Posts from the ‘Professional Development’ Category

Petrie Dish or Pen

After meeting with my advisor regarding the end of this Masters project of mine, something had occurred to me that I didn’t consider prior to beginning this project. As I began to ponder this subject, I realized how pervasive the idea truly is, and how it may have impacted my perception of education. I have conducted an artifact analysis as part of my project, and in doing so, I knew recording my findings would require an organized graph or table of what these findings were, and how they influenced my conclusion. I emphasized to my advisor that I have struggled with this document, feeling unsure of the hows and whys of producing this table of information. He then said to me, “Why are you fixed on a spreadsheet? What makes a document detailing your findings less valid than a spreadsheet?”

 

Well…shit! I don’t have an answer for that? Why do I feel a spreadsheet is more representative of dispelling knowledge as valid? What makes knowledge valid, the way we convey and share it or the knowledge itself? In my quest for higher education, I have often been faced with inconsistencies embedded into my thinking patterns, having been exposed to them throughout my primary education. It’s an unsaid truth throughout the education community that testable, verifiable knowledge is the “pièce de résistance”, but rarely does the scientific community respond to text the same way. Maybe I’m oversimplifying, or maybe I’m stereotyping education as a whole. Still, I can’t deny that this narrative has been set, and those of us that are a part of the composition community know it all too well.

 

When my advisor asked me why I was set on using a spreadsheet, I wanted to respond in loud bursts of laughter, followed by tears of joy….”I DON’T KNOW!! I don’t know Professor! I don’t know why I felt compelled to use a spreadsheet, other than to say, I’ve been programmed to believe it’s an efficient way to share empirical information”

 

Thus, this experience has propelled me to ask this question: how many other students feel this pressure? How many students have attempted to avoid certain projects or subjects merely due to this stifling? Is the idea that information is useless unless it’s quantified prevalent? Does it in fact stifle learning? I feel as though I’m digging my fingers into a whole new study or project? Could be.

 

I’m interested in gathering the views of other students and professionals regarding this question. If you have anything to add, please do. As most of us life-time geeks know, it is this kind of inquiry that inspires a lifetime of learning, and Lord knows I’m no where near finished with this journey. I’m convinced I very likely never will be, as simple questions like the one I posit here seem to feed my starved brain, regularly.

MP Reflection

Reflection #1: 4/12/16

Today I met with my advisor to discuss the methodology portion of my project. I’ll be working on a rhetorical analysis of a number of blogs to locate key terms, patterns, and characteristics that they all maybe share or do not share. I’m looking for markers of grief and mourning discourse within the blogs, in hopes to illustrate how the internet and writing is changing the playing field of grief coping mechanisms for many people.

It was one of the first moments when I could feel this labor of love piecing itself together. Jason would have scolded me by now and shit on my timeline by now, but he’s partly why the timeline was sabotaged so maybe I’m just being a little self loathing in that assessment. It was a great feeling knowing I will only be visiting Prof. Krause’s office maybe one last time. As much as I love campus life, I have had about enough of it.

He spent the better part of an hour with me today, which I’m really grateful for. He squeezes me into his schedule, and I appreciate that time, immensely. We browsed for blogs, looked at a few specific ones I’ve located, and ironed out what types of keys linguistic markers to look for. I was having a tough time determining precisely what a “marker” is and it’s function, so he asked me to think of genres. For example, when I think of country music songs, what types of characteristics would I look for in songs like this? This really helped me get my thoughts into perspective, and we began listing genre characteristics for my methodology.

Then he said I would need to create a spreadsheet to title the blogs, designate the markers, and tally my findings for each blog. At first I felt uncomfortable, because spreadsheets are the bane of my existence. I’d prefer to create a presentation in front of hundreds of people, instead of such a tedious task, but perhaps it’s a necessary evil here. I suppose there’s ways to make the spreadsheet my own, and not so dry and uninteresting. I’m really looking forward to this aspect, because it gives me a gateway into other grieving minds, and everyone knows misery loves company. I learn more from other people in my field than what I contribute, I can promise you that. Well, the next thing on this project list is to tighten up that literature review, attach my methodology, and the works cited….then it’s off to life in the spreadsheet.

The NY Hum.

Lady Liberty to my left and the Freedom Tower to my right at 199 State St. Brooklyn, New York, and it basically just fell in my lap. How does such a fitting metaphor have me here in such a historically rich place? Lord knows I have my share of friends, and they have their share of networks, but I never expected this. These are the moments I thank God that I’m alive and well! I love New York, and I want to come back. If I could land a well-paying source of income, I could most assuredly live here. Like Nancy said last night, “If you stop and listen, you can hear the hum”

I want to kickstart the “hum” in my life. I’m taking my sweet old time doing so, but I truly do. I want to get up, move, make things happen, and make my way through the streets with purpose. I can do that again, but this time with a different purpose. A purpose on a grander scale. The thought occurs to me often, “I can do whatever I want” I mean, within reason of course, but this thought was non existent in the old me. Particularly because I had everything that I wanted, and never felt the need for more. In my eyes, I had everything. In general, I did have everything.

This is different though. Now, everything means sustaining this family on my own. Even though I have the safety net, I have to secure a dependable living, which I know I can do, but I have other facets of responsibility to consider as well. I have a child in college, I have a grandchild on the way, and I have a son starting high school. It feels like I’m dabbling in life’s many experiences all at once in some sense. I don’t know why God thinks I’m so good at multitasking and juggling, I’m really not. However, when God calls, you better answer I gather. I don’t know if He’s calling, but He sure thinks highly of me. I guess I should bask in that thought, but it tends to make me anxious. Perhaps that feeling is just experience rearing its familiar head.

I’ve visited a few places that left enough of an impact on me that it didn’t seem like a place at all; Savannah, Ga., Windsor, Canada, South Padre Island, TX., Nassau, Bahamas, Playa Del Carmen, Mexico, and now New York, NY. These places all share a unified concept, just like many other places I’ll visit, and that is they represent emotion, passion, love, culture, language, asthetic value and rich, experiential knowledge of people. The world is made of people, so the more we’re exposed to them, the more we become comfortable being ourselves in the world. We create mental connections with those we encounter on the way home from work, and on our way to band practice. We may not have an extended or intimate conversation with people regularly, but we are a part of one another’s passing time. A human fragment attached to our day, therefore us. Haven’t you ever passed someone on the street, took one look at them and thought “I wonder what their life is like?” No? Never? Well you should. You should, because you’ll hear the hum inside of them. It’s a feeling, not a place. It’s a piece of the pie with surround sound, and we’re in charge of getting those details. They’re the details that make people a person, and I’m enthralled with learning what makes us all tick.

If you have asked that question, then you know what I meant by “a human fragment” People touch our soul, whether it is in a way that we get satisfaction from or not, it is true. People come in and out of our lives on a daily basis, and it can just as easily be a stranger you see wheeling a shopping basket around, carefully as so to not lose the excessive amount of returnables hanging off of it, as it could be someone you’ve slept next to for over twenty years. We have no control over who we fall in love with, and almost no control over those we invest in. I give my heart, freely whether it is to my lover or my best friend. Simply because we are human beings and have this incessant need to love, we crave the human contact. I crave human contact. When I find myself in a an unfamiliar place, I go out of my way to meet people. I spark up conversation. It can be mundane initially, but eventually I’ll guide the conversation into territory where we talk about the geography, history, and sooner or later, some retrospective memory of this place pops in their head, and I get this vastly layered short story of how this particular location became significant to the individual. It’s what I like to call unofficial participant research. It’s unofficial because it certainly isn’t academic by nature, but I’m participating in people researching, so I find it fascinating!

I love this stuff! The kind of inspiration I get from these observations is gold. One can only learn outside the box from people and experience, books cannot provide it. Personal stories are manifestos of life. They are irrefutable happenings with lives, emotions, and livable, credible perspectives shaped by wisdom. I thrive on it. So, I try to listen more than I talk, and for those of you that know me, you know this is a daily struggle for me 🙂

Curious Optimism

It’s been some time since I’ve graced my page, too long for my liking. Life on campus is coming to a close for this veteran academic, and needless to say, it has been one heck of a ride. This testimonial is not an implication that my journey through scholarship is finished. No, because for those of us that sacrifice time, family, tuition, and sometimes bits of sanity, we are fully aware that this calling is a lifetime one. We cannot escape the inexplicable fulfillment of making room for expanding our brain cells, and more importantly, demonstrating to our students the endless possibilities of such an endeavor.

It is a selfish and selfless road we traverse, which may be some of the reason why students feel so conflicted about this journey at times. The nights of cramming, reading, writing, equating, experimenting, researching, discovering, and doing it all over again when we hit a wall, working seamlessly into the early morning hours. The point at which we determine sleep is insignificant, but forms of caffeine are welcome with open arms. When the cell phone continuously goes off causing fits of aggravation until we decide it’s one less electronic mess to deal with and turn it off. We cut ourselves off from the world, and sometimes consequentially those we love, immersing focused into what we what we love to do.

I have come to understand why I love to do this, beside the obvious benefit of learning beyond myself. I am a creature of curiosity. I have been since I can remember. I’ve worked my way into my dad’s tool box numerous times, having an odd obsession with the rainbow colored magnets that stuck together on one end, and magically push away on the other. I was enamored of my mom’s make up kit, and the fragrant allure of Cover Girl, woking the electric blue shadow onto the tips of my fingers and wondering how such a thing could make her eyes so pretty. As a little girl, I made huge messes of muck and grass on my grandpa’s workbench in the back yard, as I had prepared our mudpie suppers. The pièce de résistance was granny’s jewelry box, not the goods that grandpa had spent so many hours at Chrysler working to award her with, but the trunk stuff, bobbles, pendants, ridiculous tiaras that she must have picked up at yard sales to tickle my fancy with, this was my treasure trove. This habit of play is what nurtured a habit of curiosity, and to this day I credit these experiences, because they are what taught me what working toward something means. They made me the curious mind that I am.

So, since I have been at Eastern, I have been desperately trying to find a position that fits my place in the world. I have utilized the values that my curiosity molded, trying to find the place that is carved out for me. This has not happened yet. As a matter of fact, I feel that there is no place carved out for me. Sometimes this feeling makes me very insecure, as though I’m not worthy of having my dream job, and sometimes I’m frustrated that the world hasn’t made room for me. As I am reaching the pinnacle (for now) of my academic career, I’m realizing that this journey wasn’t paved by the world for me to enjoy, it was paved by me to appreciate the world. So…with that admission, I am on the next journey. This is where I go back to the basics, for although teaching and education is my passion, writing in my heart. Thus, perhaps I haven’t found this niche yet, because I have been looking for the wrong thing. Maybe getting back to where I began as a student will help me locate where I might go next. I have decided to keep all options open and begin my search for my place in the world, by getting back to what I know, back to what I am. I am a writer, and it is by nature that this has refined me, not me it.

So, I will being to write as writers do, and all the while I will keep my perspective open to the opportunities that my passion may unveil. If I am fortunate enough to take the path leading to education and instruction, wonderful! If not, it is okay, because my writing has brought me this far, and has provided me with opportunities and accomplishments that I never dreamed I would witness in this life. I teach because I love it, but I write because it has loved me.

Writing Myself: Finding Genre in Everything

Today was my interview with the workshop instructor from Downriver Community Conference Work First program. I participated in a three day workshop called, “Personal Placement Network” (PPN), a program designed to provide professionals in career transitions with proven, self-directed job search techniques and I made an appointment to have the instructor take a closer look at my resume.

He was very helpful. He was able to determine that my resume was in need of a more comprehensive career summary, as opposed to the current opening entitled, “objective” He helped me tease out which career skill-sets I needed to extract, and which information I could lose, altogether. He said professionals have very little time to view resumes and they ought to be as concise as possible. He also stated that although the hard copy needed to be concise, a lengthy electronic copy would be okay, because most professionals are accustomed to scrolling through information on a PC. He helped me devise another career summary that included more detail about my experience as a scholar, and I realized I was able to do this because of the continuous amount of questions he asked me. His inquiry developed even more self-assessment on my part, and I was able to tweak the already ample amounts of skills related to writing that I had listed. As he and I looked over the details of my resume, together we also located a few mechanical issues that required addressing. We basically proofread an outdated version of my CV, and systematically recreated a polished version. We were a part of the writing process, just as tutor and consultant are. He was a peer-reviewer and I gained the benefit of it.

As I sat there, I realized what we had been doing was the very idea that I argue mainstream classes need to incorporate, more. We worked together to make adjustments and changes to text, and the conversation encouraged metacognitive strategies that I used to improve and revisit the text. My resume writing interview was an example of the writing process at work, and how peer-review enables success in that process. I had to giggle after thinking about it. What took me so long to recognize this? I mean, after all, a resume is just another genre, right?

From “A” to : Moving Freely, Not Fearful

“English studies maintains a fixed point of view through a singular notion of writing as static, fixed, and individually composed (typically via the essay or exam), taking place in a unified realm of thought deemed ‘English'” (127) in 2006, this is what Jeff Rice poses and in 2012 I learned what he meant. He goes on to state that the coinciding definition of writing that accompanies this thought regarding English that is produced is not indicative of the digital society that we are entering, now (127).  Our technologically savvy world is producing technologically savvy students and we have to adapt as instructors. As educators, we are aware of the demands on students, especially regarding assessment, but we are doing a disservice to them if we don’t integrate technology into the composition classroom.
In the beginning of this class, I felt as though I wanted very much to be the type of teacher that had a novel classroom with tech savvy equipment, up-to-date multimedia, and changing modes and platforms. I still feel this way, but now I realize that it takes more than just the desire to want to be this instructor. In order to make our students comfortable with using this material in the class, we must illustrate that we are comfortable with doing so as well. This may entail filtering in a new or unfamiliar program, and we need to be open-minded enough to allow our students to see that we aren’t all that savvy at some things. We talk, talk, talk, about how we are working to make the web our friend and tool, but when it comes to walking the walk, we trip and stumble.
It isn’t necessarily our fault, because some of us were brought up during a point in education where we truly believed that literacy consisted of reading and writing, as though thinking does not fall into that category, “The network, therefore, does not require learning the truths of ideas, but rather how ideas fluctuate in specific types of spaces and contexts” (131). Rice is pointing this out, but we missed the point for some time. I touched on this point in my Ignite presentation and it was even more apparent to me how interpretations not only change from person to person, but sometimes for the same piece, being interpreted by the same person on a different day. At the start of this course, I was insecure about how technology was going to fit in my classroom, I didn’t sound as though I was, but I know now that I was and I blogged about it.
http://truebloodcreator.wordpress.com/2012/01/26/winner-do-artifacts-have-politics/

Looking back on my post, there is an aspect of emotion in that blog that I don’t seem to see right away, if I ever seen it at all. It’s fear. I once thought the problem with what we are looking at regarding digitally in the classroom was power, or the inherent power associated with instruction, but it’s not the power, it’s the fear we feel when we admit we don’t know something that we somehow internalize as a loss of power when we cannot explain our way through web tutorial. In the blog entitled, “Network and New Media” I talk about Rice’s idea of what college English should be. I articulate the power I mention above, and I even talk about the forms of control associated with that power, but what I don’t identify is how that power still maintains control over me, professionally, “The reason the paradox applied so naturally to what Rice calls ‘The Network’ is because institutionally, a body of power cannot control the web”, so isn’t the field of education a body of power? Of course it is! We are the ones in control in this field, administration and legislators tell us what we can and cannot do with regard to resources, but educators make the impacting decisions for students. With that said, because we have obtained a level of status and power, relinquishing this to something unknown to us is intimidating. I do not mean to imply that we all feel this way, and I do not mean to imply that we are control freaks, but as students ourselves, we have been conditioned to be, individually, responsible for our work, thus our expertise as well.

This idea implies that we believe an aspect of our identities are connected to the work we do, and if we embrace collaborative and/or web based composition, we also must be willing to embrace the sociality associated with it and let go of our identities as professionals. Some of us think this is wrong, but maybe it just feels wrong. Maybe it feels wrong, because for so long we have been convinced that reading and writing has been approached as an activity solely for ourselves. It has been sold to us, by those who came before and we believed knew more, that composition is a skill obtained through rigorous study and practice, and if I didn’t believe this, I wouldn’t be teaching. However, this idea needs qualification, because composition was never an activity meant to keep individualized, if it was, we would have no such thing as publishers. “The world wide web is uncontrollable, and as such those in control will always fight to keep what they have controlled for eons under close watch”, when I made this statement, I did not take into account that I am one of “those” and I have to force myself to let go of this antiquated notion of control, because it is futile to believe I have control over composition. I can’t, the fluidity of it makes that crystal clear.

https://truebloodcreator.wordpress.com/2012/02/26/networks-and-new-media-jeff-rice-engl-516/

In light of the discussion above, I must remember that assuming control over any one teachable skill is a waste of time, precisely because of the changes those skills take on. In the third blog piece I would like to discuss, I mention this idea. I respond to Johnson-Eilola’s “The Database and the Essay”, but when I refer to the “fluid and shifting” concept I do not take into account that even though we recognize that our students learn in this fashion, and that educators ought to be open to teaching this way as well, I never articulate how. It is easy to imply that instructors need to be aware of the shifts in composition, designing innovative projects, but that is not enough. We have to push further, specifically push ourselves.

The author posits that ignoring database design makes the influence invisible, well I cannot argue that, but now I see that requires some examining. Database design’s influence is only seemingly invisible, because we ignore the impact that it has on us as instructors, not necessarily the students. There is a tension in this discussion: we are aware that our students are technologically advanced, because we watch their cell phone usage and ipod manipulation closely in our classrooms, yet when we apply curriculum to the same conversation, some of us tend to shy away. We are fully aware that students are tech savvy and that the concept to them is quite familiar. We see, everyday, that these gadgets are glued to their hips and are significant tools of communication within their social lives. However, we ignore the experience students obtain as valuable. We do not value what students have taught themselves in regards to technology, because sometimes we approach knowledge learned outside the classroom as inferior. It’s this mistake that makes database design’s influence seemingly invisible. The conflict resides in the fact that we know students are tech savvy, and we ourselves utilize this savviness with respect to our professional lives, or else we wouldn’t use programs or sites like Plato.com or Grammarly. Consequentially, we are addressing a paradox that many of us hesitate dealing with, because we are conflicted about confronting student who may very well be more advanced with technology than we are.

This is where I would like to infuse some of Jeff Rice’s “English <A>”, because the discussion is based on the premise above. Grammar A is the individualized education that most of us (with the exception of those born in the mid to late 80’s and after) have been exposed to in our academic lives. We have been convinced, or rather conditioned to believe that Grammar A is our tool to advancement, “This model, with its emphasis on standardization, rote performance, and subjection to the ‘great’ individual author also indicates the origins of non-social composing” (56). However, after having been exposed to so many examples of composition study, it is clear to me that composition is completely opposite to individualized thought. At best, individual study only invokes greater curiosity to be developed, and socializing is a key factor in developing this said curiosity. The one theme I argue is that intimidation of institutional breakdown is at the heart of why digitally is seemingly unstable. It is not the digital realm that is unstable. What is unstable is the idea that a standardized skill set is stable, the only thing stable in teaching writing to students is the student and even that is questionable at times, “To do that kind of work would make the user (or writer or course or subject) the individual at the center of all activity, not a part of the network. Instead, the network I imagine <A> creating is a flexible, shifting, never stable entity (or even entities)” (62). Thus, to teach with this in mind, we must allow the students to remain flexible, while we allow ourselves to be, as well.

https://truebloodcreator.wordpress.com/2012/03/29/the-database-and-the-essay-johnson-eilola/

Finally, I decided that the last post I wanted to include here had to be something that I was willing to go out on a limb to produce. I certainly cannot pretend to behave as though I am now a member of the professional web page designing world, just because I was able to navigate my way around Wix. Nevertheless, I opened an account some time ago, chose a design and format, and then abandoned it altogether. Why? Why would I go to such lengths to design this page and then leave it? Could it be that I felt like only playing bridge, thereby excluding myself from the experience of any other card game? (Weathers 135) or maybe I refrained from the fluidity that Johnson-Eilola cogently points out, or as Rice articulates, maybe I’m intimidated from the connections and links that <A> imposes on me and my antiquated ideas of learning? Whatever the reason, I did in fact move entirely away from the site and all the great resources it offers.

Ultimately, I identified what I was doing. I noticed that I wanted to remain in my comfort zone and keep what I know close and dear. But if there is any one thing I have learned through this semester, it is, that this notion robs my students. It robs them of an instructor willing to make errors in their presence. It robs them of an expanded and innovative curriculum. It robs them of the best example of composition, and that is that there is no best example, precisely because the examples change throughout time. I have to understand that the best part of learning to compose is composing in new and unfamiliar environments, because it allows me to situate myself as a writer and thinker, simultaneously. If I am going to demand that my students think for themselves, then I have to be willing to un-think what those before me embedded in my brain matter. Not all of it, but the portions that force me to believe in institutionalized learning, as opposed to free thinking. If I am free to think, make connections, socialize, and link ideas, I am also opening up a space where I am comfortable doing this even when I know little or nothing about the ideas I entertain. When I do this, it makes the learning experience of my students just as open, “The socialized experience makes writing always relational” (Rice 65). Thanks Jeff!

https://truebloodcreator.wordpress.com/2012/04/22/wix-curriculum-vitae-9/

Wix (Curriculum Vitae)

Wix (Curriculum Vitae)

So, since the onset of this class (English 516) even though I have been intrigued by the several different new media composition tools, digital art, and multimedia environments, I have still remained within my comfort zone. I notice that although I am willing to try and incorporate digital literacy into my classroom, I am still a bit intimidated by it, and the thought of throwing myself to the wolves, aka, the world wide web. I feel as though I have grown a fairly thick skin for criticism, yet I haven’t truly embraced the lot of multimedia platforms, so my skin is still not quite as thick, because I haven’t experienced the complete and utter exposure that one does when they are willing to be overwhelmed by digitality. It’s natural to feel overwhelmed, it’s a new age, novel programs, and innovative ideas that we’re attempting to embrace.

Furthermore, we’re attempting to embrace this digital monster, and learn while we do it. Being in that position makes some of us feel insecure and confused at times, but that’s a great feeling, because it forces us to be curious. In order to demand a certain curiosity of our students, ought we not be as willing to discover the unknown as well? Perhaps instruction should embrace this idea as much as embracing the novel idea of the web, too?

This digital CV that I have created on Wix is by no means as avant garde as some might like to think (namely myself, even though I felt oddly techy while working on it), but it is a starting point, or maybe even a middle ground as I work through my own comfort zone, or lack there of. The more we question, research, examine, create, and further this cycle, the better off our students are. I have to admit that I opened this Wix account on the evening we discussed the site, which was roughly a little less than a month ago or more, and then I walked away from it. I left it dead in the water, and when I thought about it I felt scared, as though something would jump through the screen and bite me. The main reason why I decided to pick it up where I left of is because I am currently seeking employment and I thought, by necessity, I should finish what I started.

This is a perfect example of the comfort zone that we all like to remain in. Even though it made me a bit uncomfortable to work with it (I made a horrible mess of the page too many times to mention) every time I fell, I was able to get up and try again. I forced myself to get up and try again, because I need to be able to refer professionals and colleagues to this page. So, with that said and without further ado….here is me…..academic me.

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