I teach English online for a large university and a small university. I teach brand-new college students, master’s thesis writers, students who can crank out an A paper in one draft, students who don’t know what a scholarly source is, confident students, nervous students, active military members, stay-at-home moms, experienced bloggers, and people who hide their writing in a drawer. I teach courses about the processes of research and writing, and whenever possible, I allow students to write about whatever moves or fascinates them. Instead of imparting content, my job is to help students figure out how to get started finding what they want to learn, answer their questions (sometimes by telling them I don’t have the answer), and create a supportive space for them to challenge and learn from each other.
Teaching online can feel isolating. I don’t have a colleague next door who can commiserate with me over bad course evaluations. (I do, however, have a husband who can hold my hand while I read them–more on him later.) I get exhausted writing long emails to explain concepts that I am sure I could convey in just a few sentences if the student and I were sitting in the same room and looking at the same page. Sometimes I am one of the last to find out about departmental decisions made in on-campus discussions.
So I am starting this blog in hopes of creating a community of online faculty. I envision a lively discussion after every post and people from vastly different contexts connecting over shared experiences. I don’t know if that will actually happen; maybe this blog will be read by just a few people from my own institutions and even some of my non-teaching friends and family. And that’s okay, because that’s still a community. Maybe there will never be a lively discussion, but if someone reads a post and thinks, “I don’t have time to comment, but wow, that sounds like my experience,” then I’ll be happy.
So in the spirit of community, let me share a few other things about me. I live in Indiana with my husband, Jordan. He is an engineer, and currently he is also working from home. We have been married for less than a year as of the founding of this blog. So don’t be surprised if you read some posts about being married and sharing a co-working space with one’s spouse.
I am also a Christian, and while I don’t intend for this to be a “religion” or “Christian living” blog, don’t be surprised if you read some posts that refer directly to or draw indirectly from my faith, which is very important to me.
Since I plan to talk about writing here, it may also be relevant that I have written a novel, Sam’s Town, a story about friendship, romance, depression, and Italian food, which happens to be set during the zombie apocalypse. After a hiatus of more than a year (during which I was doing important things like moving and getting married), I have resumed working on the sequel, Sam’s Home. I don’t think writing fiction is my primary calling, and I don’t know if I’ll ever attempt a novel-length project after this one is complete, but I’ve grown to love these characters and am happy to be able to share their stories.
A word about the archives: This is not, strictly speaking, a brand new blog; it is a reboot of my previous blog, Penelope Clearwater, which ran for almost ten years. It didn’t have a theme (and therein lay its chief problem), but I wrote some posts for it that I’m still proud of, so I’m keeping the archives open. Eventually, I’ll separate those posts out, but for now, know that anything older than September 2020 was originally written as a Penelope Clearwater rather than a Dr. Tess post.
So that’s that. If you’re still reading, thank you for stopping by, and I hope you’ll become part of our community.
Dr. (but you don’t have to call me that) Tess Martinus