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Wrapping up the Spring Semester

It has been an eventful spring semester. I had the privilege of teaching three different writing classes, and they were all rewarding and fun in their own way.

My first class, Writing for Engineers, was the class that I was most familiar with although it did present some challenges. Students learned how to write the following:

  • research reports,
  • proposals
  • failure analysis reports
  • and correspondence writing

For these courses, I really tried to focus on document design for reading efficiency and conciseness in writing. I’m sure my students were tired of me saying, “get to the point,” but to me, science writing should be readable and accessible.

In any case, I believe that students learned a lot here, and their feedback has been very positive.

My other class, Strategic Communications was a blast. Strat Comm is a writing class for students in advertising, marketing, and telecommunications. It focuses on teaching students how to create content for businesses and consumers.

I completed a lot of the work in this course, and students learned how to write,

  1. Placed-based advertising campaigns
  2. Native advertisements,
  3. Long and short form product placements

We even worked on creating a complete content marketing strategy campaigns for local businesses. This class was new to me, but I worked to emphasize reader/consumer-based writing. In the truest sense of the word, this is writing for your audience. Check out our blog.

Finally, I taught a more traditional first-year writing course. These are always a challenge because students, for the most part, would rather be somewhere else. Nevertheless, it worked out great.

Now, the semester is done. I am reflecting on what I did well and what I need to improve. I need to prep more practice activities for the Strat Comms class. Also, I liked that I gave class-time to writing and revising, but I found that students, in some cases, didn’t really write or revise during those periods. I will need to make some adjustments there.

I need to be much tougher on attendance and tardiness, which is a pet-peeve of mine anyway. Finally, I want to be able to help students more with the document design aspect of writing.

However, it’s time for finals, so here is to a great semester, and good luck on finals and the end-of-the-semester scramble.

blog, Writing

Spring Semester 2019

I’ve not paid much attention to my blog of late because I’ve been paying attention to my students. We are about 5 weeks into the semester here, and I’m still trying to get my bearings. However, even though I feel like I am trying to catch a speeding train, I’m having fun.

Funny how that works.

I am teaching a Strategic Communications course, and I love it. The course is geared towards young advertisers, public relations students, and marketers, and it is about studying, pitching, and writing narratives for various products, events, or ideas. The writing style, though, is different. It’s a different kind of storytelling, one that focuses on understanding the nature of branding and people’s response to brands. I’ve never taught a class like this before, but it is shaping up to be the most fun class of the semester.

My other two classes are Technical Writing for Engineers and a general education Rhetoric and Writing course. Tech Writing is always fun and challenging to teach because how do you make writing Usability Reports fun? It’s doable. You just have to be a little crazy.

The gen ed writing course is the one that I have the most experience teaching, and it is proving to be the most challenging. The main reason is that it is a required course. Most students don’t want to be there, and it shows. Since I don’t want to be one of those teachers who lecture, oblivious to their student’s engagement, I’m having to do a bit more work to get the students involved in their own experience.

Trials of a teacher…

How is your year going so far?

-K

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Love Series: “On Love”

I’ve been thinking about a way to conceptualize love. It is tricky because it is both something that is and something that you do. It is a culmination of feelings that you have for other people, for yourself, and for some things. We receive it, give it, and are compelled by it.

Alongside this blog, I have a journal that I am using to help keep track of my thoughts about the topic. I am not wrestling with a solution; to come to some kind of fixed definition about love is to tame it in some way, and that does not seem like the right thing to do. I am much more interested in living in it, with it, and through it. To be clear, this is not about loving someone although relationships are often a consequence of love. This is about trying to reach a higher self. For this reason, I have decided to go with Khalil Gibran’s writings on love from his legendary book, The Prophet.

There is not much to be said here, but there is much to think about, so I will let Gibran do the rest of the “talking:”

On Love
Then said Almitra, Speak to us of Love.
And he raised his head and looked upon
the people, and there fell a stillness upon them
And with a great voice he said:
When love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams
as the north wind lays waste the garden.

For even as love crowns you so shall he
crucify you. Even as he is for your growth
so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and
caresses your tenderest branches that quiver
in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and
shake them in their clinging to the earth.

Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto
himself.
He thrashes you to make you naked.
He sifts you to free you from husks.
He grinds you to whiteness.
He kneads you until you are pliant;
And then he assigns you to his sacred
fire, that you may become sacred bread for
God’s sacred feast.

All these things shall love do unto you
that you may know the secrets of your
heart, and in that knowledge become a
fragment of Life’s heart.

But if in your fear you would seek only
love’s peace and love’s pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover
your nakedness and pass out of love’s
threshing-floor,
Into the seasonless world where you
shall laugh, but not all of your laughter,
and weep, but not all of your tears.

Love gives naught but itself and takes
naught but from itself.
Love possesses not nor would it be
possessed;
For love is sufficient unto love.

When you love you should not say
“God is in my heart,” but rather, “I am
in the heart of God.”
And think not you can direct the course
of love, for love, if it finds you worthy,
directs your course.

Love has no other desire but to fulfil
itself.
But if you love and must needs have
desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook
that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding
of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart
and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and meditate
love’s ecstasy.
To return home at eventide with gratitiude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the
beloved in your heart and a song of praise
upon your lips.

blog, Uncategorized, Writing

It’s A New Semester

…And so far, things are going great. I could not sleep at all, so I am operating on less than 3 hours of sleep. I get to class and realize I have no dry-erase markers (ladies and gentlemen, the professor is unprepared for class!), so I run to the store to get some. Then, I get to class, and bring up my Canvas course page and — dun, dun, dun — it’s empty. I put all of the right content in the wrong class. I spent all week doing the wrong thing.

—sigh—

In any case, I have four classes I am teaching — two writing for engineers courses, one strategic communications (writing in advertising and public relations) course, and one traditional rhetoric, research, and writing course. I am excited about all of these course in their own way, but I am most excited about the strategic communications course because it is new. While I have done a bit of freelance copywriting (not much to write home about), it will be interesting to see what I can bring to this course and what I can learn from teaching it.

Onward and forward,

-K

Literature

Love Series: “The Shirt”

When was the last time you appreciated the physical appeal of your significant other? It is one thing to appreciate someone’s beauty or sexiness when they are dressed and intending to impress; it is another thing to see them in those moments when they are in jeans and a t-shirt or sweatpants, meandering around the house. 

It’s the little things that create the big feelings.

It’s amazing that the smallest thing can turn into something wonderful and consequential when it is connected to someone you love or admire. This poem, “The Shirt,” by Jane Kenyon looks at a little thing like a shirt, and she sees life and poetry in that shirt because it is connected to the man she loves. She sees the shirt in the way that only Jane Kenyon can.

She was a fantastic poet who could see the poetry in a pot of buttered grits. Through her poetry, she reminds us that so much about loving is about seeing, sensing, and experiencing. Note the details she adds about the shirt, but also note the details that she leaves out.  

I have taught this poem a few times, and it is a great poem to use to teach poetry writing; it uses very few words to create a powerful impact and impression; also, there is something of the poet in there that remains, her sense of humor, sexiness, and love. The man wearing the shirt, most likely her husband Donald Hall, who is a respected poet in his own right, has her complete attention, in the only way that a lover can.

The Shirt
This shirt touches his neck
and smooths over his back.
It slides down his sides.
It even goes down below his belt—
down into his pants.
Lucky shirt.

Jane Kenyon, OtherWise. Graywolf press, 1996, p.41