Friday, June 17, 2011

Some Initial Thoughts

Five weeks ago, I walked into a community college classroom and greeted the class: "Welcome to English 101, Expository Writing." I was the teacher. The students, ranging in age from 17 to mid-50s, looked at me uncertainly.

Most of us hadn't been in a classroom in years.

Several weeks before, I'd been hired to teach English composition for two compressed summer sessions: five weeks of English 101, and five weeks of English 102 (Writing about Literature). Two full-semester courses, squeezed into five weeks each. It seemed crazy, I know.

It seemed even crazier that the school had hired me so quickly, with so few questions. The administration was desperate for a warm body that had an M.A. and could teach these classes. As an M.A. whose time in grad school included more rhet/comp than lit classes, I guess I was a good candidate. In addition, I was burned out on my corporate career as a technical writer, and I was desperate for a break.

So, that morning in mid-May, I found myself standing in front of a classroom of future dental assistants, air conditioner repairmen, nurses, X-ray technicians, and EMTs, along with a couple of college-bound teens and twentysomethings. Among them (I learned later) were at least two convicted felons.

That afternoon, I did as I would every afternoon for the next five weeks: I drove to my tech writing job and put in five or six hours of software documentation, Sharepoint spin-up, and standards planning.

That night, I worked on my lesson plan for the next day. On nights to follow, I crafted more lesson plans and graded drafts or revisions, complete with copious helpful comments, for 20 students.

Some mornings, I was up at 5:00 to finish planning the two hours of class I'd teach that day.

Those five weeks are almost up, and I'm tired but very, very happy with life right now. I have two busy jobs, but I don't spend enough time at either to get burned out. It's been good.

The second five-week class--Writing About Literature--begins soon. I'll be working on the syllabus for that this weekend when I'm not grading and making comments on my English 101 students' argument essay outlines.

I'm kind of excited about all that. I'll try to post more about the new class--and my reflections on English 101, once it's over--next week.

That brings me to a question: Why this blog? Glad you asked. I hope to post my thoughts on my life as a hack and a grunt here, obviously. I also want to use this blog as a place where I can "store" links to different resources for teaching composition--anything from lesson plan ideas to examples of different types of essays to real-life illustrations of logical fallacies in action.

Although I imagine I'll focus on my "grunt" life more than my "hack" life, I do plan to write occasionally about life as a technical writer. As a Keats-obsessed English major years ago, I never dreamed I would become a technical writer, much less like being one. But I do, for the most part. And that's that.

I hope this blog will be a helpful resource to other grunts and hacks out there, as well as those aspiring to one or both careers. It's a pretty good life.

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