Reading to Write

I remember the day I began to understand what a thesis statement was, not with a vague understanding that it tells the reader what my essay is about, but a more specific understanding of its form and function. It was my senior year of college, and, ironically, I was taking a course that would teach me how to teach students to write.  Continue reading

I Just Need Quiet

Last semester was the most difficult four months I’ve experienced in my job. By December, I was burned out, depressed, anxious, and overwhelmed. If I’m honest, it wasn’t just that four months. It was a long time coming. I wasn’t satisfied with my job or my life. I felt that I hadn’t been the teacher I needed to be, the colleague I needed to be, the organizer I needed to be, the wife I needed to be, the person I wanted to be. I felt like a failure.

In fact, the semester was so rough I wasn’t looking forward to another one. Normally, even if I’m tired, I am excited about the beginning of a new semester. I genuinely enjoy planning  my courses and am like a kid on the first day of school. Not this time. I really and truly felt I had lost my joy in teaching, and as the first day of classes approached, I became even more apathetic and was filled with dread. I needed perspective.

I spent some time over the break reflecting and trying to figure out what went wrong. There are many contributing factors in the workplace that are beyond my control, but what I realized is that the most significant factor is who I am and what I need. I was neglecting myself in trying to be perfect. Continue reading

“How to be in the Class”

Every year I try to remind myself that I always survive the month of October, even when it feels that I won’t. Between committee work, meetings, mentoring, advising, organizing our annual celebration of student writing, and observing graduate instructors’ classes, I have little time to read, to write, to sleep, or to think clearly, for that matter. On top of all of these responsibilities, I also have several classes to teach.

I’m not special. October is busy for everyone in academia. Continue reading

Summer Expectations

summer flowers

Like most teachers and academics, I have big goals and expectations for summer. I don’t have any classes to teach, so I begin making a list (sometimes in January) of all the things I need and want to do that I just never have time for during the semester. Things like reading all of the books. Catching up on movies and t.v. shows.  Or cleaning out closets. Or researching. Or completing projects on the house. Getting back into shape and making more time for yoga. Relaxing. Teaching myself something new. Crafting. Writing. Spending more time with family and friends. The list goes on.

This summer, more than most, I am quickly realizing that all of these things are simply not possible. Sure, I can do some of them, and I will accomplish some goals.I have already read several books. I am making a blanket. I cleaned all of the kitchen cabinets and baseboards. We installed new blinds on the kitchen windows.

But, I am learning that I need to change my expectations because my work to-do-list is also quite long. And I need to not be disappointed with myself for not doing all of the things. I think what I need most this summer is to learn to breathe, to be proud of the things I accomplish, to take care of myself, and to let things go. I guess those are my new goals this year.

What are your plans for the summer? What expectations do you have? And what needs to be let go?

“Everyone is an Author”

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Every year, I teach at least two sections of Expanded Composition, and for the last three years, we’ve used the textbook, Everyone is an Author. The book is not perfect, but in many ways it aligns with our course goals and learning outcomes, especially for Expanded Composition. This course is designed to support students who score 19 and below on the ACT by providing them with a full year to meet the learning outcomes for ENG 101. Our department’s research shows that the students enrolled in Expanded Composition often outperform their peers in 101 and in the research-focused 102 course. The Expanded course allows students more time for each project and, because the classes are a little smaller, more one-on-one time with the instructor. Therefore, the students tend to be more prepared for future coursework. Every year, after the course ends, I reflect on what my students and I have achieved, and I set new goals for myself for the next year. It’s a time that is important for me as an educator: to decompress and to refresh. And this year, now that the semester has ended, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to teach Expanded Composition, how I can do my job more effectively, and what it means to be an author. Continue reading