CWTA at the MOO: Plights and Ponderings
Let us begin with stories of our own experiences. What facilities does your campus have? What are you expected to do with/for those facilities? What would you *like* to do with these facilities?
My goal is to *begin* with the griping and complaining and work *towards* an analysis. As you read people's stories, what can you offer as a solution? What can an organization like the CWTA offer?
Begin with stories of our experience as computers and writing Teaching Assistants, Graduate Assistants, and Adjuncts. In thirty minutes, I will post another slide or two asking for more pointed suggestions and information regarding the CWTA.
As our discusion began, we shared our horror stories--and a few common themes emerged as we talked about our positions. It became clear that in a majority of cases, the institution simply did not know what to do with us, and was often under the impression that we could be used as technicians more profitably than we could be utilized as teachers of technologically-facilitated composition and communication:
And even though we want to be seen as teacher/researchers and computers and writing specialists, we often also want to help our techno-resistant colleagues to see technology as a viable tool in the classroom. Unfortunately, doing so often forces us to become teachers of technology (as opposed to communication, or composition), thus reinforcing the notion that we are primarily technicians. We seem to be situated in a dichotomous position: in order to advance the acceptance of technology in teaching, we have to denigrate our position as teachers. As GregS cogently points out:
As SusanL points out, it may be in our best interest to stop being so helpful and to instead make clear that we are, in fact, more than just technicians:
The other main issue that affects all of the TAs represented at this discussion is that of compensation. Although a certain amount of exploitation seems unavoidable, given our position as graduate students and writing teachers, it seems that we have become the most exploitable element in academia today--we do more work for far less money, and perhaps more importantly, for far less recognition and respect.
Part of the problem (perhaps most) is that our activities have been extensively (and, I would argue, endemically) maginalized both within the realm of English studies and within Composition as well. As long as the administration of each field consistently relegates the role of teaching with technology to only graduate students or adjunct or junior faculty, the teaching of writing using technology must remain marginalized. One of the reasons that groups like the ACW and CWTA are being formed is that traditional professional organizations have been contributing to the continued marginalization of computers and writing as a valuable (and valued) field:
The struggle to change is slow and tiring--we are often both undervalued and isolated. Even when our departments begin to see the use of technology in the classroom as inevitable, there is still considerable resistance to using that technology to its fullest potential.
What MikeS is doing is important--but individuals working for change cannot be as effective as a collective effort to bring change to our institutions; hence, the creation of the CWTA. We next begin to consider how this new organization can help us to promote our field and improve our plight.
After discussing our collective position, we turned our attention to the role that the CWTA might play as an agent of advocacy for graduate TAs.
To put this all in context, you can peruse the full moo-log for Tuesday, November 14, 1995 at
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