Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Cornucopia of Scholarly Blessings

Thanksgiving is always a good time (despite the awful ties to colonization and violence) to remember that there are things in this life that we should not take for granted. It is a time to say "thank you," a small phrase which has a tendency to get swept away in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. So, with that said, rather than my intended post (which I'll share later in the week), I thought this would a good time to give thanks.

As a graduate student, I am thankful for:

My dissertation committee: I have the distinct pleasure of working with three scholars who I admire greatly, both as academics and as people. They have taken the time to answer my questions, encourage me to think more deeply, and calm my fears and frustrations. They lead by example, showing me how scholarship is more than just intellectual work by living according to the values that they profess in their work.

My chair, in particular, never had me as a student, but despite that, she reached out to me about the possibility of working together. I am truly thankful that she took interest in what I was doing and read my writing on her own time. There are few people, especially with her busy schedule, that would add to their own workload by choice. Since the first time we discussed the possibility of working together, she has been there for me. She has helped me shape my professional identity.

My ENG975 workshop group: We're a small group of four ladies, but having these three women there to help me pick my brain has been a valuable experience. It's nice not to feel alone or think I'm lagging behind as I struggle simply to come to terms with what it is I want to write about. I am thankful that our professor put us together and that I've had the opportunity not just to get to know their work, but to get to know these women. We've ranted about our frustrations, puzzled over our work, and had some good laughs together. I know I wouldn't be where I am now in my writing process if not for their feedback.

My D.A. peers: We've been through a lot together, the shock of first classes, the struggle with comprehensive exams, learning how to teach, and seeing our interests grow and change. I am thankful that we are a bunch of peers who help each other rather than compete for jobs and interships and push one another down. I am thankful for the opportunities I've had to collaborate with you, for the ideas you've shared in classes, and for the emails you've answered when I was terribly lost. I am sure the conversations that we have had has shaped my thinking, my scholarship, my teaching, and my approach to being an academic in general. For some of you, I'm thankful we had the opportunity to get to know each other outside of class, occasionally sharing a drink or a Facebook post. While I lived in a new city, some of you helped me adjust to the Queens way of life and made me feel more at home. I think, if you are a reflection of the next generation of scholars, there's hope for a bright future for academia.

As a first year writing instructor, I am thankful for:

My department chairs: I am very blessed to have worked for two wonderful department chairs at this point in my short-lived teaching career. Both women believe in the integrity of their employees and have given me the power to make decisions about the direction of my course, and I feel that this has helped me develop a philosophy of teaching that I believe wholeheartedly and feel excited to present to my students each semester. I am thankful to both of them for giving me the opportunity to continue doing what I love.

My students: I'm not sure what is about the students that I have taught-- at three different universities now-- but I have had wonderful classes. These students have helped me grow as a professional, have inspired me through their struggles, humbled me with the stories they have been willing to share with me, and made me laugh with their silly antics. I appreciate the patience they show when I haven't quite got something figured out yet, especially during my first semester, and their honesty when I ask them if something works or not.

My colleagues: I work with wonderful people, who, rather than being snobbish and competitive, are warm, friendly, and open to collaboration. I've learned a great deal from the tips and tricks, lesson plans, and stories about teaching that they have shared with me. I appreciate that, even when I was just  starting out, none of my colleagues ever looked down upon me or scolded me for things that I did not know. Because of this, I was inspired to take risks in my teaching and see fruitful results. 

And while I am extremely thankful for my face-to-face colleagues, I am especially indebted to my #FYCchat colleagues. It's amazing what we have accomplished with just 140-character tweets.

As a writing consultant, I am thankful for:

My SUPERvisors: I work for two amazing women, and I am thankful that they are part of my life. They are supportive, hard-working people, who will go to bat for their employees. It is obvious that they believe in the mission of the writing center and the consults and greeters who help see that mission through. I am thankful to be thought of as an asset, rather than someone who needs to be micromanaged. I am thankful to have two people who are as caring and thoughtful as they are to work with. Despite my crazy schedule, they make sure I can return to a job I love year after year, and even after taking a one-year break to pursue graduate work, they let me come back. When there is an opportunity for professional development, they encourage their employees to take it. And aside from being wonderful to those of us who work at the center, they really care about the community that surrounds the center and helping those who need us.

My fellow consultants: After several years, I've seen new consultants roll in and out, and I've got to say, there have been many wonderful people walk through the door of the writing center. I am thankful to work with such an awesome group of people. There is a general sense of companionship and collaboration in our center. Everyone seems to genuinely want to help everyone, clients or colleagues. I learn from our intellectual conversations. I laugh at our sillier ones. I'm thankful to work in a place where I can feel comfortable and supported. 

The greeters: I remember a time when we did not have greeters at the front desk, and consultants were left to manage their time and clients on their own. As a result, I know just how much easier these people make my life. I am thankful that they take the time out of their busy undergraduate study schedules to help us out. It really makes a difference in the day-to-day operations of the center, and I'm sure it contributes to the positive atmosphere, both for the consultants and the clients.

The clients: I have had great sessions and terrible sessions over the years, but regardless, I am thankful for every client who has ever had a session or workshop with me. From our work together, I was able to develop a pedagogy of writing, learn how to give feedback, and to grow as a writer myself. I learned about some of the hard sciences that I never would have had a chance to see otherwise. I had a chance to tutor grammar, even though the essay was written in French. These are things I probably never would have thought I had the capacity to do. I enjoy reading your work. I enjoy helping you improve as writers. Sometimes, I even have the pleasure to simply talk to you about your struggles as a writer, a college student, or a person just trying to make it in this world. Your experiences inspire me and remind me to be grateful for my educational opportunities. I am thankful that you give me the opportunity to do this.

And, of course:

I am thankful for supportive family, good timing, wonderful friends, the opportunity to receive an advanced degree, the institutions that have supported me, and the many experiences--both good and bad-- that have lead me to this point in my life. I am thankful for the professors/teachers/mentors that I had in the past who pushed me to challenge myself, showed me how to enjoy learning, and acted as role models.

I am also grateful to those who stood before me to make my dreams a possibility-- women who fought for the right to an education; people who showed my parents the value of education so that they would one day support my love for learning; Compositionists who made enough noise for others to start considering our work as legitimate scholarship. I know that sacrifices have been made by people, some of whom I know, some of whom I will never meet, to get me where I am today.

And finally, though I may whine about the commute and the instability of adjunct life, I couldn't be happier to be doing what I'm doing at this point in my life. Many people don't get to tell others "I love what I do." I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to teach writing and to be a lifelong learner.

I have only one question after all of this:

What are you thankful for this year?

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