Tuesday, April 10, 2012

3 friends, 30 objects, etc.

For the past 10 days, my friends Libby and Mariposa (two academic writing specialists) and I have been posting daily on our blog 3 friends, 30 objects, 90 stories, our rendition of a reflective writing exercise described by composition scholars Doug Hesse, Nancy Sommers, and Kathleen Blake Yancey. This exercise (which, as the blog's title suggest, is now one-third of the way through), described more fully here, has proven to be one of the most rewarding of my recent career.

Though we'd originally meant for each of us to write for 30 minutes a day, on some days I've worked for three or more hours on what I'd like to say, drafting and redrafting, tweaking the words until they're just so. On the whole, it's making me a better writer. How could it fail to, given that I'm intentionally devoting so much time to it?

It's healthy. I've written some of the best poems I've written in a long time. I've shared openly wonderful memories from long ago I've never shared before. I've learned a great deal about two close friends. The whole experience has been calming, centering, and enlightening.

I strongly recommend this exercise to any person hoping to learn more about herself...and to any friends hoping to learn more about each other. I also recommend it to any teacher in any area, at any level, as a means of focusing students' attention.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Day of Higher Ed, part 1

My colleague Casie tipped me off that today is The Chronicle of Higher Education's Day of Higher Ed, a day on which those of us who work in higher education are supposed to raise awareness of what we do, and how much of it we're doing. Contrary to the perception of some (mostly conservative, in my experience) suit-types who view higher education with disdain and its employees as fat and fatuous sinecurists, most of us actually work quite hard.

More forcefully, most of us work our asses off.

So, what's in store for me today? (Keep in mind that I'm coming off of a weekend on which I spent roughly 12 hours grading Calc III exams...) Though I can't guarantee I'll get to it all, here's the medium-term docket:

1. Write an end-of-year project report for the National Science Foundation for my 2011 REU (estimated time to complete this: 5-6 hours)

2. Draft a welcome and informational letter to this year's crop of REU students (time to complete: 1-2 hours)

3. Send out rejection letters to the nearly 300 students who didn't get into this year's REU (time to complete: 1 hour)

4. Grade exams for my two students who are taking Abstract Algebra II as a reading course (time to complete: 1 hour)

5. Respond to final drafts of MLA students' latest written projects (time to complete: 3-4 hours)

6. Write three or four rec letters, including an incredibly urgent one for which the requesting student gave me less than a week's notice (time to complete: 2-3 hours)

7. Plan workshop materials for an upcoming writing workshop I'm leading at NC State (time to complete: 3-5 hours)

8. Review and respond to proposed Abstract Algebra curricula floated by other members of the Mathematical Association of America's Committee on Undergraduate Programs in Mathematics (time to complete: 3-5 hours)

9. Generate open problems list for this year's REU (time to complete: 2-3 hours)

10. Begin housing and payroll paperwork for this year's REU students (time to complete: 1-2 hours)

11. Draft a precis for on the latest curricular proposal by the Curriculum Review Task Force's Curricular Sustainability Subgroup (time to complete: 2-3 hours)

12. Complete drafts of research articles currently underway with three different sets of undergraduate coauthors (time to complete: 10-20 hours)

13. Oh yeah...teach!

Anyway, I'd better get to work on that list, me with my oodles of free time. More later, perhaps...