Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Just Step Aside or You Might End Up in a Heap

Orientation's end is in sight, which means a truckload of teaching prep and amping up for all of the firsts next week.  Monday morning, 8:30 a.m., Bowne 116.  That much is sure.  Tomorrow is the Writing Program's Fall Retreat.  Morning kicks off with a keynote from Carol Lipson; later in the day we'll hear from Cheryl Glenn on the Harbrace Handbook among other things, I suppose.

I was hit up today for my Excel expertise, which is to say I'm a reputed spread-sheeter or sheet-spreader.  I/O: No, I don't mind.  But you have 40,000 things to do already.  Only 20,000. I'm sure it's more like 40,000.  Okay.

Make that 39,999.  See, this is the first blog entry from the place I live (home?) since July 30.  I have more to say about the great eco-disaster that is uprooting for a move halfway across the country, leaving, but I'd rather celebrate the re-connection (to Road Runner via Time Warner Cable).  Because it's so happy, have a listen to this.  I might get arrested for putting the entire theme on my blog, but if they take me away, it'll be with a smile on my face, a gleeful peace, and a (no matter good or bad) blog entry freshly posted.

Bookmark and Share Posted by at August 25, 2004 9:43 PM to Ground Swell

Wow. Early start. Good luck and all that; I'm sure it'll go well. I'm interested: how valuable was your orientation to you, and how well did the program pull it off? I ask because I've been through two different schools' orientations, and both were extremely well-done, with a lot of input from veteran TAs and writing program mentors and faculty, and I'm wondering: is my experience more the exception or the rule? I ask because I've got a friend who went to a pretty good MFA program in Virginia, and basically, they handed him Ways of Reading and said, "OK, go teach comp!"

Posted by: Mike at August 29, 2004 8:35 PM

Thanks for the note, Mike. I'll be in back-to-back sections first thing tomorrow morning, and I'm feeling uncomfortably easy about the whole thing. I went through two orientations, really. The first one was with the graduate school. We were grouped with folks from other disciplines, and we switched between smaller sessions involving microteaching and IDing the teaching "problem" in a series of video segments to larger sessions where the U. folks were on stage about diversity initiatives, sexual harassment policy, active learning and so on. The best part of the general orientation was mingling with folks from other disciplines. Other than that, it was everything you might expect.

The orientation in the Writing Program was much more robust and developed. All totaled, we were about 25 new TAs. Only a few of us are in the CCR program; several others are PhD or MA students in the English Department, and two or three TAs come from other disciplines such as religion. We went through about seven days (or parts of days) on various activities and assignments, policies, expectations, etc. We sat through solid explanations of the curriculum, then worked through our own possibilities for late-term projects. Veteran TAs, Professional Writing Instructors (PWIs, otherwise known as part-timers) and CCR faculty were involved all along the way.

Compared with my own MA training, this was much better. In fairness, however, I was a mid-year invitee at my MA institution, filling a last-minute vacancy in January even though I was applicant for the following fall. Under those conditions, the training was a two-hour, here's-the-textbook, here's-a-sample-syllabus spot. Later (about four years ago) I was involved with TA training at Missouri-Kansas City, helping one of the profs with a week-long program for ten TAs. We borrowed heavily from Ohio State's TA training, and I thought it went really well.
I'd like to think many programs are dutiful in preparing their new TAs. Of course, depending on the investments of the faculty in the new students, those trainings can be variously complete and careful or, like the one your friend experienced, partial, unhelpful. But yes, I would characterize SU's training as excellent. Some of it felt repetitive for me, but it was exactly what first-time teachers needed.

One more thing: SU's training and support continues throughout the year. All first-year teachers in the program meet with experienced teachers (teaching group coordinators) for two hours every Monday. So it's an ongoing regimen where we visit frequently with our WRT670 coordinators, talk shop, sort through all of the delightful stuff shaping up in our courses.

Posted by: Derek at August 29, 2004 9:18 PM

Considering taking a job as faculty at SUNY in Syracuse but very concerned about the weather. How bad is it? How often is driving just impossible?

Posted by: Julio A. Chalela MD at November 10, 2004 8:44 AM

I'm new to the area myself, but I've been promised that we'll get a massive accumulation of snow. Because the DOT knows it's coming, they're great about keeping the major thoroughfares clean and drivable. That's what I've heard, anyway. It's also not a bad idea to seek housing sufficiently close to campus that walking is manageable. Quite a few faculty and graduate students live in the Westcott area just a few blocks east of campus.

Posted by: Derek at November 11, 2004 8:56 AM