9e (14, omg)

I can’t believe our next class date is Dec. 4.

And as I’m noting all the good/bad things that are implied for me by that date (more unscheduled days > impending deadlines), I’m also noting what I know it implies for you: the dwindling days of your first semester of teaching at QC. Let’s take a moment to honor that.

And I’ve made space in the schedule to reflect a little now.

Our reading is light for this week and non-existent for next, so we can go back to some of the texts and themes that we’ve skipped over lightly up until now.

This week, I hope that you will use your blog post to (choose as many or as few as you like):

  1. Recommend to us a text that you’ve found through your own research that can help a new teacher at QC;
  2. Revive a reading or a thread of conversation that you’d like to recover, so we can think more deeply about one of the many important issues that we’ve raised;
  3. Raise a general or specific teaching question that we have yet to address (e.g., what tools/hacks/tricks have experienced teachers devised to rise to x challenge that we all confront from time to time);
  4. Reflect on the questions you have about the lesson plan that you post for us to discuss next week;
  5. Raise a question or observation for somebody else in the class about their paper topic, identifying a way that their idea has lingered with you;
  6. Raise a question or observation that seems pressing to you at this moment in writing your paper (possibly but not necessarily by noting how your experience of writing informs the way you teach writing);
  7. Raise a question or observation that I can pass on to Marco and Karen for their visit next week; and/or
  8. Identify a way that our short reading for this week resonates with you. Does this account of the plight of student writers in the U.S. seem to describe our students– and does it suggest any insights that seem useful to you as their teacher?

I could go on, and I bet you could, too.

Be brave out there.

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3 Responses to 9e (14, omg)

  1. Farrah Goff says:

    It seems especially appropriate that “Students Want To Write Well; We Don’t Let Them” would be the last assigned reading for our class (I cannot believe that I am saying that already!) It seems as if this article touches on many observations I have and my classmates here have made throughout the entirety of our semester, and had we read this reading first, I am not sure it would feel as poignant or as true! To say, “we spend time debunking various “rules” that students often internalize earlier in school” is an understatement (Boyd). In my class I have had so many thoughtful and simultaneously difficult discussions trying to explain to them that these rules “that you can never say “I,” that five paragraphs are the best shape for any argument, that personal experience doesn’t matter, that merely citing enough research sources makes for a cogent argument, that hitting up the thesaurus for big words helps you sound credible” that your thesis should always be found in the last sentence of your first paragraph – just to name a few – are no longer the laws by which they need or should abide (Boyd). I have spent a good chunk of time trying to encourage them to have strength and belief in their arguments and to take their essay assignments and make them about something they want to writ about, especially this research paper. I think back to a statement Audrey offered in one of our early discussions, it was a reflection on writing prompts and she said how she always worked write about what she wanted and then make it work to fit the writing prompt, instead of just trying to address the task at hand. This idea seems to fit in very well with the what Boyd is offering, that the goal of writing should be a form of exploration and discussion (as it so often becomes later on) instead of the formulaic ritual set about to achieve grades and fulfill a requirement. “Students Want To Write Well; We Don’t Let Them” hits on similar notes to Wan’s article “Transitioning to Global” in the sense that they both discuss how the political agenda in education (as early as kindergarten and so on), stresses a different set of goals for student achievement in comparison to what the goals of education should be. Boyd states that “students love to learn, but hate school” and goas on to explain that this hatred of school is actually not rooted in a hatred of rules, structure, having to do work (as so many people like to say it is), but rather in a distaste for the stress, worries, rigidity, lack of expression, and weight placed on grades. Teaching writing for what it is; an avenue of exploration and communication, instead of a means to achieve a grade could possibly be a way to get better writing out of students.

  2. I too, like Farrah, felt strongly about this last piece (book review) “Students Want To Write Well; We Don’t Let Them.” I keep thinking of the sentence that students “love learning but hate school,” and I keep wondering about my student who sat in the same seat by the window looking out for most of the semester yet, still managed to write good papers. Did she hate learning? Was it the material? All the readings were boring for her? All the exercises were dull? Her classmates’ conversations didn’t interest her? And, of course, I keep wondering, what it just me. I wasn’t able to engage her. Or, I just may be torturing myself too much and the fact is that her shyness and disengagement is her nature. But I do believe that as the author states “our goal should be to help young people develop real agency, to become independent agents rather than good neoliberal consumers, to be “self-regulating” and self-aware about what interests them…” We should, therefore, let them write what interests them. I have a student who loves cars. Why shouldn’t he write at least one of the three papers about cars? Another student loves Harry Potter. When I mentioned the book/film at some point, her eyes lit up and she let out an exclamation of happiness. She could have written about Harry. The book review was an eye opener and John Warner’s thoughts recapped by Ryan Boyd definitely engaged me and kept my interest. It’s a really good piece to finish our Practicum course on.

  3. Caleb Fridell says:

    After reading Ryan Boyd’s argument that the high quality of private education hoarded by the wealthy proves it is only a matter of universalizing what we already know to be the best kind of education has me firmly convinced that the only fair college acceptance procedure––to Harvard as well as to CUNY––is by strictly aleatory lottery. Only under such a condition of equality could education be, as Boyd quotes Dewey, “a process of living, and not a preparation for future living.” Or even, in Thoreau’s more ambitious proposal, “it is time that villages were universities,” their inhabitants having the leisure “to pursue liberal studies the rest of their lives.” As for Boyd’s hopeful line that this may come about as “we are the reformers we have been waiting for,” that we must reimagine schools and so on. . . I’ve been having idle daydreams––following the yellow jacket protests in France and the Australian student strike against climate inaction––about how easily a CUNY-wide strike, gathered on Wall Street, could shut down the financial center of the United States. O. . .

    But to return to reality, and to address Alain’s point about letting students write about what interests them, I think there is a distinction to be made between “interest” in this sense and Boyd’s phrase “students want to write well.” Boyd writes that a major part of composition instruction is to “deprogram [our] charges” of their highschool habits, that is, it is not a matter of a laissez-faire approach to allow the students’ natural interests to shine forth on their own. Rather, I take it that part of the “deprogramming” is to convince students why the style of writing they have been taught is to be dreaded––why it is shallow and insincere––and why instead they should want, on their own, to write in the style that we recommend, why they should want to write careful, passionate prose, why they should care about their own writing. I think I’ve largely failed to do this in my first semester of teaching, and will spend the winter break––as I prepare a new syllabus––wondering why and how that was; I think properly teaching this value requires quite an active and engaged effort.

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