Monday 9 December 2019

A Very Full Fall

And here we are, just like that, at the end of another semester. This semester has required more discipline and focus than in years past because with a little baby around every moment is precious! I want to be sure to not waste time that I could be spending with him, but I also want to do my work well and be totally focused on that when I'm working. This balance is tricky to strike and some days are better than others. I am glad to have made it to the end of the semester! I have about three more days worth of grading to do, and I plan to have my students' final grades submitted by the end of the week.

Baby Cohen Matthew was born on September 27th, 2019, but he was due on September 18th. I had things ready to go for my online classes until week eight of the semester by the 18th, but when he took his time making his appearance, I used that last week to work ahead and get my classes fully set up until week twelve of the semester. I took my maternity leave from Monday, September 23rd to Wednesday, October 23rd. During that time I answered some emails and calls, but I primarily let my wonderful TA and colleagues take the majority of the questions, student help, and grading responsibilities. I'm so grateful to them for doing so and to my students for understanding the circumstances. I'm also very grateful to my mom who watches the baby for four hours every morning so that I can have uninterrupted work time, and I'm grateful for a baby who likes to take naps in the afternoon... except right now, apparently. We have had some fun this fall including Wade running a half-marathon for World Vision in the Madison Marathon, hosting visiting friends and then family for Thanksgiving, and taking Cohen on his first mini road trip down to Chicago to see my family who were visiting from Colorado and New Mexico. 

I think things have really gone as smoothly as possible this semester. I've communicated with my students via email, phone, Canvas chat, Canvas announcements, and video announcements, and I've joined department meetings vis Skype. I haven't made it down to Olivet this semester with the baby arriving about a fourth of the way into the semester and then not getting his first immunization shots until the last full week. I have already planned three visits down to Olivet in the spring, and I'm looking forward to connecting to my colleagues and students in person. 

I taught two sections of College Writing II this semester and one section of Advanced Writing. In both courses the students work toward one major written composition for the majority of the semester. They all turned in their work just before Thanksgiving break, and I was honestly so impressed. Overall, the students were creative in their topics, articulate in their expression, thorough in their secondary research, creative in their primary research, and expressive in their investment in the ideas. I think that large composition projects can be overwhelming no matter when they begin, but I was glad to see that the students tried their best to use the time given to them to compose strong, original academic texts. My Advanced Writing students were expected to submit their work for consideration for publication, and I would be so excited to see some of these thoughtful, well-researched compositions be published and read by a wider audience.

In addition to my teaching work, I have also been a part of proposing a writing major for the English department. Based on input and feedback from my department chair and colleagues, I composed a rationale for the importance of implementing a writing major. That, along with a proposal drafted by our department last spring, was presented and distributed to various stakeholders, and the proposal was accepted in October! The Department of English at Olivet will now having a writing major offered starting in the fall of 2020. I'm so excited about the possibilities and opportunities that this major will offer to current and future Olivet students.

I also participated in an online course development module in the student role, alongside teaching online classes, this semester. I had the opportunity to develop two online course modules for the department, and this six-week course development training helped me in my preparation for creating ENGL 329: Writing Fiction and Poetry, which I will be teaching starting in January. I'm looking forward to working with upper division creative writing students again this spring, and I am curious as to how the online setup will affect the course experience. I will be teaching two more sections of College Writing II in the spring, as well as continuing to develop course descriptions and outcomes for our writing major.

I wasn't able to attend Feminisms & Rhetorics 2019 in Harrisonburg, VA this year, nor the Bloom Women's Retreat in Green Lake, WI. Those are two fall staples that I am disappointed to have missed out on, but I look forward to future attendance. I did get to attend our Bloom move night closer to home, and I was glad to get some time with that community of women. I am looking forward to attending the Conference on College Composition and Communication 2020 in Milwaukee, WI this spring, as well as for my article manuscript, "Food Memoir: Agency in Public and Private Rhetorical Domains" to be published in Peitho this fall. That article has been through several iterations over the past few years, and I am very glad to have it finally be finished and published.

In addition to my scholarly work, I was proud to have completed my reading goal of reading 19 books in 2019. In line with the year itself, there is quite a bit of variety represented here. I really enjoyed most of the books, and I have recommended several of them to others. My favorite fiction book of the year was The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan. It had just the right amount of intrigue, romance, whimsy, and literary references to be so satisfying. My favorite nonfiction book was Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman, which I listened to on Audible. I included an overview of that book in my "Baby Blog" post. All but two of the books that I read this year were written by women, and I think overall it was a great year of reading. Looking forward to reading 20 books in 2020.

I started this year with a trip to Thailand over my 30th birthday and am ending it at home with a three month old baby. There was lots of questioning, excitement, work, and planning in between, but we've made it! I realized the other day that this decade has been my first one as an adult, and it really has been one for the books! In this decade, I've: taught English at the college level for nine years at five different institutions, gotten six tattoos, traveled to four continents, lost three close family members, earned three post-secondary degrees, lived in three different states, bought two houses, owned two dogs, gotten married, and had a baby boy. I'm ready, though, for what the next decade will bring.

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