Friday, March 31, 2006

Welcome to the Blogosphere

Sharon Mitchler, the national chair of TYCA, has a new blog.

If I ever get around to updating my links, she'll be the first person I add. I'm looking forward to seeing what she has to say. Warm welcomes, Sharon.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Cs Report, Part 6

I went to two SIGs, Christians on Thursday night and Bloggers on Friday night. Both were enjoyable and informative. I particularly liked the blogging SIG because I saw so many name tags I recognized and got to finally start figuring out the faces behind the blogs. I won’t really go into the meeting because Clancy has already posted the very thorough notes she and Mike put together.

The Christians were a very serious and productive bunch. I came away with a large stack of annotated bibliographies. They’d been working in teams on compiling them since the SIG last year. I didn’t recognize any of their names because I had not done any reading at all having to do with recent scholarship and Christian rhetoric before crashing their Cs party. I was interested to find out, though, that the woman running the SIG, Elizabeth Vander Lei, has a book out, Negotiating Religious Faith in the Composition Classroom.

There is also a Rhetoric and Christian Tradition web site.

I think the Christian rhet people are doing a great job, especially on banding together to plan research projects, conference panels, and so on. It’s not all up my alley. I’m a back-row Baptist. There’s only so much interest I can drum up in actually studying a faith-based rhetorical tradition. (Heh. Just kidding.)

What I mean is I recognize that I don’t have time to be seriously interested in everything on an academic level. I’m stretched a little thin as it is with the massive piles of papers from my six sections that I’m working so hard to ignore at the moment.

But I was interested in some of the more hip things going on there, like Christian rhetoric and popular culture or Christian rhetoric and blogging. I could ignore a lot of paper grading to get into thinking about these kinds of things.

I’m also interested in something that wasn’t discussed there—Christianity and Contemporary Poetry. I’d been thinking about this before, but going to the SIG kind of made it gel for me. I’ve read a little bit about Christian poets or poets writing about Christianity—Denise Levertov, Mark Jarman, Scott Cairns, Mary Oliver, etc.

Today I ordered this anthology. I’m going to let the idea keep bouncing around and work on it little by little. Maybe I’ll write a paper on it at some point (if I can start getting up at 4 a.m. instead of 5). But I probably start by just ordering books and writing blog reviews of them.

Someone has already made a bibliography.

Cs Report, Part 5

One of the most exciting parts of CCCC to me, even more exciting than delivering my own presentation with Peter Elbow sitting next to me, was Clancy's talk in which I heard my own name. Ha!

Clancy offered an excellent example of how peer-to-peer reviewing happens in the blogosphere with a breakdown of a blog-to-blog discussion last year in which Collin responded to an article in Inside Higher Ed, and I responded to Collin, and well, check out Clancy's slide to see who all else got involved and how the debate bounced back and forth from blog to blog and how consensus was reached.

This was my first time to attend the Cs, and the reason I wanted to go was because of the energy I saw on the blogs when people returned last year. I was glad to be part of that energy this year. I was also glad, for the first time ever, to see myself quoted on anything at all in a presentation. Ha!

Clancy asked if this same kind of exchange might have happened on a listserv. Maybe, maybe not. I can say that I probably wouldn't have gotten involved had it not been for the blogs.

When I first started doing this, I didn't know that people could check their referrals and go read things that had linked to their blogs. I wrote my response to Collin, thinking that maybe only Tammy and Jeanne in the building across campus might read it. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have been bold enough to take issue with him to his face.

I'm not sure what it is, but there is something about blogs, that has freed me to jump in and be part of a larger academic community in a way I was not before. I am going to put some thought into this, and if I come up with more to say on it, I'll share.

Thanks, Clancy. You did a wonderful job, and I got a big kick out of seeing my own name mentioned.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Cs Report, Part 4

I went to a presentation by Senioritis, A.K.A. Becky.

She had some interesting things to say about not making assumptions about what kinds of sources are the most valid sources for student research. She gave examples of people, like herself, who have both books and blog entries on related subjects. Thus, we can't just make blanket statements in the vein of blog = bad source, journal = good source.

I have to admit I didn't take copious notes at any of the presentations I witnessed, and I don't actually remember if that was the main point she made, or if that's just what she happened to be talking about when I looked up and thought, "Hey, good point." I do remember thinking, "Hey, good point," though, and that's good enough for me if it's good enough for you.

Anyhow, I learned something else from her. I can't assume that people at more privileged institutions don't have the same problems I have. I want to do more with technology in the classroom. I want to push myself and my students to be more literate in new technologies ( that I mention it I think there was something about techno-literacies in her paper too). In order to do that in a way I think works well, I need access to a computer lab all or most of the time. There just aren't enough labs for that to happen for all composition classes, and if even one does it, that class would take away time with computers that other classes need. Therefore, to do what I want to do with my students, I have to be a real jerk toward the other instructors and grab up their lab times in addition to my own. Given my seniority in my department, maybe I could get away with that. But should I? Really?

It never crossed my mind that people at places like Syracuse might be facing similar conundrums. It's probably a kind of reverse classism that I have the perception "they rich, we poor." But I sort of, kind of, distinctly remember Becky Howard saying she did face problems of inadequate lab space and had the same qualms about how to deal with this that I've had. Who knew?

Cs Report, Part 3

I attended a couple of panels specifically about two-year colleges, and I found them quite informative and encouraging. First, TYCA has put out some documents that should be of interest to anyone teaching in a two-year college.

Research and Scholarship in the Two-Year College

Guidelines for the Academic Preparation of English Faculty at Two-Year Colleges

Second, it seems there is an organized and sincere effort afoot to lobby the powers that be in graduate programs on behalf of those who will one day teach in two-year colleges. I don't know anyone who was actually trained to teach in a two-year college. I don't know anyone whose graduate work would have been anything remotely resembling preparation for the job. It's good to see that future grad students have some hope of a different experience.

The semester I defended my dissertation I decided to move back to Mississippi. It was the general way of things for the newly graduated to hang around teaching adjunct until landing a "real" job, but I decided that if I was going to teach adjunct, I'd just do it from home. The following fall semester I taught one section of British lit, one section of creative writing, and two sections of composition at JCJC in addition to two sections of technical writing at USM.

I can tell you, I learned a lot more that year than I had in writing my dissertation or taking my comps. I can also tell you that those comps in poetics and contemporary literature only spread so far in helping me through my first year of what my professors called "pack mule teaching."

I'm happy to see that people are working toward raising awareness of a need for a more generalist degree geared specifically toward two-year college teaching.

I also remember from my first year on the pack mule track that one of my professors said, "Don't stay there more than two years. If you do you'll be out of the loop."

That was ten years ago. I guess I'm out of the loop.

I am, however, very heartened to see real support, promotion, and encouragement for the notion of two-year college faculty as a legitimate, productive, and necessary part of said loop.

Thanks, TYCA.

Cs Report, Part 2

There are some great recaps on CCCC happenings already being posted by Mike and Dennis, both of whom I deeply admire for being awake enough for such industriousness today. I was also very happy to meet them both for the first time in Chicago, along with Clancy, Collin, et al.

**If I met you for the first time in Chicago and did not mention your name, it isn't because I don't love you. It's simply because I'm too lazy at the moment to link to your blog.

Cs Report, Part 1

Peter Elbow was writing in a Gryffindor notebook. A good time was had by all. More to follow after a break for post-conference napping.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Writing is Thinking; Thinking is Personal

I posted this to another (non-academic) blog, but I decided to put it here as well. I didn't write it with an academic audience in mind, but maybe it is fitting enough.


I’ve been flipping through a Donald Murray book this morning in preparation for a conference I go to next week. It is a book I’ve read before, but it is one I’m always happy to pick up again. It’s not necessarily meant for entertainment, but it is pleasurable to me because it is about things that are close to my heart: writing and teaching.

Murray reminds us that “writing is thinking” (3). He quotes Peter Taylor: “Writing is how you discover what you think” (7).

These are pretty simple concepts, but they are profound to me. They are how I have lived my life. They are why I am writing this now.

Not everyone loves writing, but we do all need a place to think, a place to discover what we believe, what we care about, what our most important choices will be.

Writing is my sanctuary. It doesn’t matter to me whether I write for others or only for myself. Either way, it’s where I go to lay claim to my own thoughts—whether they be emotional, spiritual, academic, political, or social. They all become a very personal and reverent process for me as they move from the cluttered, chaotic stacks of information inside my head onto the page.

Everyone needs this. My father works in his garden and goes for long walks in the woods. My niece listens to music. My sister rearranges the furniture in her house. Some friends cook. Others shop. A few run or bicycle or do yoga. However we go about it, we all crave a place inside our own heads we can rely on, a place we can go to for decompression, a place where we can discover what we think and feel.

Because I teach writing classes, it is so important to remember this. It isn’t just about an academic skill. It is always personal. It is always sacred. Murray says writing is “a product of the interaction of the global and the particular” (5). It is also a product of the interaction between the persona we are willing to present to the world and the person we see when we look within.

I am about to start writing down what I will say about personal writing and composition students at the conference next week. This is what I will most likely not say. This is my discovery draft, my pre-writing, my warm up. This is where I am practicing what I will later preach.

In order to accomplish something real with writing, or with any decision making process, we have to first spend quality time in that place inside our own selves where we remember what is most important to us, where we understand what it is we honestly think.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


I'd heading out to AWP first thing in the morning. I just have one question. How many pairs of shoes is one person allowed to take on a three day trip?

On another note--spring has arrived. The pear trees are in full blossom in Hattiesburg, and this afternoon I noticed the dogs on my street were napping in the shade.