Social Class Reproduction

Four Rules for Teaching Writing:
Image result for image: joy of writing
Always give writing assignments that

1. you will enjoy reading;
2. students will enjoy writing;
3. students will enjoy reading what others in the class have written
4. you will enjoy writing.

If any one of these conditions were not true, then it probably wasn't a very good assignment.

Advice I give to my students: When your words surprise you, you know you are writing.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

From Trump to Junk

I am still recovering from the Presidential election, devoting time to oppositional activities (see the t-shirt I designed on the left); thus my inactivity on this blog.  Because I am no longer teaching, my eyes have focused on America's political soap opera dominated by a hippopotamus who imagines himself a gazelle.

But I had an experience yesterday that I want to record (and perhaps think about) here.

I have unwillingly approached the age of metal joints. I am recovering now from a reverse shoulder replacement. If you don't know what a reverse shoulder replacement is, you are among the blessed.

Yesterday, I was at my weekly physical therapy appointment. I met a young woman, whom I shall call Anna, in honor of a good friend. Anna was an attractive, black-haired woman with alert eyes and an open face, slightly olive complexioned. Anna was an intern physical therapist. She had recently finished undergraduate school and was applying for PT graduate school. Her job as an intern was to keep me from damaging myself, an activity to which I am prone--thus, my operation.

Instead of closing my eyes and sailing into my emotional equivalent of cyberspace, I struck up a conversation. Ok--she was attractive, which had something to do with my chatty mood, in spite of the 85 years between us. Unsurprisingly, I started talking about the pleasure of writing.

Writing teachers like me have had this conversation countless times. I volunteered that I was a writing teacher, and she told me how she wanted to write, how she wished she could, but writing is so hard for her now.  She wondered what happened--she remembered when she loved to write.

No, I'm not making this up to prove the point that I'm endlessly making. This was our conversation. I encouraged her to start a diary and a blog. (I encourage all my students to do this).

She was listening to me. I think Anna might actually start one or the other, and she might rescue her pleasure in writing. She was clearly intelligent--there was no reason (well, one) why she shouldn't be writing.

I left, as readers of this blog would suspect, angry. Writing teachers are not solely at fault for the disservice they do to students, scaring their students away from writing when they would really want to be helping their students.

Many teachers feel trapped within the teaching situation--most teachers recognize this trap. They know their students are not enjoying the writing assignments they, the teachers, feel forced to make their students complete. Somewhere in their cerebral cortex or perhaps in their dreams, these teachers know they are betraying the larger cause, encouraging their students to take writing with them through their lives.

I am very sorry that Anna no longer likes to write. She wants to, but we took away her voice, maybe because we have lost ours. And we write that junk instead.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

What Are Your Research Questions?

Although recently sidetracked by Trump, I have devoted this blog to pedagogical issues with a focus on promoting teaching practices that create positive writing experiences in our classrooms and consequently, positive attitudes toward writing. Although I may be in the minority among writing teachers in accentuating this link between experience and attitude, I know there are many in the field who appreciate this link and work to encourage a love of writing among their students (if not love, at least like). But there are a distressing number of teachers who to my mind inexplicably maintain a no-pain, no-gain theology.

If I were looking for a research/book project, I would investigate how in the face of so much educational research on motivation and learning (see Dewey, Britton et. al, Moffett, Tagg), writing teachers maintain what seems to me to be a counter-intuitive logic discounting or at least down-playing the effect of a student's learning experience on the object of learning.

As I have said before in this blog, a colleague and I have been working on developing a writing program and assessment project  predicated on the link between experience, attitude, and learning. As part of our project, we began to investigate the link between teachers' attitudes toward and experiences with writing toward how they teach writing. We might even generalize: teachers' attitudes toward and experiences of learning with how they teach.

My colleague and I understand that how teachers teach is also shaped by the rhetorical situation within which they teach: the physical, institutional, and political environments--e.g., an adjunct devoted to writing might be teaching in a basement within a program with ogres for wpas, chairs, and deans in Texas.

I have had some conversations within the past few days that made me wonder about a further relationship between researchers' attitudes toward and experiences of writing and their research.  I am assuming here that like teaching, no research (or researcher) is innocent. Perhaps writing studies researchers might ask themselves (and maybe reflect in writing) what their attitudes toward writing are and how those attitudes affect their research questions. I can imagine, for example, one dimension of attitude as a scale with writing for fun and writing as duty. How would one's location on this continuum affect the kind of research questions they asks (please ignore [or maybe not] the phallic implication)?