The Terrible, Horrible, No Good….

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.

6 thoughts on “The Terrible, Horrible, No Good….

  1. Kim

    Jackie, I was really comforted by your and Carrie’s posts, since I spent the last weeks of March/early April feeling awful about my teaching abilities and my class. I think you have some really unique insights about the difference between students going into ENG 1101 and ENG 1121, and how we might bridge the gaps between the two classes through genre-awareness and analysis……

  2. Carrie Hall

    Well, let’s talk about FYLCs. I’m doing one too. That’s something we’ll be working on. I do like the idea of having an assignment that’s a literature review/ rhetorical analysis (which would lead into a paper on a topic) but this is just a kernel of a seed of an idea in my head, so I’m interested to hear how it works for you.

    1. Jackie Blain Post author

      A general thought about Literature Review/Rhetorical Analysis/Annotated Bibliography/etc. They’re pretty much the same thing, at least in my brain. But what I like about combining the Lit Review and the RA, instead of calling it an Annotated Bib, is that the students have to confront the idea of audience and context, and not just content. I don’t want to necessarily separate the two, but some of the reading I’ve been doing about student reading makes the point that we can introduce students to more than one way to read something, close (content) reading being one, rhetorical (analysis) reading being another, and neither is better than the other; they’re simply different. That was an interesting distinction for me to make in my head — more tools to help students engage with the readings.

  3. Leigh Gold

    I really like this image of liminal spaces Jackie because this I think also allows for an opening of sorts. i am thinking about the Wardle text that we discussed last week–specifically, we can use this “in between” space to allow for new kinds of writing and reading to “be experienced” yet also allow students to bring some prior knowledge into this new space. My point is that when we inhabit these liminal spaces, we are perhaps more open to re-thinking what we know, looking at “things” differently, willing to let go of past structures, etc. It is in these spaces therefore that students can feel more willing to try new things, break old habits, etc Maybe from the liminal is indeed where discovery can emerge!

    1. Leigh Gold

      PS: I know this is why you used it (liminal), but my point too was thank you–if that was not clear in my free associative response. I find it helpful in terms of what we are doing in this pilot adventure as you suggest–experimentation, liminal spaces, openings, flexibility, not knowing, the novice, openness–these are some of the words that seem to be useful and that connect to a lot of our reflections and comments…(I am collecting some words for further reflections)

  4. SSchmerler

    I love the “tap dancing” image. I do a lot of that. I, too, will want to discuss FYLC if you guys are up for it. I’ve signed on for Black Theater and I wouldn’t mind some insights (Carrie, Jackie…).

    My gut says there isn’t a big disconnect or challenge. The new curriculum / genre awareness / rhetorical analysis will fuse nicely, but yeah, I wanna glean… : )

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