January 30, 2009

What Did I Say In Class Yesterday?

(Hello Students of Abnormal Psychology -- the lucky ones in my Spring term writing intensive class! ... I almost wrote abnormal psychology students. )

See the picture with three words on it? The original is on my office wall over my desk. I'm going to explain what these words have to do with a) my homework for this term, b) writing in general, and c) this blog.

In October I presented at a Schweitzer Fellowship "Fellows for Life" Conference. My talk was titled, "Rolling the Stones Out of Your Way: Strategies for Self Care While Working for Systems Change." Notice it was a "talk" not a "paper"? The talk was inspired and organized around the three words in the picture above. After the talk was over, a professor from a medical school asked me for a list of what I'd written because he wanted to think more about some of the ideas.

At the time, I was very drugged up on over-the-counter sinus medication and thought that if my talk were a public speaking final I would have deserved a C in the class, so naturally I thought he was joking. Hopefully I didn't look too confused for too long.

I eventually responded to him with an excuse. I have no publications. I don't write. Something about being a clinician and then teaching at a school with a 4/4 load. I clearly don't have the time. (In faculty-speak 4/4 means four classes each term. Depending on your job you might have a 2/2 load with expectation that you are doing research and publishing or some non-teaching activity for the other 2 classes' worth of time. By the way, I chose this job because I wanted to teach. So I don't mind 4/4. And for perspective many community college teachers have 5/5 loads.) Anyways, my response was honest (I haven't written or published anything) and an excuse. I'm sure there are many people that do far more work than I and write a lot. However, I intensely dislike writing, so I avoid it when I can.

(I did manage to complete my qualifying exams and my dissertation. Though I've blocked out how many pages the dissertation was or how many times I revised it.)

So this term, while teaching our writing intensive class I will be working on writing a paper based on my talk for the Schweitzer fellows. I have an external deadline because I was asked to give the talk again in the Fall. So along side you and your papers for my class, I'll be working on this. I'm also making myself write each morning before I check email (because email and all things web-based are the blackhole of time and attention). I'm not sure about this blog, but I'd like to force myself to post something each week with my students as the primary audience.

So writing this blog is an attempt to be transparent for a variety of personal and professional purposes. As a teacher, I hope it keeps me honest and helps students get a sense of why I perseverate (50 cent word) on certain things (i.e., thesis statements... importance of) and reinforce the notion that writing is a process, diverse skill set, and not a solitary activity. Personally, I'm using this blog and my homework assignment as a means to keep me honest for my own writing goals. There, now I've said it. If anyone reads this at all the power of social witnessing* (Social Psych students unite!) is working in my favor.

*That is an example of a using a jedi-mind trick against yourself. Orchestrate the reinforcement that you need. Yes, I like Star Wars.