As I write, I’m attending my second Puente Summer PSI of 2008–the summer training for Puente counselors and English teachers. I’m presenting, but as a presenter, I’m always listening to the other presenters, the other ideas that people use in their classrooms. We’re all presenters when we teach and I think we also should be students at the same time.
Puente has really helped me connect to a community of committed instructors and active learners. I find that most of my colleagues want to have this connection, but time or money or life interferes. I feel privileged, and lucky frankly, to have the connection kind of mandated for me–they’re actually paying me to do what I enjoy doing anyway.
I know people who feel that learning has stopped–they have their degrees, they’ve been trained–what is the point of this connection? I have a problem with this rigidity. The world changes, people change. Life is a constantly evolving process. Who says that what we know today is all the learning we need? Why not share pedagogy and problems and successes and see what others are doing? I expect my students to approach the process of writing–and the process of critical thinking–as an evolving one. Why should my own process be different?
More importantly, as instructors we share students; my students, successful or not, are and will be someone else’s student. I need to help them succeed beyond my classroom and I feel this is a responsibility all instructors must take seriously. So it makes no sense, to me, to isolate myself. Indeed, I should be connecting across the campus to see what other disciplines are looking for in my students. The college (as an institution) looks to English faculty, for example, to instill writing and thinking processes that are the prerequisites for success in other disciplines. We really should all be talking together so that we each learn from the other.
I also know people who tell me that conferences are dull, jargon-laden, and repetitious. Many presenters are boring or overly enamored of themselves (or both). But of course, like anything, you get out of an activity what you put into it. Choose wisely! Skip the jargon-ish presentations (or listen for the message behind the jargon) and make connections with people who, like you, want a more dynamic experience.
Puente has given me that dynamic experience and helps me connect with people outside my discipline. It allows me to participate in my own growth and learning.