Semester Reflections

Teaching was really never something I wanted to pursue, and it was the last job I thought I’d ever have. When my boss told me I was his newest Adjunct, I was floored.  I didn’t go into his office with the idea of being an adjunct. I wanted to tutor writing, but I ended up in the classroom. What totally surprised me was really simple. I love being in the classroom. I love teaching. I love connecting with student’s and their writing. I love watching a student’s writing improve and that student comes into his/her own with their writing.  That alone is one of the best things about being in front of the classroom.

 

Standing in front of 24 students was intimidating at first. Now for me, that intimidation is gone, and I look forward to each new semester. Walking into the classroom that first day of class is a highlight of each semester.  Witnessing students see how their writing improves with each paper is nothing short of joyful for me.  Presenting the class and the work required is fun, especially when I hear groaning, and hands are raised wanting to ask questions that I’m about to answer. Read the syllabus, turn papers in online, there are specifications for an excused absence etc., etc.  All of this and more happened at the beginning of this last semester, but what I learned was far more important.

 

This last semester started out pretty much normally. I had 3 great classes of ENG101, and I couldn’t ask for better students. Then a wrench was thrown into the class field, and that was an eight-week ENG101 class.  My boss came into my classroom on a Tuesday, which made me a little nervous, and he did not look upset, so that was a good thing.  This was the very first time he had ever come into my class. The first thing I thought when I saw him, was what did I do. Turns out he just asked if I would take a 4thclass. Now, I have never said “no” to him, and I certainly did not start on this Tuesday. I took the class, and then the panic set in. Previously I condensed an ENG091 into 8 weeks, but I was a bit lost on how I was going to do this to an ENG101.  I knew then, I had to seek some advice from some of the residential faculty.

 

Once I figured out I needed help, I went to a professor and asked what did he do with his 8 week classes. He, in turn, sent me his class. Everything I could possibly need he sent to me, and he sat down with me and explained how it all worked. So I took what he gave me and went about teaching the curriculum. What I found during the 8 weeks of teaching his stuff was I was a lot different in my approach to the class. Now I still use his format, but a lot of the assignments are created by me. This is something I believe is unique to my school. Being an Adjunct has its downfalls. There are times an adjunct can feel left out of the loop with instruction information. Amazingly this doesn’t happen for me.  At any time I know I can go to a faculty member and get help and encouragement. When I just do not have a great understanding of something, I seek help from the faculty, and the help that was given was more than I could ask for. The success of this semester was, in part, because of the residential faculty and their advice and encouragement. The students were the other half of the success of the semester.

 

I have had some really good students. Not all of them wanted to be in my class. Not all of them turned in all of their work on time, and not all of them finished with a C or better. BUT I enjoyed every single student that walked through the doors of my classrooms. They definitely were not perfect, but all of them were in my class, therefore, I wanted them to succeed. My day always seemed to get brighter once I walked into any one of the 4 classes I taught. I wonder how many will follow me into ENG102?  Time will tell, and I hope they are ready for 102, because from my point of view it is not going to be easy.  Cannot wait!!

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When I Get Away

Not long ago I was reading an online message board that is part of TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors) and Carol, who moderates the forum, asked a really good question, “What TAPS seminar or retreat have you attended and what did you like best about it?”  
The following is the answer I wrote to her:
 
To begin I believe the seminars were truly a life saving event for me. When Robb was killed in Iraq I thought I would just melt away, but after Dylan died by suicide, I did not know how I was going to make it through the next day on a lot of occasions. The TAPS seminars and retreat were a Godsend for me personally.  When I first read the question, I had to sit and think for a bit. 
(Thinking, contemplating, and pondering right now is time consuming because it is the end of the semester and grades are due by 5pm Monday, and I’m not done grading yet.) At first I wanted to answer by saying what was my favorite, but that would be way too easy for me. I’ve attended many retreats and seminars, but if I had to choose one, I wouldn’t be able to do so. I only say this because I have been on TAPS Adventures, Retreats, and Seminars, and all of them taught me something very important. I learned that I was not alone in what I was going through, and there is no way I would be able to really describe what that means to me. So with that being said, I will break them down by category.
 
My favorite adventures were Rafting on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon and rafting on the Green River in Utah. I have been rafting for a long time and it is most likely one of my favorite activities. These trips were great because of the people I met. Gracious, kind, loving, funny, brave, smart, and beautiful inside and out are just a few ways I can describe the people on these two trips. I will never forget watching Bev jump off that rock into the river. Then she did it a few more times after that. It was incredible to watch her conquer that rock and river. Riding through huge waves and looking right at that wave of water saying “OH @#*@.” Then Janet saying back to me, “I’m not looking.” Then making it through soaking wet is one thing I’ll never forget. Talk about fun!!
 
Retreats are something entirely different. I’m not normally one who likes “retreats.” I much rather be out doing something like rafting, so retreats were never my “thing.” However, I did attend one retreat that was absolutely wonderful. I went to London back in 2014 and it was one of the best times I’ve ever had. I was able to see Erin again and I met some incredible women. I arrived early in the morning so I had about 4 hours free before I could check into my hotel, so I went on a walk and ended up in Camden Town where I had another tattoo put on my arm. I didn’t go there with that intention, but I came back to the hotel with a beautiful rose on my left arm. As a group we went all over London seeing the sights and learning about each other. We also went to Bath and I took a side trip to see Stonehenge. Those rocks were simply inspiring. To this day I want to know who put them there, and how in the heck did they do it! 
 
In the last 12 years I’ve been to a lot of seminars with TAPS, and I think my favorite ones were the small regional seminars. When I was living in Washington State, I would drive up with Joint Base Lewis McChord or the Navel Base to attend a regional seminar. I really enjoyed those because they were much smaller than the National seminar, and this one was not on a specific date in the year. I would be able to connect with people that I already knew and I saw people I knew who were in the military. The break out groups were small and more intimate. This, I think, is what I enjoyed the most. Now that I live in Arizona, I am not able to go to many regional seminars, except for the one held every other year here in Phoenix. I try to go if my work load is not enormous. 
 
When I add all of them up, I discovered I’m not alone in this walk they call grief. There are a lot of folks like me, just trying to figure it all out. Now after 12+ years, I have discovered so much and I do believe I’m going to be OKAY in this life I lead. I will be forever thankful for Bonnie, Darcie, and everyone I’ve met at TAPS. Now I must get back to grading essays and blogs. 
 
Best,
Cait

In Front of The Screen

Now that I actually have a job teaching I find myself sitting in front of the computer screen every day and most nights. I do this so much I went out and purchased glasses for reading on the screen. I was so tired of trying to read through the transitional lens and my new glasses have remedied this little dilemma. Normally I sit until I get everything finished that was on my agenda however tonight was a bit different. Brodie, my Gordon Setter, quietly lays at my feet waiting for me to move.

Brodie was laying in front of my desk and being quiet except for the ever present cry that he makes most of the time. He rarely leaves my side, unless of course he’s upset with me for some strange reason. Anyway, so he’s laying quietly by my desk, when all of a sudden he sits up and growls. Not the mean growl or “I’m going to get you growl” but “I want you to listen to me” growl. I stopped reading the discussion board, and asked, “what do you want buddy?” Believe it or not he answered with growl growl. So I replied back to him, “so is it time to go for our walk?” The dog just about flipped here in the loft. He started prancing and dancing and growling telling me he was excited and wanted to go out for his walk. It took me just a few more minutes to complete what I was doing before I got up from my chair. When I did, Brodie knew we were going.

Walking down the stairs to get his leash and poop bags I usually go slowly, but Brodie runs down like there’s a major fire upstairs. He grabs his beloved hedgehog and runs around the downstairs waiting for me to get his leash. Once I get him leached up, we head for the door, but before I get there I realize I need poop bags. So back we go to get 3. Once we are out the door and the door is locked we start down to the main street and Brodie is at the end of his leash trying to get to every single bush, plant, and tree on the street. (he’s very good at this)

Our route varies every day and today I kept it kinda short because it was still hot outside. When it’s in the high 90’s I keep the walk to a short one, and being 99 degrees outside a short walk was what Brodie could handle tonight. As it was by the time we are less than half way through, Brodie begins to slow down and not pull any on the leash. Silly dog. Loves to go out, but with the heat he can’t handle a long walk. So now that we are back in the house, I’m back in Front of The Screen once again.

I Remember: a poem

I remember

Walking to school,

Riding my bike,

Swim in the pool

Taking a hike

 

I remember

Riding my horse

Sweeping the barn

live in the city

Not on a farm

 

I remember

Graduation

Purple and White

Piedmont Senior High

My pants weren’t tight

 

I remember

Seeing him first

In parking lot

Made my heart burst

He was so hot

 

I remember

Getting married

Living with him

Life was harried

Not a bit grim

 

I remember

Robi Lee’s birth

Army Reserves

I had a girth

Making preserves

 

I remember

Vancouver house

Dylan and Dad

Chasing the mouse

Life was not bad

 

I remember

Nine eleven

All the changes

He’s no E-seven

We’re here long range

 

I remember

His deployment

Did not know what this meant

Packages sent

I paid the rent

 

I remember

Being notified

The funeral

Being Terrified

feeling fried.

 

I remember

All of that stuff

Now don’t give me gruff

It’s in the past

Time went by fast.

I remember

 

 

 

An Idea Came To Mind

An Idea Came To Mind

In the car an idea came to mind,
couldn’t write it down, no hands-free.
In a fleeting moment, it was there,
A moment later, eternally it’s gone.

In the checkout line, an idea came to mind,
desperate for paper, I turned around.
People in front and people in back,
I’m stuck in the middle, without you.

In the stadium seats, an idea came to mind,
my legal pad and pencil in hand.
People talking, yelling hurray,
Watch the game, you are missing him play.

In the car, an idea came to mind,
watch the road, cars, and lights,
right of way belongs not to me,
I’m in the car when an idea came to mind.