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Teaching

a Composition Class: Combine


and Conquer by Lad Tobin

Tobin again does an excellent job of
matching form with content in the way he
opens up his essay with a personal selfexamination set in scene. I really
appreciated the (somewhat embittered)
empathy towards the students, and the
honesty about his position as a teacher.
This seems particularly relevant to myself
and how, for the first time, I will soon be
teaching my own class. This surely is both
a nerve-wracking experience and a sort of
ego trip. Instead of ignoring that, though,
Tobin addresses the way that teachers
need to deal with their selves, as well, and
can co-op their own limitations into
different teaching models. Again, Tobin is
wonderful when he actually (and clearly)
presents a number of different models.
While I might have my own preference
towards a less authoritative model (I
think it would be especially hard to apply
the metaphor of parent/child to myself
and my students when I might be less
than five years older than some of them),
Tobin never advocates for sticking with
one, or adopting a single teaching method.
Rather, the teacher can adapt and
oscillate between methods of selfpresentation and teaching style. I feel like
Ive already seen that in the instructors
here at boot camp, where some parts of
the class are spent in a circle having a
large group discussion, others in smaller
less mediated groups, and even straight
lecturing when necessary. I think the key
when doing this in an actual classroom
will be to keep some things consistent
for instance, always allowing
participation and the sharing of ideas. The
attention that Tobin gives to students and
their role in the class seems crucialthe
class, after all, is for them. This is
especially important in a composition

class where the student must be aware of


their own agency as a writer.

REFLECTION

The comments on my response
(although anonymous) are pretty
synonymous with what I think teacherstudent textual communication should
look like: in the same language, using
non-evaluative expressions and
engaging the ideas. Tobin himself
implicitly advocates for this sort of
communication in his piece on
Process Pedagogy, in the
conversational tone and anecdotal
form he adopts. He approaches me
the readeron my terms and in a
language that relates to me as a
teacher, a human being, and not a
theoretician.























Made Not Only in Words by Kathleen


Yancey

The tectonic changes that Yancey opens
her essay up with brings a lot to mind: the
sound of stones grinding against each
other, the sight of newly sprung oceans
and mountains. Its an apt metaphor for
what she goes on to write, describing how
the technology behind composition
cannot be ignoredand how, instead, it
should be utilized to its maximum effect,
creating all new modes of composition
(that includes the visual, auditory, and
maybe, one day, the olfactory).
Composing, after all (according to James
Porter) is both the medium and the
technology. Yanceys own ideas are
challenging to my own (maybe) outdated
view of composition as still bound in
words and paper, whereas according to
Yancey the screen is the language of the
vernacular. This doesnt exactly change
the way I want to write myself, but it has
reoriented what I see that I must do as an
instructor, and further theorized the
importance and position of opportunity
people are in today with their newfound
access to technology. As Yancey says,
there are newly imagined communities,
and a public of writing that students
have to now how to utilize and be
encouraged to use (especially since
theres a good chance they are already,
through Facebook, Twitter, etc.). Still, I
think there is a lot that has not yet been
done with what new technologies have
given us, especially in terms of
storytelling. Yancey doesnt go far into
that, but as language changes, the kinds of
narratives we can construct will have to
change too. As a writer, this is daunting
but also exciting. Especially with the
increased circulation of composition
that she writes about and how something
like the Internet can not only put a text in

conversation with another medium, but


can also be put into conversation with the
text itself as form and content
complement each other. The new way we
can envision technology and the uses of
technology only furthers these
conversations, and further supports the
Process of writing that weve been
talking so much about.

REFLECTION

In Dr. Coxwell-Teagues notes on my
notes on Yanceys piece, she draws
attention to the way I was challenged
by the piecein my understanding of
what composition isand how that
was Yanceys intent. This note itself got
me thinking even more about the
mutable definition of composition
and how reflective of language-at-large
this kind of thinking is. Like
composition, language is fluid.


Remix: Introduction by Lawrence Lessig



In a way similar to Price, Lessing invokes
her own ideasin this case, her
championing of remixingby
appropriating both personal anecdotes,
and other stories outside of herself, to
show what can be achieved when not
limited by constrains such as tight,
inflexible copy right law. What an
appalling and galling law suit she starts
withIm shocked, really, that a heartless
corporation like Universal pursues
litigation based on principle and not
purely monetary gain. Lessing spends the
first part of her introduction mostly
evoking frustration and disappointment
in the bureaucratic mashugana that
occurs when trying to compose in the
post-modern vein (Im looking at you,
Yoko). What Im even more interested in,
though, are the examples of musical
composition that she references in the
second halfthe way that form has
embraced collaboration and is making
some truly amazing things because of it.
This does make me wonder why
literature is not this wayis it really
because of traditional models of the lone
genius? Or because its so hard to conjoin
strands of language from separate minds?
Because language, by nature, strives to
have tangible meaning? Or, really, is it due
to the institutions that literature still
largely comes out ofthe academy, an
implicitly institutional and hierarchical
construct; publishing houses bent on
monetary gain? Its hard to say, but
language itself must have something to do
with itfourstones appropriation of
Silvia0s music is especially indicative of
this in the way it divorced the music from
language and tangible meaning while still
being something beautiful that connects
to the listener. Nevertheless, as Lessing
would have it, we ought to consider these

collaborative impulses in our own


creativity, no matter what the form.

REFLECTION
While I certainly find credence in a lot of
the collaborative elements of composition
weve talked about in class and in the
readingsand was especially interested
in Lessigs examples of musical
compositionI do still think there is
something fundamentally solitary about
writing (or at least the kind of writing
that Im interested in doing) and
dialectical in the way that writing is for
communication. In a note on my
response, someone asked if what I
mentioned was really a struggle and I
really think it isand a meaningful
struggle as well.

Revision Strategies of Student Writers and


Experienced Adult Writers by Nancy
Sommers
My immediate reaction to the title of this
piece was one of prickly suspicion.
Experienced Adult Writers? What are the
qualitative measures of such? And why does
the dynamic already seem to be tilted
towards debasing Student Writers? Ive
quoted Carver before in this class, but Ill do
it again: Were just rank beginners.
Always. Nevertheless, Sommers raises
important points (that are especially
pertinent when thinking about the amount of
revision that went into Carvers stories
outside of his control). The most important
of which is the differentiation between
writing and speechand the relative
benefits writing enables being untethered
from everything other than words. Why is it
then that writing is often undermined by this
treatment as a linear process and the
avoidance of real, recursive revision?
Sommers shows the stigma amongst
students around the actual word revision,
and the sort of misinterpretation that this is a
follow up phase of writing that is mostly
concerned with word choice. Since were all
beginners, we shouldnt then be using a
thesaurus to fancy up our speech, forcing the
reader to find and open an equally heavy
bookthe dictionary. The Experienced
Writers are, however, shown to have a
grasp of this importance in the way their
concern in revision takes both form and
audience into account. (Although of course,
Sommers does not go into detail what the
paradigm for this Experienced Writer is.)
Relating on a personal note, one of the key
things I find necessary for writing and
revision is precisely what one of the
Experienced Writers cites: never fall in
love with what youve written. Stephen
King says the exact same thing in his book
On Writing. His advice is to put a work

away for a few months, to forget what its


about, to emotionally detach your ego from
the work. I always do this in my own
writing, returning only when I have a clearer
head and cooler eye to excise what needs to
go. Cleverness is never bold and, like
Sommers claims, good writing disturbs.
That is what I aim for in my own work.

REFLECTION

In a note on my response, Erin asked if Id
developed any strategies to help students
understand the conception of revision
that Sommers advocates for in her piece.
And I have! In one of the lessons I
designed for my internship, I did an
exercise in radical revision where the
studentsafter workshopping a vignettestructured writing exercise with their
peersexcised everything but a single
sentence from each of their vignettes.
This allowed them to really hone in on
what was effective in their writing and to
understand how necessary it is to cut
what might be construed as good writing
out of a piece for the better of the whole.

Ranking, Evaluating and Liking: Sorting


Out Three Forms of Judgment by Peter
Elbow

Elbows piece was pretty much preaching
to the choir. It reminded me of my college
entrance essay: an edict against grades.
Now, thinking from the teachers
perspective, I agree with Elbows
arguments against ranking all the more
that system really sets up the student to
orient their goals towards achieving this
token mark of success at the cost of so
much more. This is all the more dubious
in a class like composition, where, as
Elbow bluntly states: Readers dont
agree. And, as he goes on to explain, this
is the point of reading, writing, this whole
cyclical venture. Unlike classroom
mathematics, or the mere regurgitation of
facts, there will always be a subjective
element when assessing writing. Elbow
references students own insecurities
with writingthe way they might not like
the lack of clear-cut answers. 2+2=4 is a
reliable, and comforting thing to think.
But even mathematics, as its discussed
later in the Belanoff essay, isnt cut and
dry. The stepping-stones in a
mathematicians education might have
many classes where assessment is, but
really, this is only building towards the
more theoretical. Physics is, after all, the
end game of mathematics.
Understandably, a completely grade free
class might be hard in a place like FSU,
but that doesnt mean there is not room
for work that is evaluated as opposed to
graded. The most practical thing I took
away was the importance of
incorporating free writing activities that
are never graded, if even looked at.
Allowing and encouraging the student to
exercise outside of the parameters of
grade-driven work seems supremely

effective, so long as the writing is never


prompted by a contrivance.

REFLECTION

Elbows article was, as I said in my
response, music to my ears and
directly in line with my own teaching
philosophy. I really appreciated the
direct examples of how to get at nongrade based writing in the classroom
namely, free writingand felt all the
more confident in this practice after
Dr. Coxwell-Teagues note on my notes
that her students themselves find this
method very effective. The best thing
about it, as Dr. Coxwell-Teague cites, is
how generative it is for the students.