August 1, 2014
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‘Whew!’—at long last (part 2—ahhhh) Miscellaneous

Last time, I shared some feelings of relief and satisfaction at completing my master’s thesis last summer following seven long but enjoyable years as an RIT graduate student. As I explained, though, as summer was winding down, I couldn’t breathe a sigh of relief just yet.

Early last summer while toiling away on my thesis, I was asked by the Department of Communication if I would be interested in teaching the fall undergraduate course in Public Relations Writing. Though happy to oblige, the previous time I taught the class I spent an entire summer preparing. With my thesis consuming my spare time now, I wondered, when would I prepare?

With the two projects overlapping a bit, soon it was Labor Day weekend and my first class was just days away. Reminiscent of my New Year’s and July Fourth “holidays” (which weren’t holidays at all for me), I spent the Labor Day “holiday” putting finishing touches on my syllabus and class schedule and preparing my first lecture, assignments and handouts.

The dedication and hard work required of teaching always gives me newfound respect for my former professors. Combining it with the existing responsibilities of my “day job” here in University News makes me feel like an athlete in season: Days and nights are full, free time is scarce and very high levels of commitment, focus and energy (mental and physical) are needed. But it’s also quite gratifying and done, it seems, in a blink. Sure enough, the 11-week fall quarter—filled with plenty of coffee and little sleep—passed in a blur. Suddenly it was Nov. 17—and with final exams and final projects graded, I was ready to press “submit grades,” sealing the fate of 23 undergrads. (Though “sealing the fate” sounds ominous, rest assured I gave mostly well-deserved As and Bs. I later remarked to Department Chair Bruce Austin, “Maybe they actually learned something!” I was being facetious, of course, because I know they left my class as better writers—and with much sounder news judgment—compared with 11 weeks earlier.)

When first agreeing to teach PR Writing a few years ago, I did so for three reasons: to help the department, to see if I liked it and to see if I was good at it. I’ve since learned that I do enjoy it and my student evaluations have been generally favorable. I’ve also come to expect an end-of-quarter letdown (which, speaking from experience, also affects students). It’s caused, I suspect, from a combination of an adrenaline drop-off and, for me, a touch of melancholy—for I’ll truly miss these students who were entrusted to me for two hours a day, two days a week, over 11 weeks, but who I’ll likely see very little of in the future. (I hope it’s not just me, but that other, more “seasoned” professors share similar sentiments.)

Now rested from the holiday break and with my melancholy subsiding…after seven years and 11 weeks (and a month), I can finally let it out…

WHEW!

Happy New Year!
Mike

 
  1. Patricia Beggs
    Jan 05

    We weren't so bad, were we? Your class definitely helped drill some key concepts into my brain. "Always get the name of the dog, the brand of the beer and the make of the sports car." Something like that... Congratulations on finishing your master's!!

  2. Mike Saffran
    Jan 06

    Indeed, you were one of my “star” students in what was a great group, on the whole, Tricia! I’m happy the phrase “Get the name of the dog, the brand of the beer, the color and make of the sports car” continues to resonate. Because I am, as you know, a stickler for proper attribution, however, I will take credit only for spotting a good line when I see one. Actual credit goes to The Poynter Institute. For the benefit of readers who were not in my class, the advice stresses the importance of writing with accuracy and including relevant and specific details that help paint colorful, descriptive, vivid “word pictures.” (Read more in this fun story stumbled across just today.)

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