When work does not feel like work

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

While I have been spending each day, more or less, reading for my comps, I’m also prepping to teach a new class this coming fall semester, Grant and Proposal Writing. I’ve been in this class as a student and was able to TA for the class last semester, and now I am transitioning into teaching it. So, most days, once I get done with reading and annotating a few articles for my exams, I’ve been working on getting this new class together.

Today I wrote up the agenda for the first week, which those of you who teach know that this also means my first couple assignments are nearly ready to go and my syllabus and schedule is probably complete. (Yes, this is true.) As I was writing the agenda, I was looking over the agenda of the previous teacher so that I could use her ideas as a springboard for my own as well as incorporate the activity she does for the first couple days, which as a student and a TA I really liked. But, of course, as with anything that suddenly becomes “your own” in some sense, changes occur. For example, I’m using Twitter in this class as as a semester-long project. Students will create a twitter account and follow nonprofits, organizations, or people related to their interests that will hopefully apply in some way to their final project ideas. In the grand scheme of things I know this won’t happen for all the students, but I also think Twitter will be a good arena for them to keep up on discussions, sometimes as they happen, regarding social, political, and/or personal interests they have. Plus, I try to have some type of social media professionalization in all my classes and I have probably already demonstrated my somewhat notorious love for Twitter to far more people who would even care to know. The thing is I have just learned so much from following my interests on Twitter and networked with many people because of Twitter.

Aside from Twitter, as I worked on the agenda, and because of something a tweep shared with me on Twitter, I got to thinking about how writing the agenda, as well as writing the syllabus, schedule and first few assignments never felt like “work” to me. I actually enjoyed working on these documents and critically thinking through how to teach what grants even are to my students on that first day of class.

But the Twitter share relates more strongly to how I was procrastinating on reading for my comps just a few days ago. Instead of doing my reading, as I had vowed to do according to my agenda, which I sadly even keep during the summer months, but then I am a graduate student, I started creating an online portfolio for when I go on the job market. I did this because  I knew that while dissertating (yes, I made it a verb because it is really) and looking for a job, I am not going to have the patience to work on also creating an online portfolio. I know this about myself. I will not have the patience to care. So right now I have what is an in-progress online portfolio geared to getting me, with any luck, a good teaching job somewhere not where I am at.

But also while working on the website, I didn’t feel it was work. I instinctively knew it was work because really, why the hell else would i do it? But it didn’t feel like work. In fact, the digital writing I do, and at times the non-digital work I do, doesn’t ever really feel like work. Not like how writing those seminar papers that I loathed felt like work. (Though I did not loathe every paper I wrote. Just a lucky few.)

The article that was pointed out to me by someone on Twitter is from Computers and Composition by Leon and Pigg (and Stacey Pigg actually spoke at our institution a couple years ago about her work in the WIDE Program at Michigan and it was cool stuff) regarding how graduate students professionalize in digital spaces.  (and yes, you need to find it on your own university database, as annoying as that is.) As I was reading it, I could totally relate. That is pretty much what I was doing in the creation of the online portfolio. It is my reason for being on Twitter, and for trying to get my students to use Twitter in professional ways. I also love iAnnotate on my ipad for reading PDFs of articles since I can highlight and take notes without having to print out the article and file it who-knows-where in my tiny office space or my small apartment.

I’ll admit that teaching students the importance of digital professionalization is not easy. Some students are downright resistant, and remains so, throughout the semester, for example. But as digital arenas become the ways by which we see professional organizations and businesses, it becomes imperative to learn how to use them in a professional context. And really, this is already happening. If someone wants to give a business a bad name, they’ll call them out on Yelp or Facebook. In this sense, these digital spaces are powerful tools and I always do read the reviews. I just need to get better at teaching these skills to my students, and use them in the classroom, because as much as we use them to form consensus, we can also use them for dissent.


One comment on “When work does not feel like work

  1. thomtammaro says:

    But yield who will to their separation,
    My object in living is to unite
    My avocation and my vocation
    As my two eyes make one in sight.
    Only where love and need are one,
    And the work is play for mortal stakes,
    Is the deed ever really done
    For Heaven and the future’s sakes.

    —last stanza from “Two Tramps in Mud Time” by Robert Frost

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