Tag Archive for writing

A Poem for Canada

View from Tunnel Mountain Hike in Banff, Canada

Canada, O Canada

where mountains reach to the clouds
where rivers, green, rush and tumble
where trees are varied, diverse, and brave
where lakes are serene, peaceful, calm

Canada, O Canada

where people are kind and polite
where locals come from all over the world
where visitors feel welcome
where people learn to respect the land
where natives are still respected

Canada, O Canada

where animals are “slaughtered kindly”
where food is thoughtfully prepared
where meals consists of elk, bison, venison, and duck
where vegetarian meals are rare
where restaurants have gardens on site
where food is expensive

Canada, O Canada

where parks are guarded
and valued
and cherished
where animals are protected
and roam free
where elk and bears wander uninhibited
where chipmunks draw near
where nature is savored

Canada, O Canada

where life is lived outdoors
where you hike, bike, raft, boat, fish, kayak, ski, and canoe
where you walk in the rain
where you linger
where you smile
where you ponder
and life

Canada, O Canada

where silence can be heard
where sounds can be felt
where God can be found
and remembered
and thanked

Canada, O Canada,
how I love thee

Thank you
for allowing me
to experience you

What I Really Do in the Summer

College students and professors all over the country are beginning their summer breaks. Courses are complete. Finals are taken. Seniors have graduated and moved away (hopefully finding jobs). Current students are enjoying the break from the daily grind of reading, writing, and studying for courses, while professors are appreciating not having to go into the office every day, taking a break from planning for classes and grading, and having more time allotted to non-teaching aspects of our jobs.

Graduation was a little over a week ago and since then, I have heard the following comments from friends, family, and acquaintances:

“You’re so lucky to have the entire summer off!”
“Aren’t you glad to be out for three whole months?”
“I wish I had as much time off as you.”

“Are you enjoying your break from work?”
“It must be nice to only work 32 weeks out of a year.”

These comments—while well-intentioned and most likely just meant to start a conversation about my summer plans—point to some faulty assumptions about academic life, especially life on the tenure-track.

Such a perspective isn’t surprising. Most of these well-meaning people have jobs with clear-cut work hours (8-5, Monday-Friday), vacation time (2 weeks), and sick time (a certain number of hours).* Others are K-12 teachers who actually do have a true break during the summer, so, they assume, I must have a break, too. My mom, for instance, was a 3rd and 1st grade teacher most of my life (she retired last year), and except for a week or two of professional development in which she was required to participate, she was “off”. She was not required or expected to do any work during her summer vacation. Of course, it wasn’t a true “vacation” for her; she was home with four kids during the summer. But she didn’t have to “work”.

*This doesn’t always apply to many people I know who own their own business and do not get any time off (perhaps they don’t have any employees or only have one or two people or just can’t afford to take off). If they take time off, they don’t make any money or their business might suffer from being closed for so long.

When professors are “off” (i.e., not teaching), however, they are *not* on vacation. Instead, we are busy doing the stuff we are unable to do during the academic school year. For today’s post, I’m going to debunk this assumption that professors are “off” all summer by explaining what I will be doing over the summer in terms of my work. My summer plans are specifically situated in my own context as a a tenure-track academic preparing to go up for tenure in the fall. Summer plans and activities may not be the same for other academics, professors, or instructors, especially ones whose primary responsibility is teaching (although they probably feel pressure to write and publish as well during the break).

1. Read. A lot. I have developed a list of about 30 (academic) books I would like to read over the summer, which equals out to about 2-3 books a week. I’ve already read three books since school ended, but I have a large stack waiting for me. Some of the books are for my research; others are for my teaching. Either way, I have a lot to read. It’s important to note that this reading does not include all the fiction and non-fiction I want to read.

2. Write. A lot. If I were ranking this list, writing would be at number 1. It is expected that academics write over the summer, even when we are not paid for our summer work through a sabbatical or grant. I hope to send out at least one article over the summer.

3. Revise an article that has been rejected. Last week, I received (bad) news that an article I wrote was rejected to the journal to which I submitted it. Rejection is no fun. It can be extremely discouraging and disheartening to receive such news. You can only send an article to one journal at a time and they hold on to it between 4-6 months (at best) before notifying you of the decision. When you receive negative news, it can depress me for days. But it’s the reality of academic life. There’s even a journal called The Journal of Universal Rejection that rejects every single article they receive. I don’t plan on submitting there, but I find the premise delightfully ironic.

4. Plan the courses I will be teaching in the Fall (and even the Spring). This activity involves several components:

a. Compose a syllabus. Decide on course objectives, assignments, grading criteria, rules and guidelines for the course. This needs to be done at least one week in advance of the semester and takes a lot of planning.

b. Draft a course schedule. Creating a course schedule for the entire semester before you ever teach a course is probably the hardest part of planning for a course. I begin work on this early and make changes all the way up to the start of class.

5. Plan for next year’s research project. I received a Baylor University Research Committee (URC) grant for a project I’m working on that examines how students write about the writing they will complete in their jobs. I will have a Research Assistant and I need to make plans for the academic year.

6. Compose a Research Leave application. I plan on applying for a Research Leave for Fall 2013 or Spring 2014. This application is detailed and time-consuming, and I plan to do much of it over the summer.

7. Compose an application for a Summer Sabbatical. I would like to have summer funding next summer, so I will also apply for a Summer Sabbatical through my university.

8. Update my technological skills. I teach writing and design courses, and my students and I use technology every day. I am quite adept at Word, Excel, Publisher, and WordPress, but I need to enhance my skills in the Adobe suite, particularly InDesign and Photoshop. I plan on learning these better over the summer.

9. Get organized. Shred paperwork. Clean out my office. Organize and delete computer files. Go through my email Inbox and delete, delete, delete.

10. Attend professional development seminars or workshops. In June, I will be attending a one-week seminar in Rhetoric and Composition at Michigan State University.

11. Begin thinking about and planning for the graduate course I will teach next Spring. Book orders will be due in October, and I need to know early what I will be doing in the course, tentatively titled “Teaching Digital Rhetoric.” I will do a lot of research for the course in terms of texts, assignments, and requirements. And, since there isn’t much time in December to plan for Spring course, I need to do most planning over the summer and during the Fall semester.

12. Put together my tenure notebook. More on this in the future.

As you can see, my summer is filled with things I must get done before school resumes in August. Yes, I appreciate that I have a break from teaching and commuting to the office every day, but it’s not a true break that the word “vacation” entails. I will take a vacation–two actually. One with my husband for my 10th anniversary and another with my family to the beach. But, the pressure to read, write, publish, and get caught up is ever present in my summer life, even when I’m playing with my children, watching a movie, or hiking in the park. That’s just the way it is.

My Popular Posts: Two Weeks in Review

My website has been active for two weeks now, so I decided to take a moment to list and examine my top three posts. Here, they are, my most popular posts.

1. “Running Around Like a Crazy Woman: Why Less Is More.”

This post is my most popular, most likely because a few people tweeted or posted the link to Facebook or their blog, which led to many more people clicking on it and viewing it. I am amazed at the interconnected nature of the web, and I have enjoyed connecting with people I would not otherwise know (thanks for reading, you people!).

This post is also my first book review on the blog. I actually plan to do many reviews in the future. Perhaps my readers like book reviews. We shall see. I was actually surprised how many people clicked on the book’s link from my site to read about the book for themselves (over 35 of you!). I wonder how many of you will read it. I’d love to hear what you think about it and how you have tried to implement the mantra, “Less is more,” into your life.

2. “Up in the Clouds or Down on the Ground: When Marriage Is Difficult.”

I only posted this piece yesterday, but it’s already close to becoming my most popular post. I guess when you speak about marriage, people are interested.

I have been so humbled and encouraged by the many messages, texts, and emails I have received from you about this post. Many of you wrote to me about difficulties you are (or were) having in your marriage, and how this post came “at just the right time.” I’m humbled that my words were able to touch and encourage you in this way. Thanks so much for letting me know!

3. “I Am a Mother; I Am an Academic.”

This post was one of my firsts, and it still remains a popular one. Almost every day a few people still read it.

I like this post because it hints at the daily struggle I have to be both mother and academic. And to do each well. It’s not as easy as it seems. I will continue to examine and write about motherhood and academia and explore the tension I constantly feel negotiating the demands of both.

Thanks so much for reading my blog. Remember, you can subscribe to my blog by clicking on the RSS feed button at the top (the orange button at the top).

Which blog post has been your favorite?

Why I Like the End of the Semester

The last week of the semester is upon us at Baylor and at many colleges all over the country. Next week is finals week, and then comes graduation. And, then, the semester is over.

This time of year is one of my favorites. Yes, summer is coming and students and teachers alike will soon get a much needed break. We don’t have to come back until August. But what I like just as much as anticipating the summer hiatus is getting to see what my students have learned. This is the time of the semester when students submit their work, work that highlights what they have learned, accomplished, and achieved through my course. I enjoy looking through student  projects and reflecting on what we have done over the course of 16 weeks and all that we have accomplished together.

What is really exciting for me this semester is that I designed and taught a new course, “Writing in the Digital Age.” This course has exceeded my expectations, and I have really enjoyed the content and the students who enrolled in it. We have had a great semester together. Students created a professional blog and composed weekly blog posts on issues related to digital writing. They marketed themselves and their work through Facebook and Twitter. They researched a topic related to digital writing, such as podcasts in the classroom,e-books, digital marketing, and the SmartPen.

Students also created an audio or video Public Service Announcement. Alison created a video PSA on Lupus, and Ariadne composed a provocative PSA on body image.Other PSAs examined childhood literacy, hunger, and binge drinking.

The last project of the semester, which we are currently working on, asked students to locate a local small business and work with them to develop an  online presence–to market themselves digitally to their audience. Students built a Web site for their client and then created or updated their client’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Next week, we will have a celebration party where we will view the final web sites and celebrate with the clients. I have really enjoyed this project and plan to expand it as a semester-long project next time.

The end of the semester is exciting for students and teachers. Education, in all its embodiments, becomes evident.

Why I Created a Web Site

It is official. I have a Web site. This site has been many years in the making (at least in my mind planning it). Over the years, I have spent a great deal of time working with a variety of software programs (Dreamweaver, FrontPage, Netscape Composer–remember that one?). I have learned these programs. I have even taught students how to use them. I have drawn by hand what I wanted my site to look like, including where to place the images, texts, and links. But I have never officially created my own site. Now, I finally have. I bought my own domain name (karapoealexander was taken!??). I paid for a host, and I now have site (I use WordPress). Yea!

This site is intended for a variety of purposes and audiences.

One purpose of this site is to develop an online professional identity. An academic, a scholar, a teacher. Audiences who are interested in me as a professional perhaps want to see me blog about issues pertaining to my teaching or my scholarship. They may want to look at my CV and see my background. They may want to download a syllabus or sample assignments, which is perfectly fine. They might want to see a picture of me since they’ve never met me in person. This academic audience is professional, anti-religious (I assume), intellectual, and smart. I find them a bit intimidating.

A second purpose of this site is to connect with my students. model for students what it is like to have a professional online presence. I teach students majoring in Professional Writing, and in our courses we often discuss what it means to have a professional online presence. It was all well and good, except I didn’t have a Web site. Yet I was requiring them to have one. That didn’t go together. This site, then, is intended to not only show students that I have an online presence but also to model to them the numerous ways writers can use technology to write, blog, get jobs, find followers, and connect to various communities and audiences. I also created a Web site so that my students could come here for course materials. I have used Blackboard in the past, but I find this open access a bit more in line with my own pedagogy. I am glad to know that students will be utilizing this site.

The last–and perhaps main–purpose of this site is to write. I have blogged on and off since 2006, a year after my first child was born when I wanted to document her life. But I have not been a faithful blogger for a few years. In recent months, however, I have been reading more and more blogs, and what first motivated me to finally create a Web site was because I wanted to enter the conversations.

The conversations I am most interested in pertain to various aspects of my identity as a working mother, a female academic, a Christian, and a preacher’s wife. Most of what I blog about will be about these issues of motherhood, womanhood, academia, and faith. I recognize that my audiences are diverse and that some areas I write about will not always interest my readers. I do hope, however, that I can find my niche in the conversation.

I’m always interested in your comments and feedback, so feel free to leave comments or to subscribe to my social media using the icon buttons on the site.

And if you’re interested, you can find my previous blogs at: