COLLEGE AND UNIVERSITY
9th through 11th Grade Reading
Philosophy of Teaching College Writing

As a teacher of first-year writing, my goal is not only  to prepare my students to write with care and attention to the impact their ideas have on their communities, but to also guide them as they explore their ideas critically and responsibly, develop rhetorical awareness to identify and analyze encoded messages in their daily lives, and examine our own ways of speaking and writing as a set of discursive choices. Students in my class explore the purpose and use of writing in our daily lives, and they reflect on the impact these uses have in how they navigate the world around them. They learn about their own writing processes through collaboration with their peers and reflective personal interviews. 

They analyze the rhetoric of language, visuals, things, and even bodies, recognizing the rhetorical features of artifacts that they encounter in their daily lives. They learn strategies for efficient research, both field and desk, as they observe discourse communities and explore ideas published in academic journals as well as popular press articles. They learn how to evaluate, organize, and synthesize this material by writing literature reviews and annotated bibliographies in the humanities and social sciences. They learn how to navigate new technologies and web platforms to showcase their work online, practicing multimodal literacy by incorporating visuals and other modes for communicating their ideas in new and interesting ways. 

My beliefs about writing significantly shape how I approach my course content.

 

First, I emphasize that writing is not just a rhetorical practice existing only within the walls of academic space, but is a vital part of our daily lives as we rely on a world of textuality and are immersed in written, multimedia, and visual texts. I assign readings that question common assumptions about text, such as selections from What Writing Does and How It Does It that propose a number of ways for how texts direct our attention and gain meaning their meaning through social use and construction. I ask students to define what they consider ‘text’ to be and how it plays a role in their own lives. Students also examine this impact by spending a day without writing and reflecting on their experiences to better articulate their own reliance on writing, even how they navigate and participate in their own communities.

 

Secondly, I focus on writing as a process and practice in always becoming, always growing. A growth that requires daily practice, collaboration, and critical reflection. To do that, I dedicate class time to freewriting, or ‘writing into the day,’ a midterm reflection letter, a course daybook, which they maintain for the entire semester. I incorporate a set of drafts and revisions, as well as collaboration and peer-to-peer discourse, for each project. I encourage my students to reflect throughout the course, asking them to record these thoughts in their daybook, to share them (if they desire) at one-on-one conferences, and to tailor them for a final reflection designed for them to evaluate their own thoughts processes and development in writing.

 

Assignments & Projects

Finally, I highlight the technological nature of writing, sharing with students different modes of composing and asking them to engage with me in the evaluation of such compositions for the ways in which context shapes writing. By opening up opportunities for students to draft their own projects using different modes of composition, I encourage and support student risk taking as members of ever-evolving communities entrenched in digital literacy.

All of these skills prepare my students for collaboration and writing tasks, equipping them to be critical thinkers engaged in the complex practices of consuming media, participating in the economy of ideas, and engaging as members of their own communities literacy practices.   

True teachers are those who use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross; then, having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create their own.
-  Nikos Kazantzakis

My evaluation methods reflect a view of writing as a process, rhetorical knowledge (awareness of the relationship among purpose, audience, genre, and content), and knowledge of conventions. I treat evaluation as a self-reflection process and dialogue about the goals both teacher and student value in learning, focusing on idea development, best practices, and self-reflection in order to support students in the skills that are transferable to other communication situations.

I set expectations by providing rubrics with explicit descriptions of what practices, ‘moves’ and literacies are necessary for a given project. I focus on purpose, evidence, audience awareness, and form. As a final project, I prompt students to reflect on their own work and writing processes by designing and publishing their own writer’s website - a showcase of what they see as their best work as a writer.

In addition to my beliefs about writing, I regard education as a site of warmth, direction, and accessibility where all students of all identities and learning types are welcome, encouraged, and supported to engage in the work we do together. To that end, my pedagogy is heavily influenced by learning styles, different literacies and abilities, and personalities. My pedagogy shifts as my students do from semester to semester. I support different learning styles by using more than one mode of teaching: from hands-on, interactive, and collaborative activities to individual activities, as well as using visual aids and performances that require movement and material objects. I also approach academic vernacular and the ways we speak and write in academic contexts as a set of traditions and values, not as a universal standard. I make it clear to my students through both assessment and in-class discussion that language is a marker of identity. I encourage them to consider academic and professional discourse alongside their own discourses, dialects, and ways of speaking as a set of values specific to specific communities to which they are a part. Finally, I promote accessibility for my students by making all my materials, both handouts and slides, available online. I also offer grace periods for deadlines and encourage students to have an open, transparent dialogue with me about their needs and any accommodations they may require. We discuss the importance of mental health, bodied wellness, and the bearing that the culture of professional and academic workplaces can have on our performance. Students of all identities, backgrounds, abilities, and experiences bring value to our academic and professional communities, and through mindful and critical reflection, my students have grown to understand this philosophy.