Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: End of the Semester Reflections

OK, 1.5 weeks of detox isn't too bad, especially considering how exhausted and shit-mooded I was on December 13, my last contract day of the fall semester. But now, with a lot of naps and a bit of distance between me and the end of the semester, I can sit back a bit and reflect, with the help of Ennio Morricone. It's a perfect classification system, and without fail, it can be applied to almost any situation; this past semester is a perfect illustration.

The Good
Setting: The classroom, gatherings of students, gatherings of colleagues
  • Classes, classes, always classes are the high point of any semester. Once again, all my classes energized me in various ways. Below is a brief capsule of final impressions.
    • ENG121/Composition I--I get better and better with using visual rhetorical seamlessly in the class. Students, at the end of the semester, totally get how to apply rhetorical strategies/analysis across all notions of text (written, visual, audio). As part of a unit on sustainability, students have to create a photo essay as a group. This semester, the class really got the photo essay concept, and even hit on notions of sustainability much more precisely than the previous semester. It's not quite the perfect assignment yet, but it's reaching a better state of being.
    • LIT115/Introduction to Literature--From the first day of class, this class possessed a crazy good enthusiastic energy, eager to dissect literature, to dig deep and tease out meaning. Fortunately, this energy only built, eventually creating a really cool community of literary fans, culminating in a group of wonderful dramatic projects (remixed plays written and performed), some incorporating technologically produced backdrops to serve as scene setting.
    • ENG131/Technical Writing--When I start this class each fall semester, it seems like I have walked into a club where I don't quite understand the rules and patterns of communication; it's a guy's club--the class usually averages about 75-85% male. Yet, that awkwardness eventually fades and where I read some of the silence before as aloof, the silence has given way to a comfortable voice of engagement. 
    • ENG122/Composition II with research--I teach this class online, so I always wonder if my random samples and instructional material posted on the web will help guide students through a multigenre/multimodal approach to research writing. Sometimes it takes the whole semester for me to see that students did really grasp the benefits and skills in genre composition, aided by their research. This semester also had a number of topics I had never seen tackled in my classes, so that made for better reading on my end: the role of gratitude, the state of the wolf re-introduction in Wyoming, and the world of hoarders.
  • Starting off the semester in my new role of Faculty Senate President, I got faculty two work days knocked off their contract (so we get off one day earlier each semester) and a leniency application of the 4 day/25 hour rule of being on campus.
  • Every time I went to a Queers & Allies meeting, I came away energized, amazed at the sense of community and the numbers that kept showing up each meeting.
  • Staffing the GLBT Resource Center with three fabulous queer students, helped create a truly student-centered safe space on campus.
  • Bonding with several colleagues to help get through a rough situation. Knowing that a group of us always had each other's backs, despite what the word on the hall was, simply provided saving breaths when needed.
The Bad
  • Having to feel like I had to fight and fight and fight and fight to simply get something fully heard and done by the administration. I tried going solo, talking one on one with an administrator, and often left wondering what would happen to all the notes taken. It took continually fighting, not letting my voice be silent, bringing both administrators to the table, to finally get some needed action at the end of the semester. This in itself simply exhausted me.
  • The situation. What began as a simple act of a couple of colleagues fighting a particular injustice in the working conditions, blew into a huge debacle that took up too much time, too much energy, and led to oodles of misinformed gossip on campus. 

The Ugly
  • Realizing that someone I had considered a friend for awhile was indeed spending lots of energy trying to poison others against me by making ridiculous statements about supposed actions I had orchestrated. I always want to think the best of people (my close friends refer to me as Pollyanna for always wanting to see the positive in someone), so each time something would happen with said person, I thought oh can't be serious, really. But as things continued, with the final one just happening a week ago, I declare enough. It's very ugly to gossip ugliness about others, especially when it's untrue and unfounded.
And so, fortunately The Good triumphs.

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