Friday, August 3, 2012

Teaching camp: Part I

So this entry will be only partially about Arkansas the state, and more about my life at the University (of Arkansas).  Earlier this week, I attended the U of A "Teaching Camp" put on by the Teaching and Faculty Support Center.  The term "camp" is kind of a misnomer, as it was more like a conference, but I signed up for it at the beginning of the summer for two reasons. One, I can use my attendance at teaching camp as an indication of effort in the teaching domain.  Second, and probably more importantly, I figured if I were holed up in the woods with some other faculty for three days, maybe I could make a friend or two outside my department.  A far distant third was the goal of learning about teaching.  To be clear, it's not that I don't want to learn about teaching, because I truly do.  It's just that the central topic of this year's camp was online education, and I just don't see my department ever going to an online degree program, and I don't have the time or energy to develop an online course right now, wasn't as much use to me.

Anyway, Doug dropped me off at the designated parking lot on Sunday afternoon, and after I graciously received my lunch bag with a water bottle and snacks, I boarded the bus. They packed the bus--every seat was eventually taken.  I sat next to a new faculty member from Curriculum and Instruction who told me about her recent trip abroad, and about halfway through the ride I started talking about musicals to another young female faculty member from the health department.

I boarded the bus having only a vague idea of where we were going.  I knew it was called "Petit Jean" and it was about 2 and a half hours from Fayetteville, but I still don't know how to pronounce "petit jean" and I sure couldn't get there without a map.  I also wasn't really sure what "camp" would mean. Were there cabins?  How rustic would it be?  Would we be assigned shared rooms?

As it turns out, the place was pretty nice. Here's the main building, designed with a "farmy" kind of look:

If you turn around from the entrance, you get this lovely view:

We checked in to our single rooms and I embarked on a little walk around the grounds. Don't ask me why, because it's been over 100 degrees in Arkansas and this day was no exception, but I found a nice little pond, a fitness center and a bunch of other buildings with rooms.  

 I won't bore you with the details of the actual content of the sessions, other than to say that the theme was distance education, so I learned more about online teaching than I ever thought I would learn.  At dinner, they randomly assigned us to tables with other faculty so that we would be forced to talk to different people, a process I was grateful for, because I (a) didn't know anyone, and (b) even if I had known someone, I would have just sat with them and not expanded my social circle.

After dinner and the evening session, teaching camp moved into the "social hour" with some snacks and booze.  I spent the time sitting at a table with a whole bunch of women and one dude, who eventually pulled out his guitar and began playing/singing for us.  During this time I also agreed to get up at 6am to go running with three of the other women.

Let me tell you, 6am on Monday came early, but I rolled out of bed at 5:50, got dressed and stumbled outside to run 3 miles with some people I barely knew.  This was one of those circumstances where peer pressure actually did me some physical good.

More on teaching camp adventures (with more photos) next time!

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