Thursday, February 6, 2014


One of the things that I try to do in my teaching is offer models for my students to follow.  When I teach literature classes, this takes the form of writing discussion board posts such as I want my students to write and responding to their posts as I hope to see them do for one another.  (It seems to be working decently well this term.)  When I teach writing classes, whatever the sort, I try to offer examples of the writing I want them to do; in effect, I complete the assignment I offer them.  (I am, admittedly, not always as good about doing so as I want or ought to be.  It is a weakness I continue to struggle to address.)

I did so yesterday afternoon, writing a profile essay of the sort I want to see my students write for their second paper.  In the assignment, I am having the students write what amounts to an extended, focused description of a place familiar to them, one that conveys a dominant underlying impression of that place.  The model I produced for them is one that profiles the office I currently share with seven others, one that reminds me in large measure of the situation I was in as a master's student (if with less bookshelf space and a lower ceiling for me).  The setup there was remarkably productive for me; I found my beloved, I found several fine friends, and I began to find my identity as a scholar in that office.

While I doubt that I will find love in my current office, I have already found several other good friends, and I am refining my identity as a scholar more or less constantly.  Part of the latter comes in the form of the many useful interchanges that take place in the office; I learn from my colleagues, both peers and juniors.  (There are a couple graduate students sharing the office space, and I appreciate them, as they help me to feel intelligent by asking good questions that I can answer well.)  I hope that I have been able to contribute at least as much as I have gained; despite the stereotypes of my profession of professing, I do not want to be quite so much a parasite as to take and take and take and not give back at all.  (I have testimonies of my contributions on record, thank you.)

Discussing the places in which we work is well worth doing; it is because of that idea that CCC put forward its call for submissions about locations of writing (for which I wrote about another office I have had--one I miss in form but am glad to have left in context).  The simple fact of place is something that I think is too much overlooked; milieu functions as a character in each of the interlaced narratives of the world's life, and there are some who will argue that it is the protagonist rather than we who tend to tell the stories with ourselves in the title roles.  I do not know that they are wrong...

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