I really enjoyed teaching my ENG 101 course. It was a challenge to try to fit my own personal ideals and pedagogical values into a somewhat prescriptive course plan, but I think I was able to find a good balance and that my students left the classroom as better readers and writers and maybe even slightly better people (one can hope, eh?). I had a really phenomenal class, and from the beginning they were very willing to engage with the material, me, and each other. I assigned final course reflection memos for the first time this semester, and I really enjoyed reading the comments from the students. They weren't just telling me that they liked me and the course (which most students feel the obligation to do at the end of a course), but they actually told me about various elements of learning that they felt they had grasped this semester and how those understandings might be helpful to them in the future. That is always very rewarding.
One of my favorite assignments that I ask students to complete every semester is a Writers Identity Activity (adapted from my ISU colleague Evan Nave), where I ask my students to find a picture and write a short description of something that makes them feel awesome and alive and how that applies to their writing. The students then go around and comment on each other's photos and posts, which helps them to get to know each other, but also helps them to see how differently each person is inspired to write. In the final reflection memo this semester one student commented on this activity saying:
"The one day where we did that activity in which we took a picture of something that we love and incorporated it into our writing styles was very insightful. What I took away from that activity was a sense of self-awareness. Everybody has a different writing style and various thinking processes. It was interesting to see what everybody put as their picture and how they related it to their own personal writing. I think that definitely assured me what type of writing/study habits and styles of thinking I have. Now I can use this self-awareness to my advantage on future assignments."
Assertions and awareness like that is why I truly love teaching writing.
As I mentioned in my previous blog posting, I was featured in the ASU Writing Programs Visualizing Teaching In Action video vignettes looking at specific practices in the classroom. Thanks to my ASU colleague Steven Hopkins, the first video vignette is finished! I am happy to have contributed to this work at ASU.
I was also pleased with my final products for my own classes this semester. Coming into the program, and in almost every discussion I had with professors and other graduate students, I received two pieces of advice:
1) Make EVERY project that you complete work towards a larger research/ teaching goal.
2) Make your projects work together.
With that advice, and after receiving literally identical final assignments for two of my classes, I tried to come up with projects that worked toward a larger research goal (like a portfolio paper, or even my dissertation). I came up with two research proposals that focused a Lebanese food memoir: The Language of Baklava by Diana Abu-Jaber. I look forward to actually working on and towards this research work in the future.
For my teaching practicum course I developed materials that could be utilized in the Spring 2015 semester to help students navigate the sometimes "muddy water" of completing and submitting multimodal projects for credit. The materials are linked below. Check them out if you are interested in this kind of work (also linked under "Projects"):
Finally, I will finish this blog entry the same way I finished my first semester: inspired by the work of literacy ethnographer Deborah Brandt. I loved her work in Literacy in American Lives not only because she observed and interviewed participants in my home state of Wisconsin but because of the way that she asked questions and the goals that she was trying to achieve in her study. She writes:
"It is the persistent interest of this study to characterize literacy not a it registers on various scales but as it has been lived" (11).
That is exactly how I want to approach every research study and classroom interaction and conference presentation in my career. Not as it registers on decontextualized scales but as it is lived.
What is life, if not for the living?