Composition Pedagogy

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Blogrolling, More Summer Course Preparation

I've been meaning to say this for a while...thanks a lot Cindy and Torill for putting me on your blogrolls (and to other folks who link to me). It means a lot, especially in light of this intellectual slump I've been in lately. I got some comments on my seminar papers last semester that were, while definitely intending to be constructive and helpful, a little alarming having to do with my authoritative voice or lack thereof. I've been wondering if I have any voice at all, anything meaningful to say at all. I wonder if I have any innovative opinions other than I agree with this or I don't agree with that. I know it's a common sentiment in grad school, and Cindy's June 11 post (permalinks in Blogger don't seem to be working so well) makes me feel less alone. Here's an excerpt:

There is a lot of discussion going on at baraita, Frogs and Ravens, and elsewhere about the ability of grad school to destroy the intellectual self-confidence of students. As someone who experienced this, I'm always happy to jump on the grad school bashing bandwagon, but I'm also self-aware enough to recognize that some of the personal demons I was harboring helped the process along. Nonetheless, the number of blogs I'm discovering which either focus primarily on what I'll call "the grad school blues" or which return to the subject again and again tell me that my experience of grad school as a largely gloomy part of my history isn't entirely a self-created reality.

Nor can I say good things did not happen in grad school. It is, of course, where I discovered my love of teaching. It is where I met my best friend. It is where I discovered I am--or perhaps where I named myself--a feminist. But it is also where I often felt isolated, intimidated, and small. It is where I learned what intellectual masturbation is. It is where I cried myself to sleep many nights because I didn't believe I was good enough to be there. And while a few wonderful professors did everything they could to instill in me a sense of worth, neither I nor any of my friends ever felt the department nor the profession as a whole gave a damn; hence, the systemic problem, no, illness, noted at Naomi Chana's blog.

To change the subject to something more imminent than the future of my voice, I'm in the process of moving to an apartment down the hall with my friend Jessica, and I'm still working frenetically on my syllabus. I met with Sandra Becker, the Course Coordinator for Rhetoric 3562, and now my head is swimming. She was great about answering all my MANY questions. I'm seriously considering using Bernadette Longo's idea of having each student be the manager of another student. It sounds like a good way to ensure accountability. Bernadette's course materials are excellent; I recommend looking at them if you're teaching technical communication or want to someday. She told me I can use anything I want from her materials too, which was wonderful of her.

Special section of Rhetoric 1101

Yet another teaching post! Can you tell what's on my mind today? In the fall, I'll be teaching a special section of Rhetoric 1101 that has 15 seats reserved for students in the SEAM (Student Excellence in Academics and Multiculturalism) program. The same students will take the Rhetoric 1101 class and a couple of other classes together. In other words, they will be a "learning cohort," or small student learning community. Student learning communities and student living/learning communities are new initiatives that the university is taking to give students a positive learning experience and probably to improve retention rates as well. I want to, in this class, meet the requirements of 1101 but open the content up to forms of rhetorical expression that aren't necessarily traditional essays. I'll continue to use two books I've taught for a year now: A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid and Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich. I might bring in lyrics from Common or Nas--songs that are making an argument. For example, I think the song "I Can" makes a relevant argument. This is all just off the top of my head, though...I'm excited but a bit intimidated about this opportunity. Part of teaching a SEAM section is collaborating with the instructors of the other SEAM classes that the students in the cohort are taking, so that will be nice.

More on Summer Course Planning/Brainstorming

For their collaborative assignments, I might have my students break into groups and have meetings that last from 30 minutes to an hour. The students can rotate doing minutes of the meetings and turn the minutes in as an assignment. The "minutes of the meeting" statement is a genre used in workplace communication, after all, and a written statement of what goes on at each meeting would help me see the contributions of each group member. They could learn about small group communication, delegating tasks, doing brief follow-up reports on tasks completed, etc.

Summer Course Planning

Some of you already know, but in case not, I'm teaching a class this summer: Rhetoric 3562, Technical and Professional Writing. That's Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:35-12:30. Yes, three-hour class meetings, twice a week. I must have lost my mind! So now I'm trying to visualize how the class meetings are going to go. I definitely want to have my students do collaborative/group work in class, and I'm thinking I'll have each student keep a blog, and at the end of class each day, maybe during the last fifteen minutes, I'll have them do "progress posts"--sort of a "what I've learned, what I've accomplished" thing. That will help the students to synthesize concepts from class, hopefully. I want them to use the blogs to post about whatever they want, too, but ultimately I want the blogs to help the students with their projects. Please give me any other tips you have about having students keep blogs! Do I ever need them.

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