Journey into the land of…. high schoolers!

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This year, CRDM’s Rhetoric Society of America (RSA) Student Chapter is undertaking a variety of outreach projects to increase awareness of rhetoric in our community. As a part of this project, this week, Ashley R. Kelly and I  volunteered at a local high school, Broughton, to speak to International Baccalaureate (IB) program twelfth grade students in a Theory of Knowledge class. The class was just finishing up their semester, so now was the perfect time for us to come in to introduce another way of looking at knowledge (and perhaps to encourage them to think about studying rhetoric as they set off for college in the fall!). We taught two separate classes, one each day, and let me tell you – teaching high school is exhausting! Each class had 40 students, and we were outside in a portable, a fairly small space for that number of students. For both of us, this was our first experience in a U.S. high school, though overall, it wasn’t that much different from our experience in Canada.
We covered basic concepts of rhetoric (what is it? where does it come from? how do we talk about it?) before moving on to a topic that they had covered in the semester: science. They had covered concepts of knowledge in science, so by bringing in the perspective of rhetoric of science, we connected to some ideas they had covered but also challenged them to think about science in new ways. We talked about expert and inexpert audiences, adapting arguments based on the different audiences, and the importance of science for the general public and for themselves as individuals. We based a lot of the discussion on our research into nuclear energy in both a local setting (with the Duke-Progress merger) and on a global scale (with the accident at Fukushima last March and Germany’s reaction to the disaster). The students were bright, talkative, and engaged – and sure knew way more about nuclear energy than I did in high school!
All in all, filling a 100 minute class to engage 40 adolescents the whole time was a challenging experience. But we left encouraged that the students were so engaged, and their teacher indicated that afterword, they expressed interest in the work we are doing and the CRDM program – they thought it was all pretty cool. Taking on this outreach opportunity was a really great experience, and we can’t wait to hear what other CRDMers are doing for it, too!

5 Things

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A short little post: Five things that make my day easier, make it more enjoyable, and/or are just great.

Evernote

I’ve downloaded Evernote on my Mac, my Android phone, and my husband’s iPad and iPhone – all synced to my account, of course – and man does it make a lot of my tasks both for school but also around home a lot easier. I can add items to my grocery list from pretty much anywhere I am (and so can my husband) and have a method for taking notes on my essentially at all times. I use it mostly for simply things like lists and brainstorming ideas, but it can also be multimodal with the ability to record voice or insert images and graphics. I’m loving Evernote!

Yoga

Working on your PhD can be stressful at (the best of) times, and much of my first year was spent being too strung out about a lot of things. This year my goal has been to keep the work in perspective and remind myself that being an academic is only one component of my identity. Doing yoga has been a great way to have some personal time while also staying fit. While practicing yoga, I don’t think about anything academic – I clear my mind and enjoy the fact that I have an able body and space to practice it, more than what some folks in the world do. I’m appreciative of that – yoga has brought me more peace this year.

Bolthouse Farms Juice

Of course, life can’t always be peaceful, so when I’m crunched for time and need to eat something really quickly, I turn to this company’s line of juices. Sometimes that’s all I have for breakfast all week. But they are nutritious, delicious, and fresh — all things we all need more of in our diet. My fave varieties are the Mango and Green Goodness, although they’re pretty much all delish.

Mendeley

I’ve talked before about how much I love Mendeley, but I’ll say it again – it’s a great tool for taking notes on PDFs if you don’t have Adobe Pro (which I do, but I still use Mendeley). And if you’re an academic, then it’s also a great tool for managing your citations – something I’m sure we all could use some help with. Spend thirty seconds each time you upload a new file, and I’m sure you’ll save hours of time down the road when importing into a bibliography (or working on your diss!).

And last but not least . . .

My puppy 

There’s nothing like a little puppy love to make your day complete. Chesney is also a really good listener and target audience for practicing explaining a complex rhetorical concept to test how well I know the topic. On top of that, when he snuggles up beside me, he encourages me to stay in place and keep reading (and not go off elsewhere in the house and get distracted) – so he’s a work motivator, too!

I got the idea of doing a “Five things” post from several other bloggers out there and thought it might be a good kind of post to try every once and a while not only to share new finds (apps, software, goods, etc.), but also to think about the things that are important to me and remind myself of what makes me happy. What about you? What five things are you thankful for this week?

Taking on a new year

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I hope you all enjoyed some nice time over a holiday break. Personally, my favorite time over the school break (and one of my favorite weeks of the whole year) is the first week of January, when the business of holiday get-togethers has subsided, and I have one week of blissful quiet in which I can start the year off right by taking care of myself, taking time to think, read fiction, and organize the house for the coming year. I love the first week for all of the promise it holds for the coming year and the bit of time I have to enjoy some nice and quiet time.

But as it always must, that will end tomorrow with the beginning of the semester. Back to the routine, resuming my posts as Assistant Director of the First Year Writing Program and the Campus Writing and Speaking Program. I’m working on a new website for the CWSP, a project that I’m excited about and that will keep me busy this spring. The CWSP team is also continuing our research project, which we have found out that we will be presenting in a workshop format at Computers and Writing in Raleigh this coming May! Come and check out our workshop, titled, “Screencap Your Feedback: Using Screen Capture Technology to Provide Audio-Visual Feedback to Writers.”

Course-wise, this spring is all about preparing for the final legs of my degree: exam and dissertation preparation. I’m taking my final class (I thought the day would never come!) along with directed readings and research. One of my exam lists is in solid draft form, but I must get moving more seriously on the other two. With my goal of taking exams in early October, there’s no time to waste.

Travel-related happenings this spring semester:

  • Attending the Carolina Rhetoric Conference at Clemson University with Ashley to present our latest research on the Duke Energy-Progress Energy merger. Hope to see you in Clemson in February! 
  • Attending CCCC in March with a crew from CRDM and presenting on a panel with fellow CRDMers about establishing a sense of community in hybrid writing courses. With the bit of chatter that is re-emerging on listservs about hybrid courses, I hope our panel will be a timely topic. I also hope to see you in St. Louis this spring! 
Before I turn in, I must get back to reading 1Q84, the latest novel from Haruki Murakami, which I started over break. Each year, I *try* to read just one of the top ten novels of the year, and this is the book I chose for 2011. (Though I’m wondering why I chose the nearly 1,000 page one to read on Kindle… it takes forever!) It is a strange but compelling book. I’m enjoying reading fiction, the one time per year that I do read fiction.  
Happy New Year to all, and best wishes to those heading back to school tomorrow!