teaching philosophy [ever in process]
As a composition instructor, I am committed to creating a venue for guided wonder, realized potential, and empowerment. I value the grasping. Aristotle calls the “obscurities of the tangible” adēlon. In the context of the composition classroom, exercises in making adēlon apparent through rhetorical listening and crafting nurture a meaningful and agential process. To this end, dwelling in affect theory’s relational intra-action and “not-yets” (Massumi, Manning) offers students the opportunity to deal in composing both objective and perceptive noticings–serving to deepen rhetorical listening and awareness (Ratcliffe, Glenn, Bazerman). Maneuvering through unseeable tensions gives grounding to felt sense (Perl) and fosters opportunities for “writing offshore” (Haynes). Cultivating conditions for this kind of connection making in my classroom is a priority. It supports the “novice as expert” approach to composition (Sommers, Saltz) and creates a sense of writer identity (Daniels, Ahmed, Ivanič).
My approach to teaching writing alternates between holistic and specific. One way that this manifests is in engaging my students in a manner respective of their lived experiences and “discursive needs” (Crowley, Smitherman). I urge students to tap into their own vitality as a means of inventive inspiration before applying rhetorical principles to effectively move their ideas into real world messages. In my WRTG120 [Comp I] section, students develop a personal literacy narrative structured around a personal definition of literacy based on the New London Group’s multiliteracies. Students then identify and analyze a rhetorical exemplar from their own lives. These two projects guide students in constructing an ecology of personal values and communicative experiences before building a “be the change” project. This final multimodal and multigenre course component scaffolds agency in topic, audience, and genre selection, so that students publicly enact rhetoric in service of a local social justice problem (Schell, Fleischer).
In teaching WRTG121 [Comp II], a research-focused studio course, I sponsor creative and intuitive inquiry as process–emphasizing research as a life skill that extends beyond our own exploratory work, a life skill that demands mindful consideration of self(s), culture(s), and subject(s). Class discussions center on ethical implications, empathic observation, and methods of generating textual fascia. An abbreviated version of Derek Mueller’s “worknets” serves well as an introduction to research, setting students up for deeper, more critical understanding of source work and connection making. From here, we launch into modes of inquiry, largely guided by Perl’s “felt sense.” We rely on intuitive curiosities to assemble the observable and tap into the very same sensibilities to generate theory and further questions into what is unmanifested in or obscured by our data. This merging of seen and unseeable supports creative and critical meaning-making in both literature review and primary research. The adēlon becomes tangible at last in the form of a three-dimensional object, a visual representation of arguments in support of the writer’s inhabited stance, which is then showcased at a Celebration of Student Writing (Shipka, Hickey-Moody, Page).
In mirroring process, my room shifts as a space to breathe, draft, make and reflect – to write recursively and responsively. I feel a responsibility to honor my student’s disciplinary needs and situated development, and I strive to keep the Council of Writing Program Administrators’ “habits of mind” at the forefront of my practice. This heavily informs my need to be flexible, responsive, and open to possibility in my instruction; my pedagogy is as much informed by my own reflective practice as it is the expertise of other scholars. As a teacher, I am a listener and learner. While course outcomes may remain static, I do not see that ways of reaching them need be. I delight in the challenge of adapting, shifting, and continually engaging in my own connection-making efforts to position, and reposition, myself as a writing instructor who can effect positive change in her classroom and in the surrounding community.