(Title based on the popular vine “indie girl introduces us to her kitchen“)
Since accepting my role as a teacher’s assistant, I have given much thought to how I want to set up and run my class. When teaching first-year composition, there is a paradox wherein you want to teach universal writing skills, but the more you understand writing and writing instruction, the more you know that writing is influenced by genre. This issue is compounded by the fact that I will be teaching hybrid classes, and thus will have to adapt my teaching skill for both physical and digital audiences.
If I need to know how to approach genre, medium, and audience, I want my students to learn how to do so as well. This means that I want to teach them both traditional forms of writing (for example, the rhetorical analysis or personal narrative) as well as nontraditional forms of writing (for example, blog posts and discussion board posts with comments). In accordance with CCCC Position Statements, I would spend more time on the composition aspects of those assignments and less time on technology. In the case of the blogs, they might have to be more theoretical than practical, although I want to give students an introduction into writing and analyzing multimodal works, as per the NCTE Definition of 21st Century Literacies. It’s important to me to break students out of certain thought patterns like the five-paragraph essay and to think of writing in terms of efficacy. When I took creative nonfiction in undergrad, we talked briefly about how the word “essay” comes from the French word for “to try.” Writing is an effort, writing is hard work, and simultaneously, writing is not scary. It seems scary because it is frequently amorphous, but I want to teach students to embrace that creative freedom instead of running from it.
In the current concept of my first-year composition course, I would start with a personal introduction (likely spoken with a required written component, say, an index card with talking points), then transition into digital and informal forms of communication, emphasizing discussion board posts. Next, I would like to have students interview a professor or other non-related adult and write a reflection about the experience, move into a personal narrative, and work towards literature reviews, rhetorical analyses, and research papers. I want reflection to be a consistent component in the course, pushing the students to consider what language they use when and why (WPA Outcomes Statement for First-Year Composition). At no point do I want students to wonder why I required a certain assignment or a certain element of an assignment; the point should be clear from the improvement in writing quality and communication in class.
The line I have trouble walking with designing a first-year composition course is the perfunctory nature of enrollment. I suspect (although I do not know) that students will be there less out of personal interest and more out of a course requirement, and each student who walks into the class has different needs and motivations. I want it to be a useful, preferably even enjoyable, experience, but I am concerned that I will care about student outcomes more than the students themselves.
Time will tell.
“CCCC Position Statements.” Conference on College Composition, 22 October 2018, cccc.ncte.org/cccc/resources/positions.
“Chrish – Indie girl introduces us to her kitchen (Vine).” YouTube, uploaded by Vinestagram, 13 December 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8SU0gFPMwP8.
Pritchard, Mary. “What’s a Hybrid Course.” YouTube, uploaded by Mary Pritchard, 18 January 2013, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uV4shIlNQA8.
“The NCTE Definition of 21st Century Literacies.” Nation Council of Teachers of English, 28 February 2013, http://www2.ncte.org/statement/21stcentdefinition/.
“WPA Outcomes Statement for First-Year Composition.” Council of Writing Program Administrators, 17 July 2014, http://wpacouncil.org/positions/outcomes.html.