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Statement of Teaching Philosophy J.

Michael Rifenburg The past seven I’ve had the privilege to teach a wide variety of learners (high school students, honor’s undergraduates, “at risk” college students, specially admitted student-athletes) in a number of institutional settings (private high school, three large state universities in three different states). Despite these experiences, I was not prepared for the class I faced several years ago. This class, an introductory writing class in a diverse southeastern public university, was full of students who had been institutionally labeled as underprepared. As the semester progressed, I learned that most of these students had a defeatist attitude toward academic writing because they were repeatedly told they couldn’t write; they couldn’t properly structure their paragraphs; they couldn’t fully articulate their conclusion. Together, we explored assumptions previous teachers had made about them which led us to exploring the assumptions that constitutes curricular writing, and, in a broader sense, academic literacy. I asked students to develop a list of writing they did out of school—for example, poems, song lyrics, text-messages, and graffiti. Through expanding traditional understanding of writing to account for these forms of expressions, students critiqued the social, cultural, and political assumptions which undergird common understandings of curricular writing. Moreover, students explored synergies and conflicts between their curricular and extracurricular writing and how these synergies and conflicts collide, resulting in students’ own unique literate selves. Agreeing with Bruce McComiskey’s formulation of social-process composition pedagogies as that which “treat critical writing as rhetorical inquiry and political intervention into the cultural forces that construct our subjectivities” (Teaching Composition as a Social Process, 3), I believe the composition classroom is the ideal space for this inquiry and intervention because…. . As such, “teaching people to write,” is as much teaching people to examine these conflicts and synergies between and shifting the writing’s focus depending on audience expectations and rhetorical inquiry. As I attempt to foster these examinations and ask students for expansion notions and actions of writing, I remind myself to teach writing as a “reflective practice.” According to George Hillocks, “reflective practice” not only encourages students to view writing as a recursive process but also invites teachers to revisit and possibly revision classroom assignments to fit more fully with the fluid interactions of the class. Although I enter the classroom with a set of activities for the day, I consistently find that students bring with them unexpected, and beneficial, additions to the class discussion. Adapting writing assignments to fit with these additions leads to student-research in the library, multiple drafts, and revision workshops. Believing audience has a large role in the construction of a text, I ask my students to read and comment on each other’s drafts as well as sit down one-on-one with me. After receiving feedback from multiple—and sometimes disparate—readers, students are faced with the challenging rhetorical task of incorporating multiple layers of feedback into their draft. While I agree with many post-process theorists who argue against a systematic description of writing, I

strive to create an environment in which students can get frequent feedback through small-stake writing assignments which ultimately lead to peer-review drafts and a final draft. Such a method of writing instruction has formed the foundation of the pedagogy I have enacted at the University of Oklahoma over the past four years as a graduate teaching assistant in the department of English and as a lecturer through the Expository Writing Program. I created “Honors English 1213, English Composition II: Appropriating Classical Rhetoric for Contemporary Uses” as a way for students to examine—through secondary readings such as Glenn’s Rhetoric Retold and primary readings such as Isocrates’s Antidosis—the academic literacy’s historical conventions of and who such conventions are designed to serve. The Expository Writing 1213/1223 “Sports and the University,” I designed invited students to grabble with how student-athletes are traditionally represented in popular discourse and how these representations influence the troublesome relationship between athletics and academics at many institutes. Additionally, through expanding our understanding of writing to include other forms of literate activity—such as running a football play—students argued for a (re)interpretation of athletics as a highly discursive space in which individuals formed unique literate selves. Whether the topic of conversation is college football or Aristotle, I strive to illumine for my students how all the forms of literate activity in which they engage impact and inform their academic writing and that writing for the academy, like writing out a text message, requires attention to audience, rhetorical inquiry, and the understanding of one as a literate self.