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Writing to learn

Back when I started the musings, some students asked why I tried to write an essay each day. To some, I gave an answer something like the following:

I have many topics that I want to or need to think about. I learn more about topics when I write about them.

I really do believe that I learn from writing. Today’s musing on advising at Grinnell reminded me of just how much I can learn from writing. I’d been thinking a lot about Dean Latham’s questions about advising. But it was only when I put finger to keyboard [1] that I realized the potential that major declaration essays have to demonstrate what advising does in terms of helping students craft a curriculum [2]. If I hadn’t tried to put together the musing, I wouldn’t have come up with the idea [3].

I also find that I push myself a bit more when I write. Okay, Sam, you’ve said the obvious things. You help students design curricula. You try to nudge them in appropriate directions. What else? I know that I do more, but it’s not typically at the tip of my tongue.

Writing also encourages me to look to sources. I don’t think I’d read the section of the Faculty Handbook on advising in about a decade [4,5]. It was nice to see that my predecessors thought about the broader responsibilities of an advisor. It was also interesting to note that the handbook does not tie advising of a major to faculty in the department of the major. I’ll need to think a bit more about the latter issue.

What should I make of all these things I learn from writing? Perhaps it means that even though the musings take time, time that I don’t really feel like I have, I need to find a way to have that time [6]. We’ll see.

[1] My version of pencil to paper.

[2] It is, unfortunately, just a potential. People have not necessarily been taking the essays seriously of late, so I don’t think I’d rely on them right now. But if we plan ahead for the next reaccreditation ….

[3] Since that idea is likely to create work for some people, those people may wish that I hadn’t put finger to keyboard.

[4] I’m not sure that anyone has read that section of the Handbook in the past few year, since the section still refers to the Career Development Office, which is now the Center for Careers, Life, and Service.

[5] I read, or at least skimmed, the whole faculty handbook before I signed my first contract at Grinnell. I remember how surprised the Dean’s assistant was when I called and said The contract says that everything other than my salary is covered in the Faculty Handbook. Can I please get a copy before I sign the contract?

[6] I also need to find a way to have time to worry about my wellness. The latter is more important than the musing, although the musings do seem to contribute to my wellness.

Version 1.0 of 2017-10-18.