A Different Path to Teaching

By : Carolyn Hough, BA Hons  EN 2016

        For as long as I’ve known myself (a pretty long time), I’ve known two things to be true: I love to read and I want to be a teacher. Both of these facts led me to Laurier, led me to the English department, and led me to Residence Life.

When I first arrived at Laurier I moved into a single room in Willison Hall, and had absolutely no idea what I had gotten myself into. My first university class ever was an upper year French class of 20 people, and is an experience I still consider to be one of the scariest of my life. In contrast, my first English class was “Reading Fiction,” and amid the 150 people in N1001, I felt right at home. We studied an extraordinarily wide range of literature, from Pride and Prejudice, a longtime favourite, to graphic novels in the form of Maus. I loved every second of it.

Through the encouragement of my own Residence Life Don, I applied to be a part of the First Year Leadership Program in Willison, House Council, and spent the eight months of my first year being happily pulled out of my comfort zone. I fell in love with Residence and the friendships it had given me, and with my naive first year eyes, applied to be a Don. Again, I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into.

Hough Willison         My three years of being a Don were nothing short of an adventure. Over the years, I had the privilege of being a Don to over 80 students, an advisor to about 40, a coach to around 60, and a presence to approximately 400. And while I originally thought that guiding and leading students was simple and clear, black and white, I quickly discovered that growth is a relative term, that everything is a teachable moment, and that learning does not stop when you step outside of a classroom.

I discovered that there was more than one way to be a teacher. I could take the traditional route, the expected route, and graduate with a degree of teachable subjects, ready to take on teacher’s college, then battle an ever growing list of qualified teachers for a classroom of my own. Or, I could take a look outside the four walls of a lecture hall, the pages of a textbook, and see the way that a fresh start, a friendship, a guiding hand, and an opportunity to be unashamedly yourself, screw ups and all, could teach someone so much more than a math equation, or iambic pentameter, or the strategies that make a business successful, ever could. I was able to witness, over eight months, hundreds of fresh faced high school graduates stumble their way through first year and come out the other side with purpose, enthusiasm, and a stronger sense of self. Sometimes those eight months were full of teachable moments, and sometimes the experience itself was enough of a teacher.

I am by no means exempt from the learning influence that Residence enacts on people. I entered donning a fresh faced first year student and over the next three years I learned more than I ever cared to know about team dynamics and work ethic. I learned how to survive on very little sleep and that when I had the opportunity to sleep, earplugs were a necessity. My time as a Don honed my multitasking and time management skills as I dealt with first years who were away from home for the first time (and all the things that brings) while reading at least a Shakespeare play a week. I learned that I work best when things are on the verge of chaos, and that every time I thought I couldn’t possibly do more, I surprised myself. I learned that the best friendships are formed at 3:00am when you’re collectively facing down the chaos that is Halloween or Homecoming or even just a Friday night. I learned that chocolate, a comfy couch, and an open door brings people together more than you could possibly imagine. I learned the advantage of giving a single warning, of remembering people’s names, of regarding even the most infuriating students with unconditional positive regard. I learned how to learn from those around me, first years, or colleagues, or supervisors. And I learned how to turn life in Residence into a teaching moment.

When it came time for me to graduate, I wasn’t quite ready to give up this more holistic and life-centered way of teaching. Before I even got my degree in June, I was offered a job with Campus Living Centres at Seneca Newnham in Toronto as a Residence Life Coordinator. Having read, absorbed, and analyzed texts as difficult as Beowulf and Ulysses, I am well-prepared for learning the complexities of a new institution. And while a lot of things about my life have changed, the same two things about me are true: I love to read, and I am a teacher.

 

Hough hugs

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MA Practicum at a Literary Journal

Marin Flavia

By: Flavia Marin (2016)

When I started working toward my Master’s Degree at Laurier, I was at a loss regarding what I would do afterward. But I also knew that my experience in the program would help guide me into the direction in which I should go. I did not expect that when I opted to participate in the practicum option in the Spring term, however, that the position for which I would be accepted would be so perfect. I had the opportunity to work at The New Quarterly (a literary magazine which has been publishing the work of up and coming Canadian authors for 35 years).

During my placement at The New Quarterly, I was able to acquire quite the range of skills and information. I have learned about e-mail communication outside of a university setting (something I had not yet encountered in the working world). During the placement, I was the first point of contact for both subscribers to The New Quarterly, as well as writers who were submitting work, checking on the status of their work, as well as those writes whom we had already agreed to publish.

I accepted and processed regular entries to the magazine, as well as special calls for submissions, and contest entries (all of which were processed and sorted differently). I also helped some writers process their payments for contest entries, and answered a range of questions regarding all types of submissions.

I also formatted all of the contest submissions coming in, and recorded them onto an Excel sheets. I was also responsible for labeling each entry so that it can be connected to the writer’s name, as there could be no names on the submissions (because the authors are to remain anonymous to the judges, during the judging process). I was also responsible for zipping submission files into bundles of 10, and sending them to the appropriate editors (fiction, poetry, and non-fiction).

Another skill that I acquired was how to navigate and properly employ numerous databases, as well as how to use and fill out charts. Some charts contained author information, while for others I had to calculate subscription renewal ratios (for example). I also used one of the databases to find subscribers whose subscriptions were on the verge of expiring, and used that information to print out renewal letters, or create emails for subscription renewals.

Before my placement, I was already well-versed in the use of social media, but I had never had to use social media platforms for a company before. I greatly enjoyed this aspect of the placement, as I got to put out a lot of the promotions for events and contests. I was also given the opportunity to take photos for these promotions, and post them up on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. And on that note, I had also proposed that The New Quarterly open accounts on Goodreads and Tumblr also, and then was put in charge of making that happen. I especially enjoyed creating the Tumblr layout for The New Quarterly, and then maintaining that account. I have also done a lot of work on improving The New Quarterly’s presence on Instagram.

What I was the most excited about learning and experiencing at this placement, however, was participation in the editorial committee for the most recent batch of submissions. I was given the opportunity to be a part of the fiction editorial committee, which was like a dream come true to me. I want to become a fiction editor, and I believe that this was the most valuable experience for me, at this placement, as I was able to be a part of the editing process. I was also invited to be a part of the meeting, where we selected the pieces of short fiction which we would publish within the issue which is coming out in the Fall.

The supervisor also asked that I proofread one of the submissions for the issue which is to come out this summer. I felt incredibly happy that she trusted me enough to catch any mistakes in a piece of work which she has already read, and which will be published. I was able to see her notes, as well as the notes of the author, as they had gone through the editorial process. Overall, this was an invaluable learning experience.

 

 

My 8 Month MA at Laurier: Amanda Spallaci

Spallacci collage

For me, the Department of English and Film Studies was the ideal program to obtain a Masters Degree. Upon entering the MA program, I was immediately embraced by the PhD students who were incredibly helpful, willing to discuss classes and research, and assist with my move to Waterloo. A Masters degree is incredibly rigorous, and on account of the demanding workload, often times students tend to isolate themselves. Yet, in this department, the PhD students created a sense of community for the MA students; they planned social events, and maintained a constant outlet for kind and compassionate communication. I received astounding support and genuine care from the students in the Department, and formed friendships that I know are long lasting.

Throughout all of my education, I have yet to encounter an entire faculty who are as innovative, brilliant, and caring as the professors who constitute the Department of English and Film Studies at Wilfrid Laurier. This Department possesses the finest and most skilled researchers in Canada. Even with their demanding schedules, each professor assisted me with developing my own research, determine my future plans, and even offer personal guidance. These professors are truly exemplary and display a genuine amount of empathy and care for the graduate school experience.

During the school year, I presented papers at two conferences. For the Southwest Pacific Popular Culture Association Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico in February 2016, I read my paper, “Resistance and Healing: The Representation of Sexual Violence in Personal Testimony.” In March 2016, I presented “The Construction of Transgender Identities in Popular Culture” for the Northeastern Modern Language Association Conference in Hartford, Connecticut.

In addition, IABA SNS [Life Writing Graduate Student and New Scholar Network] published my paper, “Lena Dunham and Sexual Violence: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s ‘Learned’: About Rape” in November 2015. I was also involved in community activism and sat on the Gender Violence Task Force at Wilfrid Laurier University.

Next year, I will begin my doctoral work at University of Alberta. My proposed research project focuses predominantly on personal narratives of sexual violence in autobiographical texts and visual media in North American culture. Personal testimony illuminates systemic injustices, violence against women, and helps us cultivate a better understanding of memory and trauma. This interdisciplinary study is crucial as it explores the intersections of gender, memory, trauma, affect, text and film. I argue that autobiographical texts and films offer a nuanced approach to the study/issue of sexual violence, addressing the sizable injustice inflicted both socially and legally on rape survivors, and how these narratives function as a form of resistance against cultural oppression.

Graduation is bitter sweet; I am excited to complete my degree, but am sad to leave such a warm environment. I will always look back at my Masters Degree in the Department of English and Film Studies, and recall the countless pleasant memories with sincere fondness.

By: Amanda Spallacci  (MA 2016)

 

Farewell to Alisha Walters

Alisha 001

Congratulations to Alisha Walters who is taking up a tenure-track position at Penn State University, Abington, starting in August 2016.  Alisha Walters’s research focuses on race in Victorian texts.  She has taught a number of courses at the graduate and undergraduate level at Laurier in the last two years, including Victorian literature, Romantic literature, Academic Writing, Reading Fiction, and the 19th Century novel.  We wish Alisha Walters all the best, and will miss a wonderful teacher and colleague.

Alisha Salvador’s Essay Chosen for Publication

Alisha Salvador (2016) is thrilled that the final paper she wrote for EN 252 Multiculturalism and Literature, taught by Dr. Mariam Pirbhai, will be published by LUJA: Laurier Undergraduate Journal of the Arts.

Alisha Salvador '2016
Alisha Salvador ‘2016

Alisha explains:

My final paper was titled “Omnivore Perspectives of Food and Cultural Identity” and as the title suggests, it explores the relationship between food and one’s individual and cultural identity. As I was researching for additional articles to use in my paper, I came across Fischler’s “Incorporation Principle” and “Omnivore’s Paradox.” Fischler’s “Incorporation Principle” suggests how our physical features, behaviours, and identity are products of the food we consume. The “Omnivore’s Paradox” takes this principle one step further, and presents humans as ‘omnivores’ that tend to either embrace or fear the “incorporation” of other cultural cuisines based on the appreciation of either ethnic diversity or purity. I argued that throughout the novel Digging to America, Anne Tyler uses the leitmotif of food to illustrate instances of the “Omnivore’s Paradox” during intercultural encounters between two families, the Yazdans and the Donaldsons. This paper required a lot of time and effort due to the complexity of my chosen topic. I hope my paper will inspire students to challenge themselves and their writing abilities, to not be afraid of asking for help or utilizing the resources around them, and to develop a new understanding about the relationship between food and cultural identity.

The Laurier Undergraduate Journal of the Arts “demonstrates the very best talent our student body has to offer in our measured opinions and our informative expertise… taking part will improve your writing skills through our review process, impress graduate committees when applying, and support the student community by demonstrating the highest standards of academic skill.”

Alumni Update: Priscilla Galvez

Priscilla Galvez

Honours Communications and Film Studies ’13
“I was intimidated by the uncertainty of pursuing a career in a competitive industry such as film and television so I initially enrolled in the Film Studies program as a solid second choice to film school—a safe bet. But my program ended up being the perfect foundation for my career in film. The program broadened my knowledge of film history and genre, exposed me to the formal language of cinema, its use as a social and political medium, and its hands-on editing course cemented my passion in filmmaking and motivated me to pursue film production after graduation. In the end, my experience was integral in supplying me with the foundational tools that has helped me become a well-rounded filmmaker and producer working in the industry today.” Priscilla is an Associate Producer at Blue Ice Pictures in Toronto and, currently, is producing and directing a dark comedy web-series, “How to Buy A Baby,” about an infertile couple going through fertility treatments. Check out the series teaser .

Read about Priscilla’s web series about infertility in The Cord.