WPAing, so far

We held our first meeting of this year’s first year writing committee the other day, which is basically a group of folks who a) are teaching first year composition and/or b) who care. Mistakenly, I didn’t invite faculty to this meeting because faculty don’t really teach first year composition. But the folks who were at this meeting were actually okay with me being the only tenure-track-type person there.

Anyway, that got me to thinking about my WPAing so far this year. Here’s a list of thoughts on how things are going so far, in no particular order:

  • I have come to describe my place as the “accidential WPA,” or the “tourist WPA.” The circumstances as to why I’m doing this work are complicated and a bit of a coincidence, but I won’t go into that right now. But one way or the other, I have been working on lowering expectations about my work as the temporary WPA. I think it’s working….
  • A big part of my job is working with the new graduate assistants teaching for the first time, and that has been both interesting and rewarding. It simultaneously makes me feel old and young. Old because I realize that I went through the things these people are going through right now about 18 or so years ago. But young because I recall my experiences as a new graduate assistant way back when quite vividly.
  • I am actually learning about the course that my graduate students are teaching, English 120, pretty much as my interaction with these students goes along. And I have to say– I really want to try to get a chance to teach this next year. I think it sounds like a lot of fun.
  • Compared to some of the other political bullshit going on in my department right now (which is unusual, btw–things here are generally a bit more happy-go-lucky in our department) and the pretty stupid-ass stuff happening with the board of regents and administration with the strike (this post and this post, both on EMUtalk.org, give a flavor of what I’m talking about), being the WPA is a complete love fest/walk in the park. I’m not entirely sure if that is typical, and I am not convinced that this will last too long.
  • One of the mantras I keep repeating over and over is this is not rocket science, and this is not brain surgery– meaning this is not that complicated, and lives are not at stake. That seems to help.
  • I have learned a lot and I also have much better people to work with at EMU in my role as the interim WPA than I did when I was thrust into the position of being a version of the WPA at Southern Oregon 10 years ago. But maybe that’s a story for another time….
  • One addition I should have included before: Because I am doing two related by different pseudo-administrative jobs this term– the director of the first year composition program along with my previous service work, as the coordinator of the undergraduate and graduate majors in writing– and I think I have have already learned what sort of work like this I am willing to do in the future. It’s pretty straight-forward: first, I would do either of these jobs in the future, but I wouldn’t do both of these jobs at the same time again. It’s too much work and too schizophrenic. Second, this work (combined with all the strike junk and the current departmental politics) makes it crystal clear that I never ever never ever never be a full-time and honest-to-goodness administrator, certainly nothing like a dean or associate dean or in the provost office or whatever.

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