Week 7

(It’s week 7 already!)

As I was rereading the essays for this week, I realized that I’ve had them in my mind for our last several discussions, so I kind of forgot that you haven’t read them yet. (And this is a thing that will happen to you, too, as you keep teaching: You will incline to assume that your students have done reading that they are unlikely to have done, because you’re having a conversation with them in your mind, so you’re investing them with knowledge that they couldn’t possibly have. It’s an occupational hazard.)

Anyway. Revision.

We’ve been talking about the tendency in all writers– including our students and ourselves– to approach revision with the wish that it will be superficial and quick, when in fact it is rarely either of those things. That’s what the readings by Sommers and Harris are about.

What do you find in them that you could use to:

  • show your students the contours of the kind of revision that you have in mind for them; and
  • convince them that this kind of revision– which is probably much more substantial than any they have done before– is worth the significant time and effort it takes to do it?

Then, also: How might we use the Tompkins essay to think about these pedagogical dilemmas and others? I love that essay, personally, and I find in it a valorization of endless revision on both sides of the desk. I am curious to hear what you find useful here in your first semester of teaching, when you are revising a syllabus that is new to you as you are also finding your footing in the classroom.

And one last thing: Sometime very soon, I will ask you again to give me a student paper or two that represents a grading dilemma for you. (We have touched on the subject of grades, and I think we need to return to that subject, no?) So, keep this in mind as you’re grading and look for essays that will give us a chance to talk about grading issues that are recurrent  and pressing for you.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

11 Responses to Week 7

  1. Weiheng Sun says:

    I think readings of this weeks in one way or another, relate to asking good questions.

    Harris puts emphasis on the “stances [students] are taking toward the texts” (588). This is particularly helpful in reshaping the argument in the students’ papers discussed last week, in which there are no clear original arguable theses. The essay distinguishes the details of the text and the implication of these details (585), and then ask students about what they are thinking, “the choices they have made in phrasing and structuring their own texts” (588). By doing so, it helps students shape “a style of assertion, of close and aggressive reading” (587).

    Sommers’s Revision Strategies categorizes four different revision operations and four levels of revision. I agree that revision is an essential feature in writing when compared with speaking. Therefore, we should attach emphasis to revision, for example, let students learn what a good revision is, instead of just mentioning it on the syllabus the vague term “good revision.” I’m thinking to do a reflection on “revision” before students dive into the actual peer review and revision work: ask students what is “revision,” bring a handout listing all the definitions made by student writers and experienced writers from Sommers’s article, have them read the handout, lead a discussion about the differences they find, introduce four levels of revision, ask them to focus on the “shape of their argument” (384), the framework, “seek to discover meaning in the engagement with their writing” (386).

    Tompkins’s essay is also about asking good questions. A question is a quest. The scaffolding of how to ask good questions when one reads a difficult text is very instructive for both students and instructors. It also shows what the class is about. We come to class to “mutually construct even more difficult ideas.” It is beneficial to revision in a way it can engage us to revisit the original text as well as the paper itself and ask good questions.

  2. The three readings for this week all had very insightful ideas. I was particular interested in Joseph Harris’s “Opinion: Revision as a Critical Practice,” when he writes of asking students to change the way they work not think. I didn’t so much agree that as teachers we should spend less time and effort trying to “influence their present attitudes” (578) and instead help them learn how to read and write. Speaking for myself, I am not teaching my students in order to influence them politically or in any other way, but I believe I should teach them how to think about the world around them so as they won’t be easily taken in by exterior forces like politics, and advertising for example (one of the articles and essay#2 in the syllabus I chose). In that sense, I would like to teach them how to think about influences that influence them and on how they can put that in their writing. I also found Harris’s description of Shor’s concept of the Siberian Syndrome fascinating as he explained how students who sit all the way in the back indicate mistrust and lack of involvement: a “quiet refusal and dignity” (579) but that Harris objected to the syndrome’s name in that it indicated a forced exile instead of a choice. Interestingly, three of my students sitting all in the way in the back actually participate the most since I encouraged all to speak out as there were no “wrong answers” to anything. For Harris, teaching should be less about the social transformation of students (like Freire et co) and more of a social practice (591), but I believe both can be achieved.
    -Nancy Sommers’ Revision Strategies writes about the linear model of writing and that it is “based on the irreversibility of speech” (379) and cites Roland Barthes. The interesting thought she puts forward is that “what is impossible in speech is revision” (379); and so the possibility of revision is what can differentiate “written text from speech” (379). Sommers then proceeds to explain her research to find out what role revision actually played in the writing process of student and experienced writer (380). Students were most concern with vocabulary and when rewriting did a “rewording activity” (381) to clean up their speech as it were. They were in fact unable to see revisions as a process (382). In contrast, the experienced writers use revisions to find the “form or shape of their argument” (384) and imagine their readers reading their pieces and imagine their reaction to it (385). What Sommers tells us is significant in that revisions are part of a process not just of communication but of “discovering meaning altogether” (385) and that experienced writers think in a non-linear way to see the whole picture first (386). Writing is a discovery: this is what students fail to understand. And good writing “disturbs: it creates a dissonance” (387).
    -The “We Aren’t Here to Learn What We Already Know – Avidly” piece was interesting in that the author, Kyla Wazana Tompkins, wrote that we need to undo what we know or what we think we know. She gives us several useful ways of doing things like reading theory three times, taking notes, taking a break, thinking about the pieces, making questions, reading out loud. I loved her quote from Capote about Kerouac describing his works as typing not writing, but the last section of her piece, though very interesting, became more focused on Feminist thought and less about writing, at the beginning college level at least.
    -The importance of revisions is crucial to these authors however, convincing students to do substantial revisions on any paper they already worked on and rethinking it instead of just fixing it up a little will be difficult. Especially with those students who are taking 4-5 classes and/or on the sports team and/or working one to two part time jobs. How much work can they do well, when they don’t have the time and energy to concentrate on everything they are supposed to do?

  3. Kate Bryant says:

    In her article “Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers,” Nancy Sommers describes a study in which she surveyed student writers and “experienced writers” to understand differences in their revision strategies. Through this work she comes to redefine the revision process as “a sequence of changes in a compositon– changes which are initiated by cues and occur continually throughout the writing of a work.” (Sommers 380) While it’s not entirely clear where the line would fall between these two groups of writer, the assumption seems to be that experienced writers are accustomed to confronting the need for substantive change in a piece of writing, and have gone through the process many times.
    She suggests that students aren’t necessarily unwilling to revise, but lack tools, “procedures or heuristics to help them reorder lines of reasoning or ask questions about their purposes and readers.” (383) By contrast, “experienced writers describe their primary objective when revising as finding the form or shape of their argument,” using “structural expressions such as ‘finding a framework,’ ‘a pattern,’ or ‘a design’ for their argument.” (384) These observations feel related to some of our questions from the past few weeks. How do we help students to develop and articulate the kinds of theses that will lend themselves to more sophisticated kinds of arguments, and how can we pose questions about their arguments that can help them develop better theses (arguable claims) in turn? Sommers notes that the experienced writers in her study have a theory of the revision process that includes “adoption of a holistic perspective and the perception that revision is a recursive process.” (386) There seems to be an underlying assumption that if students develop this kind of understanding, and related procedures for thinking about their writing this way, that the value of this kind of revision will be self-evident. I’m still not sure what the procedures are– are they meant to follow “naturally” from the shift in understanding? Or are they practices that prompt a shift in thinking, or does it go both ways?
    Obviously each student’s revision process is going to be personal, so I wonder how best to frame the idea of revision to the whole class. Perhaps modeling a workshop the way Elaine (I think) suggested last week would be useful. Sommers mentions the idea of a “scale of concerns” (380) which I have also called an “order of concerns” in my class, and it seems worthwhile to pause the next time students will be asked to revise and revisit this idea. I like Weiheng’s idea of introducing various definitions of revision, while perhaps first or also soliciting them from students to develop our own as a class.
    Joseph Harris, in “Revision as a Critical Practice,” draws a distinction between teaching that aims “to reform the consciousness of students, to lead them to understand and resist the ways they are positioned by broad social forces and discourses” (Harris 577) and what he poses in contrast, “a renewed attentiveness to the visible practice or labor of writing,” suggesting “that our first job is to demystify the actual workings of academic discourse.” (578) This premise seems to suggest more opposition than I see in those things, though he hints at an ongoing pedagogical conversation.
    I can agree that helping students “learn to deploy more powerful forms of reading and writing” (578) sounds good. Harris also describes the development of “a set of specific and local moves that a writer might make, as a discursive agency” (583). I found one practical example when Harris poses questions to his student (Esther) about her essay and he sees the desired changes in her second draft, where she is able to “think through the tensions she was experiencing as a reader, to use the problem she was having to say something new about the text” (585). So, I thought, just help students do that? No problem! Harris seems to suggest it’s all about the questions, though his second case study shows a student reassessing the focus of his writing project and undertaking a major revision without including any of Harris’ own interventions or questions. Is the idea of “teaching for” this agency just another way of asking how to help students to feel interested in what they’re writing?
    Kyla Wazana Tompkins takes up the question even more explicitly as a fundamental tool, suggesting that focusing on the asking of good questions is something that really connects the work of reading and writing. And so continually honing those questions and the skill of developing them could facilitate this recursive way of thinking. Tompkins’ model (her actual language, annotated!) feels more concrete and accessible to me though would need to be adapted to implement in my own class. Reading all of these pieces I see the same kinds of tensions as I do in our desires to implement any number of pedagogical ideals– with the limitations of our material resources- time, energy, training (both our students and our own.)

  4. On Sommers: What especially stood out to me are two things: 1. Student writers don’t really revise—they edit. Experienced writers understand that “Revising confuses the beginning and end, the agent and vehicle; it confuses in order to find, the line of argument” (384); 2. “Since [students] write their introductions and their thesis statements even before they have really discovered what they want to say, their early close attention to thesis statement, and more generally, the linear model, function to restrict and circumscribe not only the development of their ideas, but also their ability to change direction of these ideas” (383). I agree that this linear approach to writing—creating a thesis statement and introduction—is one of the primary reasons that students edit rather than understanding revision on a deeper level. Linear writing creates precisely the kind of five-paragraph high school essay from which we’re trying to move students away. Based on what I’ve learned at Writing Centers and from colleagues, I encourage my students to have an “idea” of their argument and then to start making claims. When they’ve finished those tasks, they can go back and look at what they’re trying to say, which is the big picture. I like Weihung’s idea to create a handout that lists Sommers’s definitions of revision of student versus experienced writers and am going to create my own version that factors in some of the ideas from Chris’s Radical Revision Handout, along with some visuals.

    On Harris: The idea of the big picture flows into revision as “not simply a process of perfecting a single essay but as a way of advancing an intellectual project” (590). Revision and writing for students begin as a “method of doing something” (Scribner quote on 591), but we hope that we can teach them to move “from good luck to conscious practice, and in doing so, [take] control of their writing” (589). In viewing the two articles from a practical standpoint, it seems that we might first implement Weihung’s idea of a handout and then ask the questions Harris proposes we ask students: “about the stances they are taking toward the texts they are working with, and […] about the choices they have made in phrasing and structuring their own texts. I don’t know that most students would be able to answer those questions as effectively without first understanding Sommers’s revision strategies. Or maybe I have it backwards?

    On Tompkins: I’m interested in how I can teach my students to ask better questions and how I can as well. And like Kate, I’m wondering “Reading all of these pieces I see the same kinds of tensions as I do in our desires to implement any number of pedagogical ideals– with the limitations of our material resources- time, energy, training (both our students and our own.)”

  5. Caleb Fridell says:

    The Tompkins essay was especially useful after our discussion last week of assigning difficult reading. Early on, she cites a Judith Butler article that has often been my first reference in discussions of bad academic writing––I think Butler was entirely justified in her annoyance at being awarded the Bad Writing prize, and exactly right in naming the award a culturally conservative attempt to delegitimize leftist scholars in defense of the “nefarious ideologies” that “pass for common sense.” My second reference is usually a bit from Theodor Adorno’s Minima Moralia, where he says of those readers who resist rigorous formulations that impose on them “a suspension of all received opinions,” that “only what they do not need first to understand, they consider understandable.” So: “Those who would escape it must recognize the advocates of communicability as traitors to what they communicate.” Both these sentiments seem to me to get straight to what is valuable about reading difficult writing: the common sense that surrounds us is deeply reactionary, and it takes a great effort and training to break free of common sense. This difficulty, necessary to confront, is what makes Tompkins’s thesis so profound: we aren’t here to learn what we already know. Students have a great natural ability to translate whatever they read into common sense, I’ve found; part of this, based on the papers I’ve received, is the tendency that Tompkins identifies to relate everything back to themselves, to “experience” or “responses” or “feelings,” while being uncomfortable discussing ideas as ideas. When I told them that their thesis must answer the question, ‘why does this matter?’ they took it to mean, ‘why does this matter to me?’ rather than, ‘why does this matter in a larger intellectual debate?’ The lesson I’m taking from Tompkins is that in assigning the first paper, I was asking for answers to questions they hadn’t been taught to ask; I asked them to “identity an intellectual problem” without any real guidance about what those problems ought to look like. So I would like to try her assignment for asking questions, difficult as it will be.

  6. Audrey Wollen says:

    I found Harris’s distinction between surface revision and structural/critical/exploratory revision very helpful, and articulated something I’ve definitely come up against in class: the idea that the first thought/best thought version of your essay is the only essay available, that once the student has a thesis or a general structure they have to grip hold (for fear of losing it? to avoid the effort or uncertainty of a more fluid writing process?) and follow through no matter what. The misconception that revision is purely on the sentence level, or even just individual word choice, seems pretty widespread among my students. I found the zero draft structure really useful in that sense; it allowed a moment where the feedback was only about the ideas (I didn’t give any notes on clarity or composition the first round), and that way they could alter their thesis before hunkering down to sentence challenges. Still, I noticed several students stuck with their thesis no matter what, even though there were obvious problems. I think what Harris perhaps overlooks is that exploratory revision requires a certain level of confidence in your own critical thinking ability; it assumes that by playing around, new ideas will come, alternative structures will reveal themselves, etc. I think many students don’t feel comfortably relying on the safety net of their own creativity or criticality, because they aren’t totally sure its there!

    I also loved Tompkin’s piece — it’s such an enjoyable and invigorating article to read, and made me feel excited about unpacking questions and discursive tools with my students. I think it also addressed some of our discussions from earlier weeks, about standards/challenges/”soft”-ness: she writes uncompromisingly about having high standards for her students, noting how “hard” the class will be (“My only response is: good.”), and yet, she still actively provides space for uncertainty, “I don’t get it”‘s, confusion, anxiety, etc. I especially appreciated how she spoke about always bringing back the personal to the intellectual structure at hand: “the point of feminism was not to exacerbate our focus on the individual but rather to shift to structural and systemic thinking. Less me; more us.” This is really useful because it allows the personal in, but then weaves it back into the discourse. She also grounded these pedagogical goals in really specific pieces of advice for both teachers and students, which I appreciate. Some of the other readings tend to get wrapped up in larger, more abstract goals of the classroom, and I’m left wondering, “Yeah, ok, but, like, how did you schedule so many revisions? How many weeks between each draft? One? Two? What was your grading turn around? Did you only have one paper a semester, which allowed many different drafts? Give me the details!”

  7. saba says:

    These three articles fascinated me, in how they all dissected the processes of reflection, coupled with recreating and refining thoughts in language, by means of revision. As Sommers clearly pinpointed what I’ve been dealing with in the past few weeks in my students’ revisions—”they [students] only notice repetition if they can hear it, they do not diagnose lexical repetition as symptomatic of problems on a deeper level.” (382)—I could not help but ponder deeper over the role of instructor and their status, in possible reinforcing of a “linear” model of writing (thinking), which is based on speech. So I agree with Kate on her inquiry: “How do we help students to develop and articulate the kinds of theses that will lend themselves to more sophisticated kinds of arguments, and how can we pose questions about their arguments that can help them develop better theses (arguable claims) in turn? “.

    In her research on comparing revision between students and experienced writers, Sommers notes:” The experience writers imagine a reader (reading their product) whose existence and whose expectations influence their revision process.” (385) Imagining writing, with the constant presence of a reader/ audience, turns the discourse into a dialogue between writer’s own ideas, which Tompkins also touches upon in her inquiry into posing the right questions: “Learn how to organize information, to imagine how your own questions impact or reach other people’s ears and eyes.” This brings me back to Sommers’s conclusion finely enunciated, on revision: ”Seeing in revision—seeing beyond hearing—is at the root of the word revision and the process itself; current dicta on revising blind our students to what is actually involved in revision.”

    In an effort to have my students—both metaphorically and literally— “see” a revised dialogue with text, I had them bring scissors and tape to class, to restructure a poem and revise it, creating a new poem. Since most of their revisions as we previously read in Elbow’s “High Stakes and Low Stakes in Assigning and Responding to Writing”, were of “small corrections in wording, spelling, and grammar.” (16-8). They were supposed to read the poem three times before revision. They were also given full freedom to add or subtract words, lines and stanzas, in order to create a new piece which most resonates with them. The results were a surprise to all of us. In revision, we all created different editions with different meaning-making approaches in our writings. We talked about our personal guidelines to rewrite and how it redirected our thinking towards the new poem, supporting our picks from different lines and stanzas. As Joseph Harris mentions in “Revision as a Critical Practice” in Esther’s case:” The moment of revision, of going back to a text, offers us the chance to ask students to rethink not just what they have to say but also what they are trying to do as writers.” (585) To regard revision as a chance for reflection creates a circular path, for advancing thoughts in writing, as opposed to thinking of thinking (therefore writing) as a one-way traffic. This turns the thought process into a meaning-making discovery , by means of regarding “dissonances” as a resource.

    Lastly, I’d like to mention Tompkins’s valuable distinction, between feelings and intuitions, as a very different set of tools, in comparison with thinking, which can be instrumental in clearly redirecting the class in a positive way:” As I tell my students over and over: your intuitions and feelings are what will lead you to original insight but they are not a substitute for thinking and working hard. Rather, they are the end of the psychic thread that you begin to pull at as you develop the ability to summarize and analyze the structures of thought, habits of mind, and analytic forms that undergird critical theory.”

  8. Farrah Goff says:

    Starting with Tompkins’s “We Aren’t Here To Learn What We Already Know” I believe this has a little bit less to do with the ideas of revision specifically and more to do with ideas about how to have the best start. Ironically, I probably mention this article first because it feels like a good point from which to begin. If we take it that in order to get the best piece of writing possible we have to first have a good question, than we Tompkins’s piece becomes even infinitely more useful. Before we as educators move forward into the revision process, let us first work to ensure that our students are on the best starting ground, “a good question… an honest question, one that like a good theory dances on the edge of what is knowable, what is possible to speculate on, what is available to our immediate grasp of what we are reading, or what is possible to say.” Caleb voices above his personal experiences with trying to encourage his students to answer HIS questions, or perhaps the bigger questions in general “Why does this matter” and I, too, experience this, even just simply when I put pressure on the statements my students are making. When I pose questions to them, not because I want them to have an answer on the spot, but rather because I want to continually encourage deeper and more reflective thought so that they as well can come to conclusions they could not see originally or they did not initially believe they were capable of! Perhaps, I also have a lot to say about this piece because I similarly agree with the Tompkins that Spillers’ “Mama’s Baby” is in fact “a masterpiece”.

    Moving on to Sommer’s piece, her analysis and breakdown of revision as being almost an afterthought of the linear process of writing felt eye opening to me. She asserts that “by staging revision after enunciation, the liner models reduce revision in writing, as in speech, to no more than afterthought.” (2) She goes on to say that “in this way such models make the study of revision impossible.” She is absolutely correct. Not only does this linear view point of writing make a discussion of revision nearly impossible, that attitude is reflective of the feelings of the revision process in general. Sommer’s discussion of the actual difference in the words that “student writers” use to describe their process of revision in comparison to those used by “experienced writers” is eye opening. For one, the acknowledgement that students do not like the words revise or rewrite due to their imprecision, vagueness, or simply a lack of specificity in their action is interesting. Especially when placed in direct contrast with the several different and personal definitions that are subsequently offered as definition to exactly those words. In illuminating the student’s displeasure with the words and then comparing with the many different ways experienced authors self define the words, it works to offer a change in the discussion and methodology of “revision.” This weeks readings were some of my favorite, perhaps due to my own personal feelings and experiences with the revision process as just that, a process.

  9. Jacqueline says:

    This week’s readers were particularly insightful as I wrote evaluative comments for their final revisions of the rhetorical analysis essay. Using Gloria’s draft letter as a guide, I attempted to engage with their ideas by asking good questions and showing the threads they might use to develop arguable theses. Perhaps selfishly, I wonder whether my comments and questions will push them to use the problem(s) they’re having to “say something new about the text” (Harris 585), or if they’ll disregard my efforts to push them towards a non-linear approach to revision. How do I get them to engage with the questions their drafts raise if, as Audrey suggests, “what Harris perhaps overlooks is that exploratory revision requires a certain level of confidence in your own critical thinking ability”? I hope we can discuss our approaches to revision so far and share what has and hasn’t been helpful to our students in creating opportunities to develop that confidence through the practice of critical writing.

    Our class readings often make me want to restructure the way I’ve done things so far. Like many of you, I would be interested to approach the topic of revision in a similar way as Weihung, through a handout that gets them to consider and rethink their understandings of revision as a “complicated relationship between the parts and the whole” (Sommers 385) not just “a series of parts” (383).

    Sommers’ musical analogy, the idea of dissonance in writing, seemed particularly useful as a way of bringing intellectual problems to students’ attention. I’m interested in having this conversation with my students in order to emphasize–in the hopes of giving them the confidence to establish lower stakes as they generate ideas and higher stakes as they refine their lines of thinking in writing–the dissonance or discomfort intrinsic to the academic reading and writing process, towards articulating “a sense of an intellectual project” as Harris encourages his students to do (588). How can I push my students to embrace the “I don’t get it” in the first place in order to get to critical writing as practice, as defined by Sylvia Scribner (591).

    Tompkins proposes a rich approach to getting students to embrace the challenges of dissonance in academic writing by teaching them to ask good questions. How could her handout be modified to be used in our classrooms? Back to Audrey’s remark about students’ confidence in their own abilities to think critically (or lack thereof), perhaps by assigning them the work of asking the questions (instead of having the questions, even or especially the rhetorical and open-ended ones, always coming from our side of the desk), they might be more able to embrace the generative difficulty at the heart of meaning-making. Echoing Kate, this may just be another way of asking, “how to help students to feel interested in what they’re writing,” which of course has no easy answer.

  10. Elaine Housseas says:

    I was really struck by the Sommers’ essay. I found myself thinking about it after my class discussion this morning. My students are now moving onto the Lens Aanalysis essay section of our syllabus. I wanted to use part of today’s class discussion to have them reflect on the first third of our course and the writing process of their first essay. I completely agree that in the beginning of their drafting, my students had a “thesaurus philosophy of writing” (381), considering their revisions as “rewording activities” (380). At points, it became very cringe worthy. Students substituted words like different pigmentations and shades of color for race difference and people of color. I think most of us can also relate to Sommers’ definition of student writing being at times a transcription of their speech (382). My students are very self aware and self conscious of this aspect of their writing. As I tell them regularly, I want to hear their voice through and in their writing. They’re still trying to separate their writers’ voices from their audible voices. One of their main concerns is doing poorly because of their lack of vocabulary or informal lexicon. As Sommers states, they feel “their selection and rejection of words is the determiners of the success or failure of their compositions” (382). I think they’re beginning to move away from this line of thinking, understanding the need to concentrate on more conceptual rather than lexical concerns. I asked them today where this fear or perception of good writing came from. They all readily responded that it was part of their high school training. As Sommers points out, these kinds of rules come from previous educational experiences and often create a hierarchy where grammar and vocabulary are positioned above ideas and argument (382). One of my students said he felt his high school encouraged convergent thinking, while my course requires divergent thinking (a little bleed through from his PSYCH 101 class). Some of my students said they’re still trying to get comfortable with this kind of writing, writing that requires them to ask questions, supply answers, and converse. The only issue I had with this article was her free usage of the terms blind, blindness, see, and eyes. This ocular lexicon makes me very uncomfortable and often angry.
    Building off this, I found parts of Harris’ arugment very difficult to agree with. He states he doesn’t believe there is a, “necessary link between learning a critical practice and acquiring a critical conscious—and/or any other kind of consciousness” (578). While I’m not very familiar with Freire’s concept of the critical conscious, I don’t believe we can separate our practices of reading and writing fro our lived experiences. I agree with him that one of our tasks is to help “demystify the actual workings of academic discourse” (578). This is something Tompkins touches on as well in her piece, our role in helping our students and ourselves understand and discuss complicated theories and scholarship. I’m interested in the second part of his argument, the importance of “reflectiveness about one’s own aims in writing” (577). I don’t understand how this can be done without considering our own experiences both in and outside the classroom. I understand his fear that instructors will think for rather than with their students (590). Like Harris says, I’m here to help steer or guide my students on their desired courses of voyage; however, I think their lived experiences are rich sources of fuel or power for their journeys (591).
    Lastly, there was a part of Tompkins piece I found very moving. She addressed a subject I’m currently facing in my course. She states, ““Managing feelings, particulary as it relates to various forms of injury, is not the job of the teacher.” This is something I’ve been struggling with throughout my course. I don’t know how to even discuss it here or how to exactly put it into words, but it was nice to hear from yet another instructor that these situations do arise and to not let them consume me.

  11. Tyler says:

    In “We Aren’t Here to Learn What We Already Know,” Wazana Tompkins suggests that revising student questions is, in part, an attempt to force students to “start to become a teacher.” I wondered about the effect – and the value – of assignments with this kind of messaging (whether or not it is made explicit to students) because it is something I have considered in my own teaching, if not in those precise words. For each of the three forms I cover in Introduction to Creative Writing – poetry, fiction and playwriting – I have a class of student presentations. Each student chooses a short piece in the form we are discussing, submits it to the class via Blackboard, and gives a presentation on the piece (including questions for the class to consider at the end of the presentation).
    There are no guidelines on what questions the students are meant to ask at the end of their presentations; I realize that the relative informality of this is due in part to my curiosity about what kinds of questions students would come up with, and in part due to my inexperience. As with many of my lesson plans, assignments and writing prompts, I have learned that this openness has its drawbacks. Not only do student questions often avoid specific questions about the texts they refer to, but they also generally seem to fail to address the class as writers (which many of my students do not currently think of themselves as, regardless of their current capability or interest).

    While I’m not sure that revising student questions is necessary for the types of presentations they are giving, I do believe it would be helpful for them to have some guidelines in their presentations, to have more direction as to the kind of analysis that would be useful for their peers and for themselves as writers. But I wonder what the exact relationship is between encouraging students to think of themselves as writers and to think of themselves as educators; I wonder how much I’m creating assignments and guidelines as someone who, as an undergraduate, was hoping to do both.

Comments are closed.