Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Professional Discovery

So, we've read Chapter Four of Because Writing Matters, and we were asked to write about a professional discovery we've had. Well, I have a professional discovery virtually each day. First, let's say, that my entire family thinks that I work too much. I don't really know how to get away from it. I have a professional network of people who I teach with, research with, and talk to on a fairly deep level on a daily basis. Trying to run what is essentially an organization or network forces me to have a professional discovery each day. Usually these professional discoveries come from reflecting on mistakes that I have made. As I try to explain the context of decisions I make, in an attempt to be transparent in how writing projects work, I make professional discoveries. Any time I explain to someone what I do I have a professional discovery. I'm not kidding.

For the past few years, I have been worried about the promotion and tenure process. I still can't say I enjoy the paperwork, but in fact, I have to say, trying to explain to someone what you do and then proving that it is effective is difficult and challenging, yet, I understand more about my work every time I write a reappointment letter or a letter to external reviewers. Any time I receive feedback from colleagues on my vitae or letters, or any time I reorganize that information for a different audience, I discover patterns and connections within my work.

It's strange, but the National Writing Project virtually forces a professional discovery on a daily basis, especially when I get to talk to Casey, Jordan, Thomas, and Melissa. Professional discoveries aren't necessarily found at the end of a happy and colorful rainbow. I think professional discoveries come through challenges and hard conversations. It's messy.

Here's how it has influenced my work. Yes, these discoveries are messy, but there are techniques that can help people to feel more safe to make their own professional discoveries. No one can tell you to have a professional discovery or tell you what a professional discovery is. You have to figure that out on your own. So, in order to safe and challenging conversations, we've instituted this protocol in the summer institute, and I've tried it in my classes. Because I can talk about the students' lessons all day long, but if they want to learn something--or have a professional discovery--they have to figure it out or say it on their own. I suppose I just try to establish an environment that will help with that.

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