Week 8: Mutt Genres

One of the things that I found interesting regarding FYC and this particular article is that there is this notion and pressure put onto the English Department to teach students how to write. One of the things that came up during my time in 634 was what to teach, not how I was going to present it, but what I was going to teach. FYC, if we’re supposed to be the end all be all for every major should then be taught over several semesters.

It was brought up in class that there should be 130’s for every major. I think that’s a valid point and something that I think colleges need to consider. Yes, we’re English majors and it’s assumed that because of that we can write well and with finesse. But that doesn’t mean that we can actually teach what it means to write a Biology paper well or teach students who communications classes want things done. There’s only a small amount of things that are actually transferable in an English 130 class: how to use resources. At least that what I’m seeing. In no way are the skills my students learn from the actual writing of a narrative essay or an inquiry paper going to help them in something like business or psychology. The only skill that they can take forward with them is how to use the sources in front of them to have a backed up opinion and statement. That’s truly it.

I find it interesting that when I was grading for the Business Department, there were times in which I was told that I should be teaching grammar in my classroom. I was told that I should be doing more to get the students who come into this Business class to know and understand how a paper works and how grammar works. I cannot by any means actually teach grammar in my class, I don’t even know all the grammar rules! That’s an absurd thing to point out, BUT what I can do as an instructor is direct students who are struggling with grammar issues, sentence structure, etc. to places that can help (i.e. The Writing Center or the ESL Learning Center). I can as an instructor direct students to the Library’s website to help them find research. I can as an instructor tell me students that this isn’t how all writing goes and that if I were to teach all the genres of writing, it would be boring and utterly intensive. I would have to teach 2 different genres every week which wouldn’t allow for retention in any capacity.

I would honestly love to see more departments take on the responsibility of teaching a class in writing for their department. I’m not saying that we cut out 130 at all, I still believe that it’s a valuable class, but there are many students that I have every semester who have different majors. It’s a beneficial class as an intro class, but then each major should have a separate writing course that’s geared directly toward them. I do my best to give my students exposure to different genres, but there’s no time to teach everything that other departments want. If we had shared responsibility across the college as a whole, then I think that the issues other departments are having regarding 130 would subside. Students would also not feel overwhelmed and think that their 130 class was a joke or useless. There shouldn’t be that attitude toward it, but rather an appreciation. Students would feel as though they have skills that can be expanded upon, improved, and tailored to their major and careers if there were also 130-esq required classes in every major.


Week 7: Formulaic Writing

When I started teaching FYC, I didn’t actually fully realize just how ingrained formulaic writing was in high school. Formulaic writing, I think, has a place, though. There’s a certain style and formula you have to follow when it comes to business memos or how to set up your Master’s Project or Thesis. There’s a certain formula we follow with emails as well. But when it comes to academic writing and the writing that students do in class, formulaic writing doesn’t have a place. It’s something that’s distracting and something that actually hinders the development of thoughts, ideas, and arguments.

Now, as a teacher, I can understand why something like the 5-paragraph essay is a thing. I can understand how difficult it is to get a stack of 30 5 page papers let alone 10-15 page  papers. The stack is a very haunting thing for a teacher. Even when I was fresh out of high school and grading papers for one of my former high school teachers, it was a daunting task. I have 30 students who, toward the end of the semester submit a final inquiry paper that will most likely be at least 5 pages, if not more, long and I will look at that stack of papers and hate life. BUT after seeing a first draft, a second draft, and maybe a third draft, I will be proud and excited to see how far they have come in their writing.

In Wiley’s article, he says that, “Formulaic writing of the kind Schaffer advocates forces premature closure on complicated interpretive issues and stifles ongoing exploration” (64). I agree wholeheartedly because once we place students in a box, then they won’t lean into the drive to do more, in fact, they will be punished for doing more in most cases. But they will have learned all this time that that’s what constitutes academic writing. They will have gone years of this training and then once they get to college be punished again for doing the thing they were told to do.

I believe that the 5-paragraph essay should be eliminated and in doing so, teachers should be paid more to be able to foster an environment where high school students explore ideas and issues. But also fostering an environment where they can begin to understand what it means to be a writer in college and beyond.

Week 6: Keyword

Over the course of the last week, I have been thinking a lot about what I’d like to dive deeper into and what I’d like to learn more about that’s been hit on during class. I’m torn between two: creative writing and writing as a process.

I have found that a lot of people think creative writing is something that concerns poets and not really something to be taken as seriously. There are also a lot of people who think that contemporary novelists and short stories authors don’t deserve to be looked at and studied as those of Shelly and Austin. I am a creative writer and I teach creative writing so I might be semi-biased, but I’m really interested in this attitude surrounding creative writers. I found the article “Creative Writing is a Unique Category” by Cydney Alexis to be thought provoking because it started to unthread what goes on behind the scenes and behind the books that English majors and professors study.

I’m also very interested in writing as a process. This is my second semester teaching academic writing and I’m seeing more and more that the number of people who thinking that any piece of writing is done in one shot. Last semester, I stressed that writing goes through a revision process and most of the time, that revision process is long and hard. This semester, I decided to do a poll in my class regarding revision. I had asked for my students to raise their hands if they had ever revised something, only a few hands were raised. I then asked if they felt like once they were done writing a paper that it was finished, almost every hand went up. I then asked if they thought that Stephen King, for example, wrote his books in one shot, every single hand went up. I was shocked, but I also wasn’t. When I was younger, I too had this illusion that my favorite writers sat down at their desks, wrote, and then sent the product to their editor and publisher. After reading other articles for last week’s jigsaw, I wanted to know more about people’s opinion on the writing process.

Week 5: Round 1 of Jigsaw

One of the readings that I chose to do was “Leave Yourself Out of Your Writing” by Rodrigo Joseph Rodríguez.

One of the reasons why this particular reading stood out to me from the title was because I strong believe that the writer should be in the paper. Every semester that I teach English 130, I ask early on how many people think that they can’t use “I” in essays. Every semester, all hands are up. I then make a comment that they’re wrong, they can use “I” in their work. One of the ways that I begin to break that habit of keeping oneself out of essays is by giving them a narrative-esq paper to writer at the beginning of the semester. So, ultimately, this particular chapter caught my eye and I was curious to see what he had to say.

Rodríguez makes a point right at the beginning that “This myth both hinders and undermines deeper learning and thinking in the lives of writers, readers, thinkers, and students” (131). I snuggled up right next to him after that because I fully agree. I find that when people (especially FYC students) are stuck in this notion, they’re more worried about the wording than they are about the writing itself. I tell me students, “You did the research, you’re the expert, you have an opinion, so put yourself into the paper.” I think that’s what he’s starting to say here. He states that, “Being told to leave yourself out of your writing, the writer is not building a publicly recognized voice with confidence and a level of expertise that builds trust with an audience” (132). This is a major thing for me. When I think of papers that don’t use “I,” I think that that a robot wrote it or that the writer doesn’t have any sort of connection with the thing they’re talking about. I tend to not be as trusting toward authors who don’t have themselves in the piece. I mean, I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen a scholarly article where the author wasn’t in the writing somewhere.

There’s also a part toward the end where he states, “The self is significant in the act of writing to make meaning, present an argument, and come into existence on the page. To repress or remove the self from one’s writing is counterproductive for the writer’s purpose” (132). This is ever so true and goes along with what I said above. As writers, we should be connecting with our audiences in some way. We’re gearing our paper around audiences in order to convince them of something, show them something, or to simply inform. But there’s always a purpose and by taking the writer out, there’s no room for connection and takes away from what the writer is wanting to talk about. It simply doesn’t work at all.

After reading these small chapters, I actually want to incorporate them into my 130 class some how. I think especially this particular one because it will help students even more to realize that taking the self out of a piece of writing doesn’t make sense nor is it conducive to fruitful conversation and exploration.

Week 4: Thoughts so far…

Well, it’s really hard to have thoughts so far regarding my internship. My availability for it is only on Fridays so the 16th was the first time that I was in the center with someone. But we only went over office procedures. Before I can actually observe and be released to tutor, I have to interview my mentor and also be scheduled for a tutoring session myself. With my availability being so limited, it’s difficult getting things up and running. I’m hoping to have more of an experience this week and will see about my mentor being available for a tutoring session. She’s supposed to email me regarding what times she has available so that I can see her and so that I can observe an appointment.

This is an interesting experience for me all around because I’m in this class having taught a full semester of 130 and am currently teaching it again as well as 220 this semester. Because of that, I don’t have questions at the moment about the class or the internship. I honestly just want to get the technical things over with so that I can do the thing that I’ve been doing for quite some time.

As far as things sticking, I had mentioned last week that I was going to introduce my students to the lenses (at least I think it was last week I said this…). On Thursday they had their first peer review session. I made the groups and what I heard, people really liked that. It took away the awkwardness of having to tell a friend that something was off or that it didn’t work or whatever. But I also pick and chose the lenses and aimed for questions surrounding it. Last semester I had the writer put at the top of the paper things that they wanted someone to look at. From what I read, students weren’t sure what to say or what to ask someone. With these lenses and the questions I chose around them, students took to them more. I had each writer circle questions that they wanted each reader to focus in on. I walked around the room and saw people writing more than what I saw last semester. I thought that it was really cool because they were asking each other the things they needed help on. I coupled this with a preface (much like last semester) to their papers where they’re telling me places they did well and places that they want me to look closely at. I think that the lens aspect really helped them see it in a more tangible way than how I was having them formulate their questions last semester.

Week 3: Internship Updates

I am interning in the Writing Center this semester and we haven’t actually done the thing yet, but I did have my meeting with Pa on Friday. And I have some thoughts on that and what will come this semester.

One of the things that’s awkward for me this semester is that I’m in this class having taught one full semester of English 130 and am currently teaching my second round of it as well as English 220 (Beginning Creative Writing). I have been helping students write for some time now and have graded their progress and given a lot of feedback.

One of the things that we have to do as interns is watch someone tutor. We have to be guided through the process. Part of me feel that this is a step down because I already know the thing, but I’m trying my best to look at this in a different way so that I’m not caught up in teacher mode. It’s going to be major challenge. My availability also is preventing me from being in the Writing Center during the week, except for Fridays so I’m not even sure what kind of action I’ll even be seeing.

Since I don’t have much to report on regarding that aspect of the class, I am pleased to report that I will be using the questions/lenses that we went through last week in my class’ first workshop. I have worksheets their major paper (an inquiry based research one), but I don’t have one for their first paper (a narrative-esq. one). I’ve been trying to think about what kind of things I’m going to be putting up since they’re different papers/genres. And after doing the reading, I think that those are going to open up the kind of feedback given on this first one. I’m also going to be changing up my worksheets for the second paper because there were some students last semester who pushed against peer workshopping all semester long. I want to experiment with the questions and see what happens. Each class is different and it’s seeming like this semester’s class is going to be rowdy so I’m hoping adding a few of these lenses will help to garner better feedback.

Week 2: SL & LPP

Coming into this class and the readings, I already have a semester of teaching under my belt and am currently teaching. Trying to dissect it is interesting and backwards, but it’s giving me insight as to how to approach things with my students this semester.

In the LPP article, the author states that LPP “…is an analytical viewpoint on learning, a way of understanding learning…[and] takes places no matter which educational form provides a context for learning, or whether there is any intentional educational form at all” (40). This was interesting to me because when we read about the Quartermasters, it rang true. No matter what, people participate in LPP and communities of practice. I talked of communities of practice in my last blog, but LPP “provides a way to speak about the relations between newcomers and old-times, and about activities, identities, artifacts, and communities of knowledge and practice” (29). LPP is completely tied to CoP.

My group talked of the Quartermasters in class, but I think that this concept can be applied to the work that’s being done with mentors in the class. The students are at the bottom rung, they’re not sure how the climb will be, but they’re told that they have to be there. The teacher is at the top of the ladder (even though as a grad student I don’t feel like I’m really prepared to be teaching these students) give instructions, guidance, tips, etc. But the mentor is the one who’s helping the students on a more intimate level, showing them physically. The students will eventually be able to do the thing on their own, but they need training and practice before reaching that level.

I don’t have one in my class this semester, but I think that this can also be applied to something that I do in both of my class–peer review. Last semester I had some student resist the practice and either didn’t take it seriously or would tell me every time that they didn’t think their comments would be helpful. What I reiterated (and something that I have already began to talk about) was that even though they may feel as though they’re not experts, readers are still readers and they know when something is off, doesn’t sound right, or are skeptical because there isn’t enough evidence, etc. Much like the Quartermasters, my students as they go through the practice of peer review will realize that they’re in this together and are learning along with each other. And those who “get it” sooner can help those who don’t.

The concept of LPP in a way means that people learn by doing, learn on the job, and learn by applying the skills that they have learned. It’s interesting too to take this concept to the butchers because it was found that those who went through the schooling without hands-on experience didn’t do well, where as those who had the experience had a leg up in the academic portion of the training. (I might have switched those.) I worked at United Health Care for about 6 months at the beginning of 2016 while I was waiting for grad school to begin. I went through a 16 week training. This was grueling! We would work for 8 hours and the first 10 weeks was spent in front of the computer reading about things, policies, situations, etc. But what was told to us on multiple occasions was that most of the learning happened when you were on the call, when you were put onto the floor and had live customers. LPP seems to have an element of that.

Week #1: Who am I?

I am a graduate student and am in the final two semesters of the program. This is also my second semester teaching English 130 and my first solely teaching English 220. I am liking having two different subjects in the same semester, especially examining the different forms of writing and the communities that I’m forming in each classroom. I’m also a step-mommy to four girls (4-10) and am in the midst of wedding planning. Next fall will be a crazy time as I prepare for my defense and marrying my partner in crime.

One of the major things that I’m hoping to take away from this class is being able to grow as a teacher so that I can better help my students with their writing. I’m taking this class after have taught and it’s going to be an interesting ride so I’m not really sure what is going to become of this class. BUT having the prospect of helping my students is what I’m looking forward to the most.

Wanger’s article was heavy in useful material. Something that I didn’t really think much about before was when he was talking about how communities of practice are everywhere. There’s a section where he talks of families and how they form their own community of practice. With families, it’s hard to really examine what’s going on, but in terms of a community of practice, it can be applied to whatever is going on in a family dynamic. But it also highlights how those particular communities might clash with another. What’s really interesting, and something that helped me connect with this piece, is how my family operates throughout the week.  My kids are with their dad and I half the week. We set up rules, chores, bed times, and all sorts of other things. We spend that half of the week building up these practices. Once they go to their mom’s, though, they have a different environment and what we do at our house isn’t supported by the other.

But regardless of what goes on at their mom’s house, they know what’s expected of them here and how we support each other. The older two girls are in band and that class has their own community of practice. All four are also in gymnastics, which has it’s own community of practice. My fiancee has clients that he manages and I have students, both of which have their own community of practice. It truly wasn’t until the second read of this article that I really began connecting and interconnecting these communities of practice. I also began to examine how different communities of practice relate information and teach those who are just beginning in the subject or practice.

Week 11

First off, how are we already 10 days into April?!? Secondly, I am overwhelmed, but NO QUITTING IN APRIL, right?

With that being said, I wasn’t sure how I was going to really react to this week’s article. I’ve been on the fence about the whole no grading thing/grading contract. Mainly because it seems like there’s a bit more work involved. I see where those who practice it are coming from, but it’s just not something that I can really wrap my head around. There was a spot in the article where the authors say in response to a teacher saying that a student earned a C- rather than the teacher giving it to them:

“Students are supposed to accept without question that a one-dimensional form of evaluation is rational and just–and to feel that their critique of it is naively personal: ‘He gave me a bad grade because he just doesn’t like me’–or ‘because he disapproves of my ideas or point of view or ideology'” (4)

As I said above, I can see their thinking. Students have been engrained with this notion that grades are the end-all-be-all regarding teachers and school. But I’m not sure if I completely agree with them or at least I’m not fully convinced that their way is the one to go down. I think a fair compromise would be to give points for at least trying. For example, I have 3 “papers” due before their major project of the semester and what I have decided to do is for those who have turned the piece in on time and don’t have any more revisions past the due date, I will give them the full points. I won’t take points off for grammar, weird sentences, places that need more support, etc. There will be plenty of time from the time I give them their papers back with feedback and notes for them to revise. So if by the time we get to the end and they haven’t taken the time to revise, proof-read, or the like, they will begin to lose points. I figure (much like I believe those who are doing the no grading thing) that by giving them the full points for trying and turning it in, they will feel better about revising. But even in saying it this way, I am skeptical, but I am going to give it a whirl. Maybe after we do discussion I’ll end up changing my mind for the up-teenth time. Or maybe I am actually one of those no-graders and just don’t realize it because I’ve put my own spin on it? Maybe it’s already May and I don’t realize it…no? Crap on a cracker.

Week 10

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this week’s readings because I haven’t read much in regards to ESL and SLA pedagogy or research. But something that I found particularly interesting in the “Broadening the Perspectives” article was the mentioning of ESL not getting a lot of conversation time or as much research time as non-ESL composition. I found this interesting because the thought hadn’t crossed my mind. And I think that’s one of the points of this article: imploring for more screen time because there are issues and challenges that go through creating an ESL comp class.

For instance, Johnny and I have been talking over the last few weeks regarding both of our syllabi, assignments, and our objectives. One of the things that really stood out with his was that he isn’t doing what the rest of us are doing (i.e. he’s not having them do the assignments or giving his course a theme). He’s giving them practical and rational assignments (things like a memo, an email, etc) because these are practices they will be using quite a bit in the future. It wasn’t until we chatted about his syllabus that I truly realized ESL is extremely valuable. That sounds horrible of me to say, but I don’t mean it in the ignorant “I’ve never heard of this ESL thing” way, I mean it in the “I hadn’t thought about it because that’s not my field” way.

I’m not bilingual even though I can pass with Spanish (but not confidently) if I needed to and I do remember some sign language from that semester I took 10 years ago. But I wouldn’t consider myself anywhere near bilingual. It’s because of that fact that I haven’t given ESL much thought. It’s not my area and I can’t relate to the hurdles they have to jump when coming to college in a foreign land. After talking with Johnny, I had even more respect for those who not only teach foreign languages, but for ESL teachers because it’s a different world with different norms, but not just as an “ESL culture,” but because there are so many different cultures and backgrounds in ESL classrooms.

I’m not really sure why ESL and SLA isn’t given more time at conferences and such, but what I found reading these articles is that there is a vast amount of research and time that goes into this section of composition courses. Yes, there are a fewer ESL classes than non-ESL classes, but that shouldn’t mean that those who are in that field get pushed to the side and forgotten.