I woke up this morning thinking that on some levels, the state of our nation is due to rampant anti-intellectualism. So let me just say this: It is not OK to have a president who says, “This foreign policy stuff is a little frustrating” (23 April 2002) and “Rarely is the questioned asked: Is our children learning?” (11 Jan. 2000). It is not OK to have a vice presidential candidate who thinks Africa is a country and not a continent or who believes the First Amendment guarantees the press will not criticize her. Our educational system continues to slip further and further into a pedagogy that fails to inspire and challenge our students. Reform tends to focus on K-12, but I think our colleges and universities need to be rethought — fundamentally. The teachers who work in the K-12 system graduate from these colleges and universities. Why should K-12 change when the places that educate the teachers and administrators keep up the status quo of mediocrity?
I just finished writing my double-entry journal for Kenneth Bruffee’s article, “Collaborative Learning and the ‘Conversation of Mankind,'” one of the readings we’re doing tomorrow in Writing Pedagogy. I asked everybody to do a double-entry journal for one of the Cross-Talk articles and then to do one-paragraph reactions to the remaining three articles we’re discussing.
And it took me probably three times as long to read the article doing the double-entry journal as it would if I just highlighted and penciled in marginal comments. Agh. Of course it takes longer. That’s important information! And I don’t use that information effectively. That is, I’ve taken to using double-entry journals to ensure that students do the reading in my 102 classes, but I think I’m really wasting their potential to build that community of knowledge-makers that Bruffee’s article discusses.
Strange to read Bruffee AND write a double-entry journal AND be aware that double-entry journals can be a hugely effective tool in the Bruffeeian enterprise — and I need to think how to do that. Give enough time. Use journals as part of class conversation. Use journals as springboards for writing. More conversation.
We’ve started the “This I Believe” section of my classes, and so far, I’m inspired by students’ readings of essays they’ve selected from the This I Believe website. Yesterday, folks handed in homework on which they listed three essays they selected: one from the contemporary essays group (these have been recorded on NPR), one from the 1950s group, and one from the essay database organized by topic.
Our discussion in class and a good deal of what students wrote on their homework seemed more substantive, more real. I don’t know how to explain what I mean by that. Maybe — it’s because we’re talking about things that matter.
i didn’t think i’d like twitter… really not. but i do. i’m still curious about it. i like posting. i like that i only have 140 characters. the limit makes this a genre. the twitter-post. nothing else like it. so cool how some folks make it poetic, others mundane — still others, a mish-mash. kinda like a photo with words — these quick shutter flashes that capture one moment, or a small slice of time or thought. fleeting. but pinned down. just for a sec. i’m still trying to figure out a classroom application.what if? what if i don’t figure out the application and just say, “let’s twitter.” and see how students come up with a classroom application. how cool would that be…
Last night we had works-in-progress presentations in the Writing Pedagogy grad class and I was energized by all the good work: Heejoo’s curriculum for teaching writing in a multilingual, multi-level ELL classroom; Angel’s investigation into how teachers’ comments on students’ writing (grades 6-12) affect students’ attitudes towards writing; Ginger’s lesson plans for portfolios in senior high school English using literacy autobiographies; Brad’s analysis of effective teaching for adult learners at a technical college; Amber’s lesson plans and tips for incorporating writing in math, social studies, and science in grades 9-12; Kate’s research into memoir and her writers’ decisions as she constructs her own; Coko’s work on how to help teachers use poetry to teach writing; Amanda’s research journeys into travel writing; Colleen’s guides on how to write book reviews as a way to make reading-writing connections; Wendi’s field studies on early writers and how to help parents use a variety of methods to encourage early reading-writing connections; and my own journeys into the magical realm of how to manufacture time to do the writing one desires.
OK, so I do this really tricky thing. At least, some of my students have called it tricky. After writers do their first timed writing practice or freewriting, I say, “Now we’ll all read aloud what we wrote.” There’s sound pedagogical rationale for this practice. In Peter Elbow and Pat Belanoff’s classic booklet Sharing and Responding, the first kind of response they describe is “Sharing: No Response.” No matter what class it is, after I say we’ll read our writing aloud, I can hear the collective sucking in of breath: “Oh, no. Anything but that!”
But they read. Those who have phobias about public speaking, those who are not sure they want to be that honest, those who worry their language is wrong or will be misunderstood. They read. They stand behind their words. That takes guts. And I admire them.
Classes at Calhoun and UAH started Monday, and I’m getting back into the groove. In ENG 101 on Monday, the freewriting prompt was to write about something you were afraid to do but did anyway. Bridget read this from her freewriting: “Fear is always a door to a breakthrough experience.” Words to live by. And last night in EH 102 in response to the prompt “literature,” Daniel read this: “Literature can be hard core emo.” This has become my favorite description of literature.