The Obstructed Line Between Helping and Distracting

Technology helps us learn. Technology distracts us. They’re both true. I mean, I see it every day in my own life in addition to seeing it in the classroom. Technology distracts us with insignificant things while it should be helping us learn. But isn’t it my fault when these things happen? Shouldn’t I be willing to take responsibility for my own actions? But the temptation, the siren call coming from the bright glow of the screen in front of us, is sometimes just too much.

I can understand the point Clive Thompson makes in Smarter Than You Think, but then again, I also understand exactly what Darren Rosenblum explains in “Leave My Laptops at the Door to My Classroom.”  Last fall, many of our mentors told us GTAs that we should think deeply about our policy on technology in the classroom. It’s a tricky road to navigate for so many reasons. Many conferences want to see research on multimodal pedagogy or technology usage in the classroom. The students in my classroom know way more about technology than I do; few remember what life was like before the iPhone or the iPad. Note taking by hand? Who does that anymore? Why write when I can type faster? In short, I know my students prefer to use technology. They’re way more comfortable with it than I am. I actually still prefer to take notes with a pen and notebook. Maybe my students really do learn better using technology because they are more used it being an every day occurence in education. But as I observed my mentor’s class once a week from where I sat in the back of the classroom, I saw students on Facebook, and I once saw a student buying an actual electric guitar during class time. The thought of students doing this during a class that I would put so much time and effort into scared me. So, I had to think about what I wanted my policy to be. Do I give them the chance to distract themselves? Or do I allow them to take out their laptops in the classroom?

Even now as a grad student in an undergrad seminar course with one of my favorite professors in the English department, I see students on their laptops when we’re discussing a novel that we have in hard copy. These students don’t participate; they don’t speak. What the actual heck are you doing right now? Every once in a while they look up and nod, but then they go back to doing homework for another class or browsing whatever website seems important at the time. Granted, maybe a student could be using the laptop for needed help, and I don’t know it.  I concede this. (I would know it as an instructor in my own classroom.) But for many students, it’s a distraction rather than  an aid. And as I watched instances like the ones I witnessed in the classrooms of my mentor and my professor, I couldn’t help but think that these actions were extremely disrespectful. I’m definitely not perfect either as student, but for the most part, I do try to stay off my laptop when I’m in a class. I would hope my students would do the same for me.

I’m assuming it’s reasons like this that made Rosenblum assume a harsher stance on technology in the classroom. But technology isn’t always a distraction, I will admit. Because I do realize this, I ended up having more of a loose technology policy. Currently, we do use laptops in my classroom. I have in-class writing prompts at the very beginning of class that the students use the discussion board on Canvas to complete. I use a lot of PDF and online readings, and the students use their laptops to pull the readings up  or use their laptops to look at their thoughts on the reading which they turned in as homework. Students can use their laptops on the days when they might have to research a question. Students can use their laptop to record the ideas of their group during out group work session; using the laptop is faster than handwriting in these cases. So, they are beneficial in my classroom.

That being said, if I’m talking, I usually remember to tell them to put their laptops down. If I forget to this, I see a few of them staring intently at their laptop screens, but many do pay attention for the most part. We do heavy amounts of discussion and group work, so they’re not able to not pay attention for the whole class period. Because my class is small, this more casual policy works in my classroom. I might have a different policy if I were an instructor for a class of more than twenty students though. Overall, this is still a tricky road for me to navigate.  There’s a fine line between technology as an aid to students, as a thing that makes our minds better as Thompson argues, and technology as a deterrent to learning as Rosenblum finds it. And unfortunately, the line is most clearly seen from the back of the classroom rather than the front where I stand.


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Encouraging Discussion. Emphasizing Gracefulness.

Dr. Labuski writes, “My classrooms are spaces where students are encouraged to hold and express opinions that may not be popular and/or
conventional. I generate intellectual safety by framing discussions around phrases like ‘What do people say about ….’ rather than ‘What do you think about …’ “ (Diggs Scholar Award).

I’m passionate about this. Whether we’re talking about race, gender identity, politics, religion, or anything else, I never want a student to feel that he/she cannot bring up a discussion point or offer a perspective for fear of being ridiculed, isolated, or shunned. I thought about this plenty, especially during the election season. I saw a lot of open hostility between both sides of the political parties, even on this campus. I heard a lot of what I call “absolute rhetoric”–my way is the only way, and everyone who thinks differently is wrong and evil. I saw people who could have been great friends hating each other because of their opposing political beliefs. I still do. It’s terribly heartbreaking.

College can be a time of growth for undergraduates. I truly believe that it is a time to re-examine beliefs and to be open to hearing other viewpoints on many subjects–but really, any time is good for doing that, right?  But for undergraduates, I would never want them to think that I “hate” them because they might believe something not as popular or something that they think I don’t personally believe myself. I’ve always appreciated professors who didn’t openly criticize religions or political beliefs in class because it truly made me feel like they understood the definition of tolerance and did not want anyone to feel isolated, stupid, or irrelevant. This has become important to me as an educator. And I truly appreciate the inclusive strategy that  Dr. Labuski utilizes in in order to make students feel safe in suggesting a particular perspective that may or may not be their own.

This can also be tricky to navigate because I would never want the words of one student to wound the heart of another. I make clear in my syllabus that everyone must be respectful to each other. Delivery, I think, is key when expressing opinions. The English department requires some kind of argument paper as the final paper of the semester. My students will be picking a topic (I’m not sure how narrowly I’m limiting the topics yet) and writing a paper expressing their argument. I will be going over gracefulness in class because it’s something that I maintain is a necessary virtue when explaining one’s opinion. It’s important to remember that when we come across people who believe starkly different things, this is a time for open discussion. Listening and explaining. Sometimes, we forget to listen. We start forming responses before the other person in the conversation is even finished speaking. Often, we aim to win, not to learn. I’m guilty of this myself sometimes, but I truly want to work on being intentional about understanding why and how a person believes the things he/she does. I think the way we can even hope to encourage people to consider changing a perspective begins with making them believe that we genuinely care about understanding what they have to say. Then we follow this by explaining our viewpoints with grace.


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But What If I Feel Like a Fraud?

The topic of the authentic teaching self is a tricky one, especially for those not so far removed from undergrad themselves. This concept of balance–professionalism vs. humanity–stares me in the face every time I walk into the class room. I’m almost a decade older than these students though I like to think that it’s not that visible yet. I like to think that they can’t tell the difference between 23 and 26, so in their minds, I’m not too far ahead of them in years. They know I’m “younger” than some, but I also want them to respect me. Like Shelli Fowler states in her handout, “The Authentic Teaching Self and Communication Skills,” “…As the teacher you are never on a completely equal level with the students, even as you recognize that your students can be both learners/teachers in various moments, and even as your recognize that you can be a teacher/learner” (1).  So again here’s this question of balance: I’m not their equal, but I’m not on a pedestal either.

Like I said, I’ve struggled with this concept a lot. Last fall as GTAs, we were told that it’s a good idea to have a clear boundary with your students. Don’t treat them too much as friends because that opens the door for them to take advantage of you. You know, like that If You Give A Mouse a Cookie-kind-of-story? Last semester, I was super professional with my students, and it worked out very well. They didn’t know that much about me. My professional self was the self the students saw. But even at the beginning of this semester and especially after reading this, I know my authentic self was not as apparent last semester. But then again, I’m generally reserved and quiet with those I don’t know, so coming into the classroom with flashing light shows and vivid personal conversation is definitely not my authentic self. I’m truly trying to navigate the authentic self this semester, figuring out how to be more personal and involved with my students while keeping myself as an authority figure.

But then another problem arises. How can I present myself as an authority figure if I feel like a fraud? Sarah Deel said pretty much everything I feel. As I was reading through “Finding My Teaching Voice, ” I felt so relieved that I wasn’t alone in this situation. While I wasn’t entirely thrown into my classroom, I do feel underprepared, inadequate. I, too, am required to teach papers that I either haven’t written in a almost a decade or have never written at all. I have this overwhelming fear that my students are bored out of their minds and aren’t learning anything or, even worse, that they know I’m a joke. This is that little voice inside my head that likes to tell me that I have no idea what I’m doing. I listen to it a lot because it’s loud. But sometimes that voice of reason finds a way to get a word in edgewise and tells me that I do have a little bit of an idea of what I’m doing and that experience will teach me more.

Aye, there’s the rub. Experience and self-questioning are what I feel is key in both the articles of Deel and Fowler–these writings go together very well. Deel seems to have found her authentic self through semesters of teaching; I don’t think it’s something we know right away. She found what worked for her even if it wasn’t exactly cool or flashy. What mattered was her pedagogy and engaging students, and she found a way to embody that in the classroom. Fowler’s handout gives pertinent questions for me to ask myself to help me “find myself” in the place that is the classroom. The classroom is just as much a learning place for me as it is for my students. What I’ve found out is what I’ll  be trying to implicate more this semester. I’m happy that I already have begun to do so. Being real,  intentionally disclosing appropriate personal information to my students, connecting with them makes them more comfortable with me and probably gives them a more favorable impression of the course. Also, if I’m trying to teach my students not to be automaton thinkers and writers, I shouldn’t be an automaton instructor who shows up to perform the job and appears to have no personality. That’s the worst. I don’t think I was quite like that before (I desperately hope not), but I am working to have more conversations with my students and let me be me.


Works Cited:

Deel, Sarah E. “Finding My Teaching Voice.” Accessed 1 October 2017.

Fowler, Shelli. “The Authentic Teaching Self and Communication Skills.” Accessed 1 October 2017.





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When Peter Elbow Says It All…

When Peter Elbow says it all, I still find a way to assemble a lengthy and extremely disoriented post. So sorry!

In “The Case Against Grades,” Alfie Kohn clearly takes issue with how academia currently assesses learning: he detests grading. Understandably so. I can totally understand how our grading system is problematic, how it “diminishes” interest, “creates a preference for the easiest possible task,” and “reduces the quality of students’ thinking” (Kohn). Because wasn’t that how I was in high school? I wasn’t really interested in half the stuff I studied. I wanted the easiest homework possible. I memorized to test and forget. As I’ve said before, I didn’t mind school. Heck, I didn’t mind grades. I was a very competitive high schooler, be it in sports or academics. But that is exactly what grades shouldn’t be. Learning isn’t a competition.  Learning is a life-long process of growth that can be done individually or collaboratively. While I understand Kohn’s sentiments on the current state of assessment, I have a difficult time imagining it being any other way. I suppose this is normal because I suspect most of us were raised in this “QWERTY system” of grades (Liu and Nope-Brandon 9). It’s worked this far. Why change it?

Kohn makes a good argument as to why it needs to be changed. But I tended to align more with the argument Peter Elbow made in “Ranking, Evaluating, and Liking.” I mean really aligned. (If only you could see how much yellow highlighter I used in my Mendeley viewer while reading the article.) Having had a pedagogy class within my major before, I’ve come across Elbow in the past, but this time around it made more sense.  Elbow writes, “It’s obvious, thus, that I am troubled by ranking. But I will resist any temptation to argue that we can get rid of all ranking-or even should. Instead I will try to show how we can have less ranking and more evaluation in its place” (188). What I like is that he wasn’t writing an article on doing away with grading altogether; he was writing an article to advocate for evaluation–a method of assessment that helps the student grow as a writer. Not only does he outline the problem with ranking and even over-evaluating within this article, but he devoted time to the concept of “liking” students writing–this blew my mind because I was thinking just today that I was dreading next weekend when my students’ first papers are coming in for grading and how I wouldn’t see the light of day because of the electronic pile of papers that would be blocking the light from the window. I like teaching my students and working with them on their drafts. I don’t mind commenting on their final papers either. But, honestly, I’m not turning back flips waiting to read them, and ultimately, I’m so confused when it comes to smooshing the comments into a letter grade box. It’s a lot of pressure.

Elbow again seemed to read my mind here: “Writing wasn’t meant to be read in stacks of twenty-five, fifty, or seventy-five. And we are handicapped as teachers when students are in our classes against their will” (204).  I mean, mic-drop. No truer words. How do I solve these problems–my stress regarding reading stacks of papers, my stress at the thought of giving my students a letter grade, and my students simply doing things for this letter grade in a class they just want to tick off their list of “Boring Required Classes?” “Aggggggggggggh” in the words of Charlie Brown.

Another thing that I like about Elbow is that he states the problem AND gives some potential solutions to the problem. This seems normal, but have you noticed how rare it is to come across this in academic writing? There is always a problem, but rarely are potential solutions offered. Elbow writes about a concept and potential solution called “Portfolio Grading” (192-193). I first heard about this concept last fall and thought it was a really interesting means of assessment, mostly because I never had any professor use this method of grading before. I’ve also heard it takes a lot of work and planning. I’m not sure if this is true or not. I would suspect so because evaluating (giving detailed comments on every piece of writing) takes a lot of time. While I think I do spend a lot of time commenting on my students homework and papers, I always feel like I should do more. But I have so little time. Because I’m pressed for time, I made a promise to myself that I would use my two years in grad school as a means of getting myself acclimated to teaching freshmen writing courses before I would try something like portfolio grading. But the more I read about it, the more I like it. As far as I know, portfolio grading involves only giving out one grade at the end of the semester. During the semester, students turn in work only to receive comments on their writing. I also believe conferences are a big part of portfolio grading; this practice enables student and teacher to connect and truly work through issues in writing. The portfolio collects the students writing and evaluates it over the course of the semester. How did the student improve? How did he or she take comments into consideration? How did they not? I like it because it evaluates growth over a longer period of time rather than over the course of four weeks. I really do want to try this out someday.

Currently, I’m planning to offer revision this semester as a means of changing up assessment. I will grade my students papers (as I’m required to), but the grade doesn’t have to mean “end of story.”  If the grade is low, revision allows it to be a “teachable moment” or “learning experience.” I would hope that my students read the detailed comments that I give them, come talk to me about it, and then work to take these comments into consideration to revise for a better grade. While this still adheres to the grading system, it doesn’t suggest that a low grade is failure or that failure is permanent. They have the opportunity to grow and learn as a writer.

And ultimately, that is what I think is wrong with our current assessment system. It suggests to students that learning is done quickly and lasts up until the moment after the test is over. You either learned or you didn’t. If you didn’t recall the information, then sorry about it. You failed. I don’t think that encourages learning at all. Because trying and failing and trying and succeeding are life-long processes.


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Automaton Fingers and The Five-Paragraph Essay

This blog is going to be messy, a conglomeration of scattered thoughts on a topic that I recognized was an issue throughout my entire history of learning. In the “When Practice Makes Imperfect” chapter in The Power of Mindful Learning, Ellen Langer mentions  the “inventive transformations of the routine” and follows it up with an example of traditional methods of learning classical piano (24). This example immediately through me back to how I learned pieces for piano recitals. I grew up taking piano lessons. Once a week from elementary school through my junior year of high school, I was at a lesson practicing pieces in front of my teacher that I may or may not have had time to practice during the week before the lesson. I liked playing piano, but I hated piano theory and I hated public performance.

These sentiments mostly stem from how I “mastered” recital pieces and the crash-and-burn experience I had from this method of learning. See, I was a rote memorization learner. I practiced and practiced and practiced until my fingers were on autopilot and my mind had seemingly nothing to do with what was going on with the keys. Rote memorization. It worked at home. It even worked at recitals. Until the one time it didn’t.

One night, while performing in public, my fingers blanked. I simply could not remember the next two lines of music. I sat with my back to audience in utter mortification trying to recall the next notes, but I couldn’t. Though I wanted to get up and flee the room, I was finally able to jump ahead in the piece and finish it, but I had failed. My automaton fingers had failed. My memory had failed. And failure is bad, isn’t it? I had learned the basics of performance and the piece itself in a “rote, unthinking manner” and had become less than mediocre by the end of the process (Langer 14). It took me a long time to even think about performing in public again. I’d still rather not.

I saw this same thing happen to a number of us students in high school. We memorized the facts that needed to be learned, took the test where we may or may not have recalled the memories, and then discarded the memorized facts to make room for new ones. Sometimes, we were successful in this method of learning; sometimes, we crashed and burned. Hard. So while reading the “seven pervasive myths” that Langer lists in the introduction to the book, I saw that I had adhered to at least four of those myths just by how I learned piano alone (2).

I appreciated this section on mindful learning because I think it applies to some of my lessons this week in First-Year Writing. In teaching writing and critical thinking, rote memorization is a little more difficult to come by. Because in many area of the humanities, there are no wrong answers. We don’t necessarily memorize. But when we’re taught writing, we do practice the basics so that “they become second nature” (Langer 2). As my students begin to write their first paper, I want to talk about the difference between high school contexts and college contexts. Example: the five-paragraph essay. It’s taught in high school because of its relative easiness to explain and because of its usefulness in writing the types of essays high schoolers have to write. I mean, a oddly high percentage of my essays in high school were timed. Because that’s real life, right? No. Because that’s the AP Test and the SAT writing section and maybe even the GRE writing section for many of us, if we’re honest.

Though I understand that the difference between college and high school may not be that different for some students, for many it is. Students practice writing this type of essay so often that it becomes second nature. It’s the formula they need to succeed. But writing is so much more messy than that formula. Thinking about how to analyze, organize, and write about new concepts and perspectives takes more time than 45 minutes. Now, in college, the basic five paragraph essay isn’t as useful. It’s actually more confining.The five paragraph essay isn’t wrong; it was appropriate for some people in a certain time. It’s just one way of writing in a certain context.  This college context is different, and it’s time for learning to build on itself and evolve. So now, many students will now have break themselves of the basics that have become second nature and try something new.


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All Work and No Play Makes Jac a Dull Instructor

Generally, I’ve always “liked” school. I never really minded going to class in high school. Sure, tests were hard, and studying for them was too stressful for my health, but I never truly hated the concepts of tests and grades and homework. My brother, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. He’s smart, but he dislikes school and everything associated with it. He’s trudging through his undergraduate degree longing for the moment he can be done forever. Over the years, I have noticed that  he is definitely more of a learn-by-doing type of learner; lecture doesn’t do so much for him.  He has a graphic design type of side-business that seems to be doing quite well, and all he knows, he either taught himself or learned through online community.

So reading these articles dealing with reaching those who are “digital learners,” who learn by play and community, really reinforced the idea that communal learning is something I truly would like to incorporate into my classroom in any way that I can. Robert Talbert’s “Four Things Lecture is Good For” reminded me that lectures, though some are inspiring and memorable, are actually not that inspiring and memorable. How many lectures do I remember from high school? From undergrad? Few. In fact, as Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown’s Chapter “Arc-of-Life Learning” suggests, play and imagination combined for a more emphatic experience. He states that these concepts are “the very heart of arc-of-life learning” (18). The classes I remember from high school tend to be the days of active learning, of play. Any class’s favorite days were the review game days where we split up into competitive groups determined to beat each other by proving what we remembered, the lab days where we got to heat a solution and watch it turn a deep magenta pink. But the question that will probably make its way into every one of my posts now appears: how do I do this in my own classroom? In a writing class?

Thomas and Seely Brown’s chapter differed from my regular type of article reading mainly in content because it dealt so much with games and science. I don’t play games. I’ve never played games. I don’t understand them. But the article was actually really interesting, especially the segment on the little boy Sam, who knows more about technology and codes at the age of 9 than I could ever hope to learn over the course of the rest of my life. Sam grew as a learner, a teacher, and a professional, if you will, because of the collaborative learning community in which he took part (23).

This reminded me of the concept of peer review. I supposed I could even refer to it as a type of pedagogy. And it’s one that I have scheduled a lot of into my semester. Why? Because I believe that it teaches my students about audience. They’re writing for more people than just the instructor. It helps their writing become more clear. If their peer can’t understand what they’re saying, the likelihood of my understanding it goes way down. It helps them learn in a hands on way. Spotting problems in another person’s project is easier than spotting the problems in their own. As they practice finding issues in writing, I hope recognizing problems in the writing they produce becomes easier. But I’m always on the look out for more group work ideas and interactive ways of teaching concepts. I truly think my students have more fun when they have a sort of game or group work to take up class time. I think they learn more, too. But that’s the hard part, I think–coming up with ideas.


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Networked Learning: Ok, But What Would It Really Look Like?

For the first half of Gardner Campbell’s “Networked Learning as Experiential Learning,” I was wishing that I had a clearer definition of what he believed “networked learning” to be. Is it learning that simply creates interpersonal relationships? For example, working in a corporate company allows many employees to network, meet a variety of people, and maintain connections all over the world. Does it mean building your working knowledge of a topic or discipline off of the learning of others who have come before you? Or, could it refer to online learning in a general way?

After reading the whole article, I would think it could mean any one or all of those things at the same time.  But one line from Campbell struck a chord with me: “The common denominator is a real-world context that provides deeply integrative opportunities for classroom-based learning to be applied to complex and complexly situated problems or opportunities” (Campbell, para. 3). I just started my teaching experience last semester when I was the instructor of record for Virginia Tech’s 1106 section of First-Year Writing. I am now teaching two sections of 1105. I have found that I am a firm believer in this  idea of “real-world context” (Campbell, para. 3). Most of my students are looking to major in a STEM field, not the humanities, because this is, after all, Virginia Tech. I am always wondering how I can make this required English class more relevant to a real-world situation or what we can talk about/read/do that would provide them with real world skills. Honestly, I am terrified of their leaving this class and thinking that it was a complete waste of their time.

So what would Networked Learning look like in my context? What would it really look like for freshmen in 1105 or 1106, and how could it possibly be framed in a “real-world” context? I then read Tim Hitchcock’s “Twitter and Blogs are Not Just Add-Ons to Academic Research.” I have read articles on Genre Pedagogy that talk about using the Blog as a means of making sure students can narrow down 8-10 pages of writing into a bite size morsel or as using the Blog as the final project altogether–ideas which I have never been crazy about considering implementing.

Hitchcock stated something that I found interesting, but something that I think wouldn’t directly translate to freshmen in a class they have about 5% desire to take: “Twitter and blogs, and embarrassingly enthusiastic drunken conversations at parties, are not add-ons to academic research, but a simple reflection of the passion that underpins it” (Hitchcock, para. 4). This explains bloggers in a new light to me. They’re so passionate about a subject that they talk about it in multiple ways and genres. This would also explain why I have never enjoyed blogging in the classroom environment. I simply have not been passionate enough about a topic, I suppose. So yeah–would my freshmen students care enough about their argument paper topic to want to write a blog or two about it? I tend to think no, but I guess it really depends on the topic they choose/whether I let them choose it or not.

But Hitchcock believes that undergraduates writing becomes more clear, concise, and, well, readable with the implementation of blogs (para. 8). So, I’m thinking that for my class, a successful example of networked learning could be that I have students start an online discussion about their thoughts on a paper topic, as a means of talking through their ideas before they start running with them? If every student offers at least one fully-baked thought or opinion on another student’s post, I think that could be helpful and a different, interactive learning experience. The students wouldn’t have to take on another’s advice, only read it and think about it. Because this type of brainstorming, sound-boarding, and collaboration does, in fact, occur in the real world, and these type of activities are always something for which I am on the lookout.


Works Cited:

Campbell, Gardner. “Networked Learning as Experiential Learning.” EduCause Review, 11 January 2016,, Accessed 3 Sept 2017.

Hitchcock, Tim. “Twitter and Blogs are Not Just Add-Ons to Academic Research.” LSE Impact, 28 July 2014, The London School of Economics and Political Science, Accessed 3 Sept 2017.


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GEDI F17: Test


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PFP: Jobs

For a while now, I have been hearing that full-time positions in academe have been slowly fading into part-time jobs, especially for the community college. I met a community college professor a few years back that told me not to go into the community college work force because of this impending issue. He was working part-time at two local community colleges because he could no get a full-time position. Of course, this issue is still of concern a few years after that conversation took place. The Chronicle of Higher Ed even posted a report with lots of graphs and info that suggested adjunct faculty were “dominating the work force” (Schmalz and Oh).

I would have no problem being an adjunct. It’s a “pay your dues” kind of reasoning in my mind, plus it opens up an opportunity to gain my teaching experience and experience multitasking. Adjuncts are a very important part of any English department, taking on loads of work because of the love of teaching.  Obviously though, I would eventually like to end up with a full-time, tenure-track position, like many graduate students who seek to stay in academia. A full-time teaching position means stability. It means that I can put roots in an area. It means that I can really immerse myself in the school and the community. That’s ultimately the goal. Is it attainable? Or is part-time, as Schmalz and Oh suggest, the way academia is heading? I’m not sure. I’ve been browsing the job market now even though I still have at least one more year of graduate school left, and I’m seeing plenty of tenure-track community college positions available. It’s just a matter of being willing to relocate—or at least, that’s what it appears. Here’s to hoping.

Works Cited

Schmalz, Julie and Soo Oh. “In Academe the Future is Part-Time.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, 15 September

2014. Accessed 19 April 2017.

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PFP: Community

Community at a higher education institution is important. Bright-eyed high school juniors and seniors make an effort to visit their potential college campuses not just to see the campus itself, but to gage the sense of community, to see how they might fit in there, and to imagine how life would look for two or four years. It’s an important factor, not just to potential undergraduates, but to graduate students and faculty as well.

I didn’t very much enjoy my undergraduate experience for various reasons, one being that I was working too much to even think about being involved with events.  But I was walking around Virginia Tech’s campus just the other day thinking about how much more I’m enjoying my graduate school experience. Even though graduate school is stressful and difficult (as I think many students would agree), I know it’s exactly what I want to be doing right now. As I stated before, I am having a delightful experience, and I think that is largely due to the community that I have found within the English Department here and the community that Virginia Tech works very hard to foster on campus. I think this past weekend was a great example.

This past weekend at Virginia Tech was a commemoration of lives that were taken too soon exactly ten years ago. I wanted to write a blog that expressed how amazed I was at the sense of community that permeated Blacksburg Friday through Sunday. It isn’t just Virginia Tech. The community of Blacksburg showed its support for the institution in mighty ways by attending the events like the candle light vigil and the 3.2. for 32 memorial run. I was overwhelmed by the sense of solidarity that Virginia Tech and town of Blacksburg demonstrated this weekend, and this weekend is just one instance of how Virginia Tech seeks to unite its students.

I think that higher education institutions should do what they can to knit their communities together, to foster a connection and sense of home amongst their students. I also think that the institutions should be friendly and grateful to the towns in which they are located. Virginia Tech is a great example of an institution that does both of these things, and I’m proud to be a part of it.

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