Writing Teachers Must Write

nulla dies sine linea (Never a day without a line) –Horace, 65-8 BC

My goal this summer is to post once a day and to develop this site into something more substantial.

We have been creating the RTP process at my college (That’s Reappointment, Tenure, & Promotion for anyone who doesn’t know. I can’t even begin to explain how many post-secondary education codes and acronyms I have had to learn this year; it’s like another language). The RTP process defines what is or isn’t considered work that supports a faculty’s path towards tenure. We all know that tenure is the ultimate goal of any teaching job–it provides job security which is like gold in this economy. I felt very wary leaving my tenured job in the Department of Education for this untenured job in CUNY, but there are times in life when we have to take risks, too. This career move was one of those leaps of faith, and, to be completely honest, I’m not totally sure it will pay off, but I am desperately cultivating my tidbit of hope.

Over lunch last week, I spoke to one of our documentarians (yes, we have three documentarians funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to document the process of us starting a new college) who was a professor emerita at CUNY before she retired. I don’t even know that that means, but it sounds fancy and important. She was an English professor, but she wrote/edited many books on the things in her life that interested her. These books were NOT about teaching English. I explained to her that I have some ideas that I’d like to pursue (also not related to the scholarship of teaching and learning), and she warned me that writing a book on something like grief might not be considered “scholarship” for tenure.

Absolutely ridiculous.

As a teacher of reading and writing, I feel that writing ANYTHING should be considered work towards tenure. If I want my student to write, then I must write, too. I can’t sit from my teacher pulpit and preach writing and then not be a writer. And writing involves authentic work–writing about things that we are passionate about. Yes, I am passionate about teaching and educational research, but I am also passionate about other subjects, too. I am a complex person! I am also interested in adoption, grief, race–many subjects that touch my life personally if not academically.

Recently, my daughter and I ran into her pre-K teacher in our neighborhood. Alexandra was totally befuddled. “What’s Ms. Cassens doing there?!” She could not understand that Ms. Cassens actually exists outside their classroom time together. I feel that any RPT process that does not acknowledge all writing reflects the mentality of a child and her teacher. Professors do exist outside their workspace, too, and all their writing should be valued.

I feel that being a teacher of any subject requires that you model the practice of that subject in your life. Yes?

And with that, here’s the quote that will be my summer mantra:

nulla dies sine linea (Never a day without a line) –Horace, 65-8 BC

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