Friday, December 30, 2011

More specifically

My last post was rather chatty and all over the place.  Having spent several hours last night filing away teaching and class notes from summer and fall, I'm a feeling like I'd like a bit more focus now. 

One area I'd like to focus on is the idea of motivated students.  In my last post, I expressed regret for returning to teaching composition after having had such a wonderful experience with two sections of women's and gender studies.  Though that class counted as a gen ed credit, for the most part it was a rather self-selected group of students who were generally interested in the subject matter--if they weren't interested in WGS, they could have taken sociology or psychology or something.  I had one student so inspired by Peggy Macintosh's "Unpacking White Privilege" that she changed her major.  Class discussions were usually interesting.  My students wrote really insightful final papers on a variety of pop culture elements.  And when my director came to evaluate me, she noted how surprised she was at the attendance of my class--I normally ran at around 85% in a class of 35.

This semester, I'm back to second year composition.  I keep saying that I'll put together a themed course (like I did at UT), but I keep not having time to.  Well, and I keep hoping that I'll get to teach a class in fiction, too.  Teaching composition is so often felt as a form of punishment at worst, or something that has to be got through at best.  Perhaps I'm exaggerating here--well, I am exaggerating to some extent, but it's important to note that most of the people who teach composition are literature or creative writing people, and not those whose studies focus on rhetoric and composition.  Of course we're going to be disappointed when, once again, we're teaching how to write an argument paper instead of Shakespeare.

Admittedly, I do get to teach Shakespeare this summer.  And between thinking about that and reading Peter Elbow's new book, I have enough ideas I want to pursue with my writing students that I should have the kind of enthusiasm which students pick up on.  My random ideas include:
  • Using Wordle during the revision process, so students can see what their language use looks like
  • Incorporating even more reading aloud in class (maybe of work other than their own?  To see what other people's writing feels like to read?)
  • Moving around.  I'm not sure yet what this means, but I want more movement in class.  I may even try class outside (eek!).
  • Though I typically do freewriting every day in class, I want to see if I can find a way to shake up freewriting even more.  This summer, I had student freewrite and then exchange papers, respond to the writing, and then write again.  I think I may try even more of these interactive assignments.  And find a way to pair students up with different people--this summer, one person confided that she had trouble with the person she sat next to and always ended up paired up with, as he never had any useful feedback for her.
  • Maybe, then, I should work on what providing useful feedback is like?
Lots of things to keep in mind.  My syllabus is for the most part done, with due dates and stuff, but I will continue to tweak the actual schedule.

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