A Conversation with Myself

The end of this calendar year also marks the end of my second semester as a graduate student at Kennesaw State University. Thus far, I’ve learned more about teaching philosophy than I thought I would, and most of it has been incredibly insightful. This, combined with my role as a writing assistant at the university’s writing center has provided me a decent cross-section of information with which to justify the teaching statement I adopted May of this year. This statement was, and continues to be a fledgling product of my understanding of instructional theory and the principles I’ve seen in practice by my professors. Even with another semester of experience behind me, much of what I held to be true regarding my approach to teaching remains intact, albeit colored with these new experiences. I’d like to use this space to synthesize myself circa May 2019 with my current self.

"...we impart a little bit of ourselves onto those we instruct
in the hopes that our instruction will improve the learner in some way."

From the beginning of my journey in the MAPW program, I understood that I wanted my feelings and beliefs about writing to filter into the way I structured a classroom. At the time of writing my original teaching statement, I conceptualized that “little bit of ourselves” as knowledge. In retrospect, that seems overbearing. I don’t want to hammer knowledge into students, though I do wish for them to learn. Now, I believe that the piece of myself I impart onto my students should be my passion. They should experience through me the joy of learning and thereafter take knowledge into their own hands. It’s my hope that this philosophy will empower my students to represent themselves–their backgrounds, dreams, and identities. My responsibility as a teacher is not to force-feed information; it’s to leave my students wanting to chase after that information for themselves. That sense of self-projection informed many of the decisions I’ve made in this blog, as well. My interests in popular fiction, for example, or my fascination with process and writing development over time. These artifacts speak directly to my interests and provide me with space to explore those interests. My students should have no less.

"To learn is to accept that there is more to be learned, and that’s my goal as an educator:
to open students to the reflective process of their academic work
and force them to contend with the reality that...
learning is the continual and impossible journey towards that perfection."

I’m impressed with myself for having written the above quote well before my introduction to Alder-Kassner and Wardle’s threshold concepts, particularly that all writers have more to learn. This concept is tied so inextricably to process pedagogy that it had already been cemented in my mind. My focus of process and revision is on display in the unit project I conceived through both a peer review segment and the modal shift for which the project is named. These aspects of the project allow students an opportunity to reflect on their rhetorical choices and consider more critically about why they make certain decisions in their compositions.

All compositions require their authors to consider audience and purpose in meaningful ways.

With multimedia growing more prevalent with each coming year—just consider how deeply entrenched memes are in contemporary culture—it has now become the responsibility of educators to situate students within that multimodal space in a professional capacity and to be capable of implementing multimodality in such a way that it’s unintrusive and informative. There are many corners of the internet where learning occurs best through visual mediums. For proof, look no further than the top posts of the grammar subreddit where the top thirty-two posts of all time include multimedia elements. Any process that seeks to increase proficiency in communicative fields must take care to address this.

With that short detour out of the way, I’d like to turn my attention back to how my personal philosophy has found its way into my work thus far. An earlier example of my focus on process, primarily in the structure of the curriculum I designed in spring of this year where I touch back on the idea that “my design is rooted in my students discovering their own personal process and identifying their strengths and weaknesses as writers,” a philosophy that gives autonomy to the students. The Response and Revision Project in that course was intended to be a semester-long essay that would undergo multiple revisions from the fourth week onward. At each revision, students would have picked up new tools and techniques to allow them to better refine their work.

You’ll surely have noticed that multimodality is absent in that course curriculum outside of a few weeks spent to essentially acknowledge that multimodality does exist, and that is an area I intend on improving upon moving forward. That said, my philosophy also dictates that I exercise caution when prescribing the significance of certain aspects of the writing process. Oversaturation of any step of writing instruction—be it prewriting, drafting, research, peer review, multimodality, or any other step—only serves to alienate students from those independent processes. Each student should be given the space to decide for themselves which parts of the process they need to prioritize in their own work.

It’s my firm belief that students learn best when they’re given as much space as possible to breathe and stretch themselves creatively and to expand on the ideas they’re passionate about without fear of performing poorly in the course. Naming What We Know is clear that failure is a part of learning, but when failure acts to stifle growth, it is no longer productive.

I have thus far been driven to promote creative freedom as a future instructor, and I am fully willing to accept that perhaps this philosophy is misguided. Perhaps there truly are few alternatives to stringent focal points in the English classroom. However, it has never been in my character to conform to systems that disagree with the fundamentals of my own beliefs. Without jeopardizing their negotiations with academia, I hope that my students will be capable of taking a little piece of that away from my classroom.

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