Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Professional Conferences

So, now that I've regaled you with my tales of woe, onto something much less gripey (gripey... is that a word?).  On October 15th I went to my first professional conference! I was so excited to be able to go, and though it's a small conference by comparison to some of the others, it was pretty exciting. Some of the writing center staff (most of the GA's and one of the undergraduate tutors) went to the North Texas Writing Center Association Fall conference, held this year at TCC's  Trinity River campus in Ft. Worth.

I rode to the conference with my friend, co-worker, and student cohort Marsha and her husband, Randy.  It's only about an hour drive, but there was no way I was driving myself.  I can't deal with the traffic, so it was nice to be able to ride with them!  The TCC Trinity River campus is brand new and it's absolutely gorgeous.  I would have pictures to share that were actually taken by me were it not that the camera on my cell phone is horrible; I can't even take pictures up close,  let alone ones at a distance!  I should have taken my camera, but I forgot. So, you get this great photo I swiped off another site.  Isn't the campus lovely?!  Anyway, we got there a little early and had to navigate the levels.  We were told to park in a specific spot, on level four, but when we got into the building we realized that parking level four is actually floor three, so we were a little bit lost.  We figured it out, but it was an adventure and I know the students thought we were crazy.

The conference room itself was beautiful, but it was also freezing!  I can't believe how cold it was.  I'm use to being cold, since Matt runs the air conditioner year round, so it hardly phases me anymore, but I was absolutely freezing.  I was wearing a sweater, even, and thank goodness.  I really think the cold ruined the atmosphere a little bit and we kept thinking that when everyone got into the room it would warm up, but that didn't turn out to be the case.  It just kept being cold, in the conference room, in the hall, in the bathroom, freezing!  I really felt for the woman who had come wearing a skirt, her legs exposed.

There were only about 30 or so attendees from across North and Central Texas colleges, everything from Writing Center directors and tutors, to adjunct and administrative staff.  The hosts were really nice and lunch was provided to all attendees, which consisted of a voucher to use in their on-campus cafe. Their cafe was so neat, they even had a genuine brick oven pizza place where you could make your own pizzas and they were fired in a real brick over.  I had the pizza and it was amazing!  Even the dining room had a lovely atmosphere, complete with a conveyor where the lunch trays and trash went to be taken into the kitchen and washed. I just can't say enough about how amazing this campus really was.

Our Writing Center directors at Tarleton are the President and Vice President of the association, but they weren't actually able to go to the conference this year because they were both ill. So, we went and tried our best to make them proud anyway.  The conference's key note speaker was really interesting, discussing the issue of how assessment can be successfully tied to writing centers.  Marsha and I were on a tutor panel, with four students from other schools, discussing how working as a writing tutor had changed our lives outside the writing center.  It was the first time I've spoken at any kind of conference, but it went really well and makes a nice first entry for my CV!  All of the people at the conference were really friendly, so that made speaking in front of so many people easier.  They say it's hardest to speak before ones peers, imagine speaking in front of ones superiors.  It's terrifying, but the attendees were welcoming and made us very comfortable.

It was actually really neat because I mentioned that what makes the job really fulfilling is the "Ah ha moment."  After that, it caught on and everyone was saying "ah ha moment" which made me feel really good as a contributor.  This whole thing was also right in the midst of my sickness, where I was coughing up a storm and had almost no voice.  I almost didn't go at all because when I woke up that morning I couldn't speak, but I managed to pull it together, get there anyway and I'm really glad that I did.  I sounded terrible and I know I was difficult to hear, but in all it was a really rewarding experience and we got to meet a lot of really neat people.

The next conference is going to be the CCTE (Conference of College Teachers of English) conference in the Spring, which is being held at Tarleton this year!  We've been told that since it'll be at our school we'll probably actually be working the conference, but even if we're not, we'll be going.  After that the Southwest Texas Popular Culture and American Culture Association conference, which will include not only the regional, but also the national together this coming year in San Antonio!  I'm looking forward to going to both and I'm considering submitting an abstract for consideration to the Pop Culture conference, if I can get a proposal together by December 15th.  That's a big if, since I've got a lot of schoolwork to do before then.  Either way, we're going to plan to go.  I know Marsha's planning to go, but I'm hoping Melanie and Nikka will, too. It would be neat to be able to all be there together, especially since it's so close to here -- about 4 1/2 hours, but that's really close for Texas.  I simply can't wait!!

*Photo by John Tucker