Friday, May 11, 2012

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

After reading Billie's post on the end of the semester, I became inspired to sit down, stop, and think about the past year. And as customary, things fall into Eastwood place easily. Fortunately, The Good always wins, especially when I am away from the semester and can again reconnect to all the good.

The Good

  • My Comp I students are totally getting rhetoric, finally. This is because I am finally getting better at teaching them this, mostly because of the textbook I've been writing with Liz Kleinfeld. In their portfolio final reflections, most students mention that they understand rhetorical appeals, that they will always think about ethos in what they read and see. They also share that even though initially they felt my reading responses seemed unnecessary, that as the semester progressed, they realized that all their rhetorical analyses helped them apply those principles to their writing and composing.
  • My Comp I students show me how wickedly smart they are. They also show me that my multimodal approach helps them get rhetorical concepts on a deeper level than simply analyzing written text. Their visual arguments are original, pointed, and much more convincing than traditional disengaged argumentative essays that I used to require.
  • I changed up assignments in my Comp I class after several semesters of repetition. I privileged more visual approaches, always accompanied by a form of analysis, to help students see that composition is more than text. As the semester neared its end, I worried about whether their writing skills were getting more proficient--had I structured class in a way that their writing improved even while emphasizing other forms of composition. Fortunately, when I read their final portfolios, their reflective essay (a piece I didn't see) showed they indeed had learned essay writing concepts and rhetorical strategies.
  • Sharing my writing and writing processes/struggles helps me feel more connected to my students and the profession. In my poetry writing class, I wrote in class with the students, sharing my in-class exercises. I talked about my struggles, about how I felt after workshopping my piece the night before, about my drafting and revising practices.
  • Two years ago when I became Faculty Senate President, I had one major goal--to help faculty feel more empowered and to have Senate feel like a group of committed individuals. For the most part, that has been accomplished. I've established good lines of communication with the administration, and as a result, helped to foster some solutions for problematic situations and helped to develop some faculty centered initiatives. Faculty trust me to get their voice heard, so I feel deeply honored by that trust. Since it's felt ultimately rewarding, I'm heading into another two years in the position.
  • This year, I finally received a course release for my work directing the GLBT Resource Center on campus. With the release, I staffed hours in there, so I felt more connected to my work studies who do most of the staffing and with the students who drop in and regularly hang out. I also worked with an essentially new group of students to deliver two safe zone trainings this year. The release is one step toward institutionalizing the Resource Center, and I hope that eventually my hope for that will be realized.
  • For the first time ever, a student in my Comp II class created a resume for one of her genre pieces, illustrating the plight of a teenage mom. It was smart not just in its rhetorical message, but also in how the student paid attention to formatting and the resume's sparseness.
  • News of a raise after what seems like a long four years without one.
  • And probably more goods that have slipped into my mind's crevices.
The Bad
  • Having a student disappear toward the middle of the semester, hoping he is safe out in the world. In a small poetry class of eight, when we lost T, it took a long time to establish the community as just seven. One day, T basically had a breakdown, evident at the start of class. I tried to get T help, involved a Dean who tried to involve a counselor, but T needed to go. And so, perhaps one day I will find out what happened to T, but for now, I hope he is safe out in the world. He made an impression in a short number of weeks.
  • My loose approach (no attendance policy) did not work well with my Comp I class this semester. Most were fresh out of high school and without there being huge consequences for missing class, they would come and go. Thus, I had a rotating community, where it became clear when a number of students would miss. At one point, the class of regulars sensed my frustration--they all sat on one side of the room together so if I stood on that side, the class looked full.
  • Even though my own writing helped me connect more with students, at times it occupied so much of my time that I would occasionally neglect a prep for class. Fortunately this didn't happen often, but when it did, I had to punt quickly, with often good experiences, but still I would think--oh lame Amy, really.
The Ugly
  • As has unfortunately been the case for the past two years at my institution, there seems to be a plague of a virus that has eaten away at its innocence. As the year ends and some things are resolved, I am hopeful that the ugly will disappear.
And so writing this year-end helps me feel not only ready for days of summer's nothingness and the time to undertake certain projects (that post forthcoming), but also grateful for my job, for the fact that despite the tire of fifteen weeks, I get to use my intellect and I get to hang out with young minds; I get paid to think, feel, and create. It doesn't get much better than that.

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