Monday, September 7

separately solemn: fall semester 2020

today begins week three of my first semester teaching at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. I am the newest Assistant Professor of Professional Writing in a department without a degree program. students here can get a minor in Humanities & Communication, but nothing more. since they all want to be pilots or engineers, that's how it is.

I'm teaching two courses, three sections, this semester. one of technical writing and two of business writing. there are 62 students enrolled altogether, which might be the most students I've taught at one time ever.

COM 221: Technical Report Writing
this one is quite reminiscent of the English 421 I taught once at Purdue. for the most part, I've kept this course very similar to the technical writing and technical composition courses I've taught for the last two years. but for our final project, I'm finally going to teach some podcasting stuff. finally. 

COM 222: Business Communications
if Com 221 is the English 421 of ERAU, then Com 222 is the English 420. though the distinctions between professional/business communication and technical communication aren't so very huge, they do exist. it feels like ages since I've focused on the former. so I'm resurrecting some of the projects I taught back in 2016 and 2017, updated a little, with a new textbook to go with them this year. cause-related marketing proposals. very exciting. 

overall, Embry-Riddle feels like a mini-Purdue in many ways: engineering-heavy. mostly white and privileged students. the differences, however-- that it's a much smaller private university, perched on top of a desert-- are significant.

how many college campuses have I spent how many autumns, now? this will be the sixth campus (USU, U of Plymouth, TTU, Purdue, NSULA, and here). I don't feel like counting the autumns themselves just now. someday maybe I'll make a chart.


{ photograph borrowed from this kind user of Flickr }

true autumn weather is a month or so away, still. but regardless of weather, classes have started. and that comes with a particular and lovely feeling.

only... it's different this year. and I don't think it's different just because I'm getting old. 

something like the same old scintillating energy of a college campus in September is here, jolting through brain and body every now and then. but it's so muted. six feet of space (give or take) has diluted it. closed office doors and silent office hallways are smothering it. I didn't know the trademark thrill of any given academic autumn would be so vulnerable to the side effects of separation.

after a summer of moving and reading and blogging and not teaching anything, my teaching muscles need re-building. it might take me longer to find a workable rhythm this semester. 

talking for 4+ hours (thank goodness not completely consecutive hours) in a cloth mask is exhausting

keeping track of two separate classroom cohorts for each section I'm teaching is a little hectic. 

finding my place in a new institution is tricky enough, without such strange circumstances. what with all the reasonable but seemingly unending surveillance and daily temperature checks and stern, scolding emails from administrators and wobbly hopes tossed about on fathoms of uncertainty-- it's so easy to be so panicky. and almost as easy to sweep the panic into a corner and pretend like it's not there at all.

it makes me wonder, again and again, what really matters anyway? 

I'm thankful, for now, for patient and smart students. it's a weird time for all of us. hopefully we still learn a few things that will still matter beyond this semester and next.

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