Sunday, July 27, 2008
Hi. Today is such a quiet day. As I unpack, I've been reflecting on an intense week and I feel such gratitude to all the participants and other leaders. I knew I would learn from you all, and I have, I have.
A new feature of the Summer Institute (and a new tradition?) is the open mic. We held this in the lounge of the SI hotel. They clearly understood open mic events and provided us with high stools and a microphone. Some participants and leaders read original poems and short stories. Others read favorites of theirs. Neal Lerner played an original bluesy piano compostion, and Zach recited O Captain, My Captain while standing on a table. We had poems from Namibian women fighting domestic abuse and AIDS and poems celebrating ceremonies of life and death for Lakotas and for Minnesota Finns, celebrating the traditions of the sauna. We were taken to these places. Jeff ended the evening reading the poem "What Teachers Make," and I believe we were all moved by both the poem and Jeff's renditon of it. We had a very good audience, and as nervous-making as it is to stand up and perform, I think that everyone enjoyed it.
I also want to reflect on Writing as Hard Labor. It's not easy to work intensely all day long and then write something. But it's what our students do, and part of the purpose of the exercise was to help us put ourselves in the shoes of the writers and tutors who make our work so meaningful and enjoyable. Lots of groups produced important short documents for their centers. Others worked on dissertation proposals. I brainstormed a note to the dean of residence life that I will finish this week. I got some great advice on it, even though I didn't actually write it.
Nancy Grimm's writing group reported at the end (a session called Labor and Delivery), commenting on how exciting it was to be working with Nancy and how they had advanced their projects. We knew that we weren't alloting enough time to writing and consulting/coaching/tutoring sessions, but we had packed the schedule with so many exciting (and some really new) sessions, we didn't want to sacrifice any of them. Our question was always "What would we cut?" We didn't want to cut a thing.
We had exciting breakout sessions of podcasting and on computer simulations, on community writing assistance, on student leadership positions, and on writing fellows programs. And we had a demonstration (an optional session) on a program called Transana developed locally that offers exciting possiblilities for coding and anayzing videotaped conferences. I hope that others will describe these sessions. Leaders had to miss some of them because other breakout obligations made it impossible for us to attend them.
My conference notebook is full to the brim with useful documents. I'm not quite ready to shelve it with my 2003 and 2004 notebooks yet. Not yet.