Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Waiting for Penelope, Waiting for John Keating

Yesterday, I had the kind of work day that contained both the parts of my job that I hate the most and the part that I love the most--yes, all in one day.

I spent much of the day wrestling with the Fall schedule.  We don't have as many computer classrooms as we need, and more and more of our faculty would like to have their classes in a computer classroom.  So, I'm always bargaining and looking for solutions, doing work and undoing it only to redo it again.  Not for the first time have I thought of Penelope as I've done this work.  Weave, unweave, weave again.  It's maddening, and even more so, as I contemplate simple technological solutions to this problem.  We have lots of computers just lying around.  Why can't we have more computer classrooms?  Or better yet, just issue each student an iPad or a netbook when they come to school.  Grr.

I often think of absurdist theatre on days like yesterday, but today, as I jogged down the Broadwalk by Hollywood Beach, "The Time Warp" came on my iPod Shuffle. Office as Rocky Horror Picture Show--that idea makes a certain amount of sense too. Madness takes its toll indeed!  I've written more about this idea in this post on my theology blog.

At some point during the day, news about the Harkin report came out (you can read the story here or just look at the graphs in this story to be properly horrified).  I work at a for-profit school, the subject of Harkin's investigation.  His report didn't really tell me anything I didn't already know, but I felt a bit like a naive character who realizes that she's actually been working for the mob--it's not an original movie, is it?  For the life of me, I can't come up with a specific title.

At the end of the day, I got to remember that part of my work does involve teaching and inspiring student brains.  I'd much rather be John Keating in Dead Poets Society than some dupe in a gangster movie. 

I met with some members of the Advertising/Graphic Design/Web Design department.  We strategized ways to infuse creative writing into the curriculum.  We talked about all sorts of projects.  I felt sleepy parts of my brain perk back up.  I'll be writing more about this process as it progresses.

I've talked to many a creative writer who dreams of teaching traditional classes to writing students--but we might be missing all sorts of opportunities by dreaming so narrowly.  The faculty members yesterday told me that there are more opportunities for people who can write than for people who do design--or was  it that they're paid more?  I heard about all sorts of opportunities for people who can blog and tweet and produce content quickly.

Of course, I'd like to be paid to blog about whatever I want to write about.  And that might not be so outside the reach of possibility as I once thought.  And there are other ways that my blogging skills might translate into money.

It's an interesting idea--how can writing poetry teach us to compress our thoughts so that we're better at tweeting for a living?  How can writing a blog prepare us for writing ad copy or newsletter articles?  I can hear some people snort about selling out.  But some of us might need some post-academic work.

I spend my days surrounded by people who don't have much of a post-academic imagination.  It was nice to spend time with other colleagues who are so happy to enlist my creative writing skills to help their students.  It was grand to strategize new possibilities for ways to drench classes with those opportunities for learning.  We talked about projects that stretched across several classes, projects that would enrich students on multiple levels.

It's good to remember, especially on days when the Senate points out the unsavory practices of parts of higher ed, that we do good work here on the ground.  I'll let others argue about whether or not the good work that we do is worth the cost that students pay and the loans that they shoulder.  A large part of my job is to ensure that once they've decided to make the investment that they get something of worth and value.

How wonderful to be with colleagues who say, "Our students need poetry."  I don't hear that often enough.

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