Sample Diagnostic Exercise: An Entering Hope

As noted here, the students in my Fall 2016 section of ENGL 1301: Rhetoric & Composition at Schreiner University were asked to complete a diagnostic writing exercise during class on 26 August 2016. My usual practice (although I am not always able to follow it) is to do the assignments I give my students, so, as the students wrote their diagnostic exercises, I wrote to the same prompt. That prompt and my response thereto are below.

The Prompt

One motto of Schreiner University, that long displayed at the main entrance, is “Enter with hope. Leave with achievement.” With what hope do you enter Schreiner? Why do you harbor it? How do you think to enact it?

The Response

Like most or all of the students in my section of Rhetoric & Composition, I am new to Schreiner University; I grew up in Kerrville, to be sure, but I went elsewhere for my college coursework. As I return to the Hill Country, though, and to working in Kerrville, I am struck anew by the idea of entering the Schreiner community with hope—and I do have several hopes as I begin my work at the campus. Perhaps chief among them is that I will do that work well, but that would be true of any job. More specific to my work at Schreiner University is that I hope to make a new beginning for myself, primarily as a professional, but also as a person.

I have been in need of a new professional beginning, to be sure. For one thing, more than one of my previous jobs employed me on term contracts, and those terms ended without promise or hope of renewal; at the level of simple employment, then, I needed to make a new beginning. At a deeper level, though, I realize that I had grown into a mixture of complacency and, I am sorry to say, disdain for the work I had been doing at one place. (The other was much better, although the certainty of my limited term made engaging more difficult than it might otherwise have been.) I make no excuse for it; I have no excuse for it. I acknowledge my failure to commit to my earlier work as much as I could have—and maybe ought to have—done, but that does not mean I cannot also recognize that a change was needed. And it does not mean that I do not recognize I was in a bad place, mentally and emotionally; I was disconnecting not only from much of the work I was doing, but also from family and friends—and many of my colleagues did become friends—and from most of the things in which I had taken delight. So I suppose my need for a new personal beginning emerged alongside the need for a new professional beginning.

Schreiner offers me hope that I can find such beginnings again. When I interviewed for my position, I was welcomed warmly and eagerly, and I have continued to be welcomed each time I have come to campus. Faces smile when they see me here, rather than falling into frowns or turning away, and I find myself smiling in return—which is not something I was prone to doing before coming here. A new instructional term has gotten underway, and I am pleasantly surprised to see my classes holding all of the students they are supposed to; it is not something that has often happened for me before. And the upbuoying that I feel as I come onto campus follows me as I leave it; I have gone home tired, but it is the kind of tired that follows work done well and diligently rather than the tiredness of being leached of vitality and plodding along despite it. It is a kind of tired that allows me still to smile at my wife and daughter when I arrive home, rather than collapsing in on myself and walling out all that I can. It is a kind of tired that bespeaks and ongoing hope for a new beginning fostered by the simple fact that it seems to be realized as I walk onto the grounds, from building to building, and from class to class.

I hope it will endure.

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