Thursday, August 2

reflect, revise, reset

I am preparing to teach an online technical communication course for a handful of graduate students.

it is an exciting and slightly daunting prospect, and I'm really grateful for the opportunity. teaching online is fun. teaching graduate students will be new. hopefully I will love it. hopefully the students will love it too, at least a little bit.

as I've started putting together assignment sheets and syllabus sections, I've gone back to the files I have from my first semesters as a graduate student, way back seven years ago. my experiences from then are inspiring my preparations now in a messy but helpful sort of way.

the class I will be teaching is not going to be exactly like the first technical communication course I took in 2011. there are no PhD students at my new Louisiana institution, and there isn't quite a full tech comm graduate program, either. we offer a certificate in Writing for Business, Industry, and Technology and a related MA degree in Writing and Linguistics. my work here will fit into the little tech-comm-shaped niches around and among those programs and the offerings for our undergraduate emphasis in professional writing.

it's been interesting to look back at the work I did as a brand new graduate course and revisit the thoughts I was thinking about everything I was learning. one of the essays I turned in to Dr. Kelli Cargile Cook at Texas Tech in 2011 starts out, after one boring sentence that sets the stage, with a million semi-rhetorical questions:
"Who is qualified to create or enforce a definition of technical writing? In the face of rapidly changing technologies, will a static definition be at all important or useful? What is the clearest, most accurate way to make sense of our place as people who write and communicate among extremely diverse communities? What commonalities among those communities are worth emphasizing? Are any of the basic truths about technical communication universal enough build a profession upon? Will it be possible to include all the essentials without being completely vague? These questions and many more continue to shape the process of figuring out who we are, what we do, and why it matters."
that's six questions, all crammed into one opening paragraph. another professor of mine, Dr. Richard Johnson-Sheehan, always gave me pointed critiques when I included too many rhetorical questions in essays for his courses at Purdue: "your reader is going to lose patience with these," he would say, implying his own quickly waning interest.

I think I've learned to agree with him, by now. I do still love questions, but I understand now that they can be a tiresomely slow way to introduce one's main point.

one day soon I may remediate that whole long, rambly essay into a less-long, less-rambly blogpost. that could be fun. for me anyway. possibly useful for anyone out there who might wonder what I really think I'm doing with my academic life, too.

definitions of technical communication (and of rhetoric, or writing, or art) are still, forever, being debated. my own place in this disciplinary debate is still debatable too. malleable. amorphous. emerging.

I know a lot more now than I did in 2011. and I know much, much more now than I did seven years before that when I returned from studying abroad, declared myself an English major at Utah State University, and eventually started this blog. a whole decade and a half of experience has ways of teaching one things. sometimes without you even noticing.

it's August, 2018. new things are happening. the world and me look so different than they used to. it feels like a beginning--expansive, wild, wide, and uncharted. a chance for new rules. better habits. but it's hard to know what the best new habits might be. so much of this new life is going to be unfamiliar for a while. disorienting.

teaching experience and academic credentials have piled up on top of me over the years. those things have given me some grounding amid all the chaos of finishing one thing and beginning another. the transition has felt long. May 18 was almost a dozen weeks ago, and my new semester at Northwestern State is still weeks away. as much as this feels like a beginning, it's just as much middle, and partially an ending, too. as soon as August 4 gets here and Purdue's commencement ceremonies are over, I'll officially officially be Dr. Amelia Chesley, with a real PhD and a diploma in the mail, with an exciting tenure-track job as an Assistant Professor. soon enough I'll have this office in Keyser Hall arranged just how I want it. I'll have a phone in that office, and faculty meetings to go to and everything. 

I still have a million things to learn, at least.

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