Skip to main content

Essays I Did Not Post

Today was a frustrating night for writing essays. I wrote one essay about work that I’ve been doing recently, and, as I came close to finishing the essay, I realized that posting it would make some people feel bad. Now, I don’t mind making some people feel bad if there’s a positive goal in store. (Okay, I don’t really like to make anyone feel bad. But I accept that when you critique problems, some feathers will get ruffled, and, as a senior faculty member who cares about students and supposedly knows about technology, I often feel an obligation to critique problematic situations.) But this wasn’t a critique essay. I’m not sure what positive goal it would serve right now. It was just a reflection on my work.

And so I put that essay aside. I think I can rewrite it in a few weeks, when situations are different. For now, it seems inappropriate to post.

But I wanted to write an essay tonight, and so I looked for another topic. I started a second essay about one of the approximately two thousand, three hundred, and sixty-eight flawed pieces of software on campus. I was midway through that essay when I realized that it, too would probably hurt someone. Now, I don’t mind critiquing our president’s software choices, our CITO’s software choices, or even choices that seem to have been made by committee. But this was software selected by someone a bit lower down the totem pole, someone I work with and respect. (Yes, I also work with and respect our president and CITO.) And, while I think it’s okay to make public critiques of institutional choices, I’m less confident making my critiques public when there are other individuals that the critiques effectively target. So that essay fell by the wayside. I will talk to that person about my concerns with the software. But I’ll also give them a chance to try to get them fixed. (Still, I do wish I understood why we make such bad choices when picking software.)

Where does that leave me? I’ve spent my essay-writing time thinking about and writing two incomplete essays, essays that I don’t want to complete because I won’t post them when they are complete. It’s been a long, tiring, day. I have lots of other things to do.

What’s my conclusion? I think you can tell. I decided to write an essay about writing those essays.

Writing this essay also suggests to me that I need to think a bit more about my topics. The first essay was not intentionally hurtful, but could have been taken that way. The second essay was intentionally critical (and boy, does that software deserve critique). Maybe I need to work on some more positive things for the next few essays. I have recently written about why I love teaching CS at Grinnell. I could write a more general essay about why I love teaching at Grinnell in general. (And yes, that’s on the list of forthcoming essays.) I could write about some wonderful alumni, either individually or as a group. I could even write about the new board game that William and I played last night. But positive essays require care and thoughtfulness. And I’m tired. I don’t worry so much about care and thoughtfulness in a critical essay (although maybe I should).

So … I should start writing earlier in the evening. I should write about things that I’m passionate and positive about. Maybe that will make the next few essays more productive, or at least keep me from writing essays that I want to throw away.

And, well, I should probably throw this essay away, too. I’m a bit too critical of myself in this essay, and I haven’t written about the essays as well as I should have. The first essay wasn’t as bad as this essay makes it sound. It was simply that the essay made it clear that some people were not considered for an opportunity, and I think knowing that they were not considered for that opportunity could be hurtful. For my notes on the second essay, I was repetitious in writing about software critiques. And look, I’m continuing my critiques of myself.

But it’s 10:45 at night and I should go to bed. I was zero for three. I think that’s a strikeout. But I promised to post an essay a day, and I’m going to stick to that promise, so this is what you get today.

Version 1.0 of 2016-09-06.