early to attend the other conference.

Like my time at Fem/Rhet in Tempe in 2015, I thoroughly enjoyed this conference. Casie, Jess, and I presented early in the conference at 1:45PM on Wednesday, Oct. 4th, the first official day presentations. We had three attendees at our panel, and after we each presented our material, we had a good conversation with those who attended about our work and future research possibilities. Our panel was called What is Past is Prologue: Women's Contributions to Rhetorics of Social Justice. On this panel, my presentation was called "'We Remain a Complex People:' Accounting for Feminist Rhetorical Practices in a Black Feminist Food Memoir." I discussed Ntozake Shange's 1998 food memoir If I Can Cook/ You Know God Can. I discussed the power of the intricacies of Shange's work, and I talked about how her work contributes to a larger group of African-American women fighting for social justice.

At the conference, I attended several other panels, including the keynote by poet Claudia Rankine. I saw friends and colleagues from Arizona State and Illinois State, as well as other conference friends. It's always a treat to reconnect with those people at conferences across the country. Casie, Jess, and I also explored Dayton a bit in our free time. I can't say it's my favorite city, but we enjoyed our time together writing, talking, and presenting. Always glad to spend time with these special friends.

Bloom Women's Retreat: A Story Unwritten

I left Feminisms & Rhetorics slightly early because I was expected back in Wisconsin for Ridgeway Church's annual Bloom women's retreat. The retreat actually ran from October 5th to 7th, but I was able to be there from the 6th to 7th. I heard the Friday evening keynote speaker Cheri Milton, and I stayed through the Saturday morning session to hear Bethany Peterson speak and then helped clean up. What I saw of the retreat and what I heard from others about it before I got there was so exciting. As part of the leadership team, I helped to plan the Friday afternoon breakout session where we asked women to share parts of their stories with each other. We had leaders positioned at every table to facilitate the conversations, and in our debrief following the retreat the team said that the women responded readily and openly in the sessions, which was so exciting to hear.

The retreat took place at Chula Vista Resort in the WI Dells, and it was cozy setting for our meetings and rooms. Even though I was only able to be part of the retreat for less than 24 hours, I knew all the work that went into the planning with my fellow leadership team members Debbie, Brittany, Bethany, Brianna, Martha, and Melissa, and I was glad to see the retreat was such a success. It was worth skipping out on the last part of Fem/Rhet, a delayed flight, running through O'Hare airport to get my connection, lost luggage, a drive through the rain, and an almost sleepless night to be there! We are already gearing up and planning for next year's retreat!

English 1 Classes

Other than that action packed week of conferencing in October, I have also been able to travel to Indiana couple times this semester and spent some time in Chicago and other parts of Illinois. Otherwise, I have been in Madison teaching my classes and job marketing. I hadn't taught the equivalent of an English 1 course since teaching at English 101 in the fall 2014 semester at Arizona State. I totally revamped the class from when I taught it at ASU, which was definitely beneficial but created extra work for me because I didn't have any previous examples of the projects to show my students. We started the semester with a fairly basic summary essay, so I wrote the example project "Surfer Girls and Sunset Memories" for my students to use as a model for the project. The next project was the rhetorical analysis blog project, which I posted here under "Three Pieces of My Puzzle." We then spent the second half of the semester focusing on the final project, which was an opinion editorial. The editorials were focused around a specific food documentary that I asked the students to watch as a group. I created an editorial called "My Dreams of Sushi" based on the 2011 food documentary Jiro Dreams of SushiOther than the final editorial, my students also composed annotated bibliographies (documents citing and discussing sources) and a group presentation.

From the end of the course survey, I was able to gauge my students' reactions to these three major projects, as well as the other various components of the course. Of the 53 students who filled out the survey, 23% said they liked the summary essay the best, 45% said they liked the rhetorical blog the best, and 32% said they liked the opinion editorial the best. I started the semester with 75 students, and I ended the semester with 61 students. At a community college, this is a pretty good retention rate, and I'm glad that over 80% of my students were able to stick with the course.

I ended the semester by asking each student to bring in a quote, lyric, or saying that they liked to our last class. I told them it was a chance to get some easy points as well as an opportunity to leave the course on an inspiring note. I was happily surprised by the range of readings my students brought and how they seemed to actually enjoy the activity. They brought in quotes from Mark Twain, Shakespeare, Einstein, Forrest Gump, Chance the Rapper, the Dalai Lama, Picasso, Bernie Sanders, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Will Smith, Calvin and Hobbes, J.F.K., and three ladies read excerpts of Maya Angelou poems.

For my reading, I chose one of my all time favorite quotes. It is a conversation between Sam and Frodo, characters in J.R.R. Tolkien's epic fantasy series The Lord of the Rings. This conversation takes place as Sam and Frodo journey with the creature Smeagol/ Gollum in the middle of the three books, The Two Towers. In the book, this conversation takes place on pages 362-364, but I like the movie quote (included right) even better because it's a bit more succinct and ends with such a powerful message. I told my students if they remember nothing else from the semester that I hope they remember that "there's some good in this world... and it's worth fighting for."

I need to finish grading 25 final projects, 60 reflection letters, and submit the final grades in Blackboard, but this semester is almost all wrapped up! I plan to send the following graphic with my final email to my students, and I will leave it here as a conclusion as well.

I wish you joy and peace in this holiday season.