This has been one tough semester for a couple of teaching reasons. One is just my 1101 class itself; I’ve complained enough about them but Robert suggested I find some of the work people are doing about the rhetoric of silence, which has now become my favorite new feminist schtick — how to turn passive-aggressive into transgressive.
But that’s a digression. The students have actually begun to do some good work on their Inquiry projects. Their Literature Reviews are due Friday: citation plus mini-rhetorical analysis on their most interesting sources, which was a compromise on my part — I wanted a list of everything they looked at, cited or not, along with a brief rhetorical analysis so they (and I) could analyze them as a whole. Yes, that sounds like an annotated bibliography, but it’s done with a set of questions about rhetorical situational analysis. While my students are still a bit befuddled with the “don’t give me a book report” approach of “Start with questions, not with answers that you’re trying to defend,” some of what they’re turning up has been surprising them, especially since a rhetorical analysis requires them to think specifically about who the rhetor is and what the larger context is, something most of them have been able to avoid so far in “research papers.” So I consider that a win on a lot of levels.
The other issue I’ve had is that, like Carrie, I’m tackling 1101 and not 1121 (although she has both), so I’ve had to try to filter the assignments through a first-term lens. My students are with a couple of exceptions very young, right out of high school, and stuck in that liminal space between two modes of existence. Liminality is, in my opinion, usually a good thing because it means anything goes, at least to a certain extent, but it can be terribly confusing. [In a way, I think we’re all in a bit of a liminal space as we go through this “experimental” experience, examining the old assignments and activities and approaches in light of wanting to teach more for transfer and about writing.]
So in some ways, I feel like the first half of the course was, if not wasted, then at least a churning mess with silent students not giving me any feedback (and my having to drag work out of them) and me tap dancing around the course materials. Early this week I was, in fact, questioning both my own sanity and my ability to teach (which seems to happen every term for the past however-many-years I’ve been teaching). But after a couple of conversations, I feel like I may have finally gotten a handle on at least the inquiry/genre assignment, as I mentioned above. And, of course, that’s as we’re now going to be re-arranging things in both 1101 and 1121 for the Fall, which is typical, I suppose.
At any rate, I’ve requested an 1121 class for the Fall to go along with my Learning Community 1101 (which is a whole other issue: how do we do our new curriculum and still do what we’re expected to do for FYLC?), so I’m hoping to get more clarity as we go toward the end of this PD and set up for next year. My real bottom line is that I feel supported in my quest to teach a composition class that’s actually about writing, something I’ve generally had to do under the radar up to now, and that’s a wonderful feeling, liminal dislocation and all.