I teach in 54 minutes. I am at my desk (why is the office so empty when I’m here?), and it’s cold. I’ve been reflecting, quietly, on my approaches (or intended approaches) for this new semester, and feeling simultaneously strong, regretful, and mostly optimistic. I’m excited to be using a book that I like - The Storytelling Animal by Jonathan Gottschall – and a handbook that I also enjoy because it’s easy to navigate and stresses the importance of writing as participation in a larger conversation. I am working on identifying moments of learning for myself, times at which I had an idea of what the teaching of writing was about, points of clarity, key terms that I should hold on to.
Of the many things I am doing differently this semester, one of the most significant to me is having students call me by whatever they want. That is to say, I haven’t asked them to call me anything, and I’ve been signing my emails as “Chelsea.” I worked so hard last semester to create this figure of authority, certainly as a response to how small and awkward I feel in front of a classroom of 25 students who seem to have it together much more than I do, and that persona I built was a complete mess. No amount of costume and performance could cover up the questioning, insecurities, and uncertainties that composed me.
This semester, I spent a significant amount of time over break working closely with our associate director to plan my course, to share my ideas and to put them into application. I realized after last semester that I needed to work especially hard at designing ways to implement concepts and goals in the classroom, in the time and space we meet in each week. I wrestled with the idea of a “flipped” classroom, trying to reconcile the gap I noticed between “workshop-based” courses and the actual process of composing – we write our papers on computers, and yet our classes don’t meet in a computer lab. This time, we are doing more reading and discussion, and I created a note taking handout (modified from a course I took in my undergrad) that I’m hoping will help my students bring something to say with them each day.
I am teaching research as storytelling, or storytelling as research, whichever way you prefer to phrase it – I think both are applicable. This began as a little idea, a small truth, and I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to pursue it with the support of my mentors and colleagues. I’ve found some great resources from other educators, namely Anna Smith at Developing Writers; here’s a recent post with a video that I plan on using next week. One day, I will remember to join them for the #engchat on Twitter. I’m not great at keeping up.
I teach in 42 minutes. This semester is proving to be much more demanding than the Fall semester was. I knew this, I anticipated this, and I think it is going to test my capacity for self-discipline. I can see a lot of late nights baking in my future – the premise is that if I have a significant amount of work to do, the more cookies that need to go in the oven, the later I have to stay up to take them out and clean up. I’ve also deleted the Facebook app from my phone, and am going to make it a goal to not be on that site if at all possible, because I have a bad habit of checking it 1039817206987 times a day. I think what is going to be most difficult, is managing my own course planning (this feels so, so new) with the demands of my two graduate classes, as well as balancing my role as a mother. I know it’s possible. I know I can do this. I am writing these notes to myself in my journal. I will do this.
I do have to blog for an online class I’m taking: ENGL 516, Computers and Writing, Theory and Practice. I will tag those posts, as I have this one, with engl516. I will also be using the note taking format I gave my students as a way to share my thoughts/questions/connections about the reading assignments I have, and you are welcome to respond.
I teach in 30 minutes. Today, we are talking about story as a key component of the human life, characteristics of story, the way our imaginations are drawn to story, and the context(s) in which stories exist (hint: everything, everywhere).