You Get A Conference, You Get A Conference, And Yes, Even You

Week 4 of Graduate School and Teaching Comp

It is 3:30 pm on Friday and I am at my office in Moreland Hall. In an attempt to not be crushed by readings on the weekend, I keep myself metaphorically shackled to this building a few hours at a time throughout the week until my locks are broken by at 5 pm each day. So far, for the most part, it’s led me to be far more productive than I have been in the past and it’s nice to be able to go home at the end of the day and attend to things to my leisure.

Today also marks the end of conferences for WR121’s 1st drafts and I feel pretty good about how it went. It is an exhausting endeavor though and has left me wanting to do anything but think of the stack of revised drafts students will be submitting on Monday.

It feels good to recall the ease with which students spoke to me during conferences, their frankness about the effort (or lack thereof) they put into their draft, their thoughts about the class on writing and how they shared small details of their lives with me that helped define them as people who just happened to be my students than seeing them exclusively as these students whose papers often carry a multitude of overlooked missteps or whose faces look at me with occasional indifference when I make the umpteenth obscure reference in class.

I fear that those fifteen-minute conferences may not result in many substantial improvements for papers with students who may wait, despite my urgings that they avoid it at all cost, until Sunday evening to get to revising. On my end though, I’m also fearful that I wasn’t as prescriptive as I am often compelled to be when looking at someone’s writing. In past creative writing courses, I delivered overly detailed recommendations to peers and had been told more than once to pull back from that type of critique in a working draft. I’ve tried to keep that in mind with my WR121 students, but at times I’m unsure if I have gone too much to the spectrum’s opposite end. From all the compositional pedagogy texts I’ve read, I understand that these variances are an accepted part of the assessment process and, if I were operating in a vacuum and looking at just my own writing I think I’d be much more at ease. Looking across a table at a student though, often one who doesn’t have much confidence in herself as a writer, there seems to be some urgency in doing things right by them before their potential cynicism about writing or teachers of writing is solidified.

In better news, I’ve managed to stick some of my self-appointed rules pretty well this week. Bringing lunch from home or getting a free one when possible, check. Not drinking alcohol Sunday to Wednesday (work in progress, people), check. Eating more vegetables than refined sugar, check. Not compulsively buying anything on Amazon, Ebay or funding a miscellaneous Kickstarter, fail. Although in an attempt at rhetorical justification, I did spend at least an hour mulling over different headphones under $20 before finally settling on getting another pair of decently constructed Sony headphones from Amazon that cost me a grand total of $13. Also, I like reading in my office and playing music while I do so without having to subject my office mates to the latest “In For the Kill” remix.

In even better news, I attended the Coalition of Graduate Employees fall meeting and can’t wait to again hang out with non-English majors. As excited as I still get when talking about books, it’s easy to forget when your so entrenched in a specialty that there are other people pursuing advanced degrees in areas that they are just as passionate about. I wish I could take a graduate Public Policy or Forestry class, but getting to talk over beers to people studying those things with great intensity seems like it’ll be a great substitute. And now that I’ve joined CGE’s auditing committee, I’ll get a chance to meet up with my former nemesis, numbers, and work together with some good people to ensure CGE is getting stuff done right. It’s baffling when a university’s union operates with the transparency that I often wish mine and other governments had.

Oh well, enough rumination, this paper on the history of writing modes won’t read itself.

Hoping to lose my 20/20 vision by reading small texts from scanned PDF's.
Hoping to lose my 20/20 vision by reading small texts from scanned PDF’s.

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