Saturday, April 4, 2009

NEWCA 2009 - Day 1

I've been enjoying this year's NEWCA conference, here in beautiful, cloudy, drizzly Hartford. (I've come to realize that no matter how nice a city might be, it always looks industrial in the right type of weather.) The drive up on Friday was really pretty awful; for at least 90 minutes the rain was torrential - so heavy that I could barely seen more than a few feet in front of my car. I stopped off at a rest stop outside Brewster, and when I emerged the rain had let up, although there were still periods of heavy rain, but not as bad as it had been until that point. The drive was unilaterally bad for everyone; everyone got caught in the downpour. In January, when I drove up to the University of Hartford for a steering committee meeting, the drive took me about 2 ½ - 3 hours; Friday's drive took more than 3 ½ hours. But be that as it may, the reset of the conference has been going very well. Joining the steering committee was actually a very good move.

I arrived Friday at the hotel, had the chance to dry off and clean up, and meet a hoard of steering committee folks for dinner at the in-hotel restaurant, which was pretty good. (No meat on Fridays during Lent? Decidedly not a problem for a happy sushi eater.)

The sessions today were good. I chaired a session called "Record, Reflect, Renew: Using iPods to Understand Writing Center Work," in which students/tutors were using iPods to record tutor sessions for analysis and tutor training purposes. The second session I attended, "Decentering the Center: Taking the Writing Center Pedagogy into the Community," was co-presented by two Teaching Fellow from St. John's Univ. in Queens; they discussed taking writing center pedagogy into the community - Meridith into a church-based group; Kerri into her former high school - both of which I found extremely interesting. Hearing them talk about the community outreach being done and supported by the St. John's folks finally got me to see what (I think) a few folks had been trying to tell me about applying to doctoral programs. I only talked very briefly to Meridith about her tenure at St. John's Univ., but she really seemed to love it, and after two years she's done with her coursework (or will be in May), and has a couple years to work on her dissertation. I realized that I really enjoy those outreach movements and am really developing an interest in building community outreach between university writing centers and secondary schools. I finally got the point of possibly applying to a Ph.D. program. One of my hesitancies was that I wasn't sure in what capacity I'd study or have use for the degree, but I'm beginning to see the possibilities now. I still need to teach at the secondary level to gain some street cred, but still, I have an idea. I also saw my friend Lauren, who was co-leading a workshop ("
Mandatory Tutoring Sessions: How Writing Center Tutors Can Squash the Combative Nature of Mandated FYW Tutoring Sessions") on combating the negative nature of required tutoring sessions, which I sat in on. Both she and Meridith had high praise for the doctoral program at S.J.U., which is something I've filed away for future use.

Tonight: Dinner, again, with some steering committee folks. I was surprised at the number of people who only stayed a day, but I was glad to have dinner buddies to hang out with. Everyone is extremely amenable and really made me feel welcome. I have to remember to brand myself a teacher; I keep labeling myself a grad student - which I am - but I'm also a teacher, just like everyone else on the steering committee.

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