My teaching philosophy is founded in my experiences with teachers who valued my literacy while introducing me to the literacy of the academy. My teaching and my scholarship are influenced equally by my experiences as a non-traditional undergraduate student at a small liberal arts university in rural Texas and at a small private university in Dallas. Each of these universities and the professors I studied under inform the way in which I teach my own students.
My goal in the classroom is to provide an environment where my students can begin to work through difficult texts through their writing. Each student has a unique story to tell and brings unique experiences to the university. My goal as a writing teacher is to use these experiences as a springboard to the language of the academy. Through the teaching of writing and critical reading, I want to provide students an additional rather than a replacement language. I want to provide them access to the language of the academy while enabling them to critique that language. Lisa Delpit writes, “To act as if power doesn’t exist is to ensure that the power status quo remains.” One of my goals in teaching is to introduce my students to this language of power while enabling them to feel comfortable deconstructing that language. I seek to enable students to begin thinking of writing as a tool through which they can interact with the university and the ideas they will be introduced to here and continue to interact with ideas and texts after they leave the university.
If, as Deborah Brandt asserts, “Literacy is the energy supply of the Information Age” our students will be both consumers and producers of literacy to an ever increasing extent. Unfortunately students are often not taught to think critically in secondary schools. Therefore, a goal of my teaching is to enable students to begin thinking about their world critically. I do not want to teach students what to think, but teach them to think for themselves. By integrating new literacies into my classroom including fan fiction, gaming, blogging and meme, I hope to make the study of argument and rhetoric more accessible to students who are well versed in these literacies. Each semester I bring in examples of rhetoric and argument including sermons, lyrics from musical artists as diverse as Eminem and Bob Dylan, short stories and poems from writers such as Wilfred Owen and Flannery O’Connor, documentary films such as Food, Inc. and Triumph of the Will. By showing students that rhetoric and argument surround them, I seek to demystify the idea of argument as something only done in court or in a political context. Through teaching writing I hope to show students that they are part of a larger conversation and that by adding their voice they will forever change that conversation.
Joan Didion in her essay “Why I Write” argues that writing is in itself an act of imposing one’s own will on another, that writing is an aggressive act, even a sort of bullying. I want to provide my students the courage to stand up to the will of other writers while allowing them to feel as though they have the right to their voices heard. I want to value their literacy while providing them with entrée into the literacy of the academy.
Our students arrive at the university with varied writing abilities. In my first-year writing classroom, my primary goal is to serve as a facilitator and guide for students and introduce them to the conversation of the academy. I accomplish this by scaffolding reading and writing assignments that encourage students to think and write critically. I believe there is value in students learning how to not only read the texts in the classroom, but to also develop the ability to read the world around them. I believe that reading and writing skills can be utilized in the service of critical thinking skills development. Even if a student is not going to be an English major, future employers will require they be able to read and write effectively and think critically. In my classroom, I help students see the connection between reading and writing critically and the development of analytical skills.
I believe the first-year writing classroom should be a safe place where students can begin to work through difficult texts, develop and hone their writing skills, learn to think critically about the world around them and begin the conversation with the world that will span their whole lives.