Sunday, January 22, 2012

Semester Lift-Off

I admit it. Lately, I have felt severely disconnected from my job. For one-and-a-half years, it seems that my workplace has been plagued with personnel issues that found me on the receiving end. As a result, I have created work schedules that limit my time on campus, that keep me distant from my job. This fall semester, though, despite a personnel issue, I managed to still connect with students; their voices, enthusiasm, and presence helped me realize I have a friggin awesome job.

And that is the attitude that the first week of classes has helped stir to the surface--finally. I have missed feeling this way; I have missed being excited at the prospects of the semester.

One of the changes I negotiated for this year was receiving a course release for the work I do in the GLBT Center, a small closet of a space, but yet a space that I helped establish several years ago. Last year, I spent very little time in the center, did not offer any safe zone trainings to the campus, and basically did nothing except approve work studies' time sheets. I had grown tired of not receiving compensation for what I do, and while that is not usually the great motivator for me, it became one after surviving a horrific year on campus. Last semester, with compensation, I joyfully spent five hours a week helping to staff the center, hanging out with students, developing friendships and listening to their stories. I also, along with six students, developed and offered a well-attended/received safe zone training. As a result of that one, I have requests for two more this semester. This semester, I am happily back in the center for five hours a week, eager for the conversations and smiles. Later this week, I am going with some of those smiles to attend the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's Creating Change Conference.

Another contributor to my change of attitude is my revived conscious writing practice (long overdue), mostly focused on personal narrative. Privileging my own reading and writing has reenergized me, helping me remember why I even chose this profession. Rather than approach writing classes as a teacher of writing, I approach them as a writer teaching writing. While the distinction might initially seem a bit semantical, I know that in practice, they are two separate kinds of teaching. Sharing my own frustrations and doubts related to my writing, truly identifying with some students' struggles when it comes to sharing their work and receiving feedback, and always thinking about the models and analysis in class as a lens for composing, has definitely made me a better teacher. The intersections of my writing and the teaching of writing have got me thinking about potential academic articles I'd like to pursue researching and writing over the summer.

And finally, for the first time in a couple of years, I actually opened every file in my online research writing class and improved some of the assignments and discussions. My work on the textbook has helped me refine my thinking about how to truly convey research principles. Additionally, it has helped me be more specific in my assignments, actually spelling out for students what I am looking for in terms of their learning. Yup, I made me some ch ch ch changes that should elevate this class from being the neglected step-child of my semester.

And yes, week one is complete. And yes, I will always know how many weeks are remaining in the semester. And yes, I am excited to go to work tomorrow.