Reflection for First Meeting on August 5th

Introduce yourself! Who are you, what is your teaching experience, how do you feel about teaching online?

Hi, I’m Lisa Cole, an adjunct lecturer with the English department at both City Tech and LaGuardia Community College.  I have been teaching since January 2011, primarily composition l & ll, as well as basic writing and The Research Paper courses.  Additionally, I’ve taught upper-level courses such as The Woman Writer, The Novel, Intro to Poetry, The Short Story, and Cultural Identity in American Literature.  Teaching is a second career for me.  My first career was as a legal secretary for 25 years.

I’m currently teaching on Blackboard, and given the choice, I would prefer to teach F2F.  Teaching F2F is a totally different experience for both me and my students.  I can get to know my students better.  With online learning, the whole vibe and energy of the classroom is missing.  Students learn quicker and have a more intense experience live.  It feels like there is a wall between us even during synchronous class meetings as I can’t see everyone.  Nothing can replace the classroom when it comes to learning.  We learn so much by interacting with each other in a classroom environment.  We learn so much just by listening.  I feel students are more inspired to contribute to live classroom conversations than on a discussion board.  Although I must say, having to type up responses on the discussion board helps students to generate lengthier responses than in the classroom and sharpen their writing skills.

Tell us one thing you do in the first weeks of online class to create a sense of engagement and community. 

One of the things I do in the first weeks of an online course to create a sense of engagement and community is to have a synchronous class meeting for the first class meeting to introduce themselves and discuss what their major is and why.  I let them know that I am a graduate of the CUNY, discussing my major/graduate degree and why I decided to major in English.  We also go over the syllabus and course description where I have an introduction to the course and why this particular course is important to their success in college and beyond.  I also say that I am available via Zoom or email to discuss any problems or concerns they may have during and outside of the official office hour.

What is a genre of writing you know well? What are the rules of that genre? How did you learn them?

The genre of writing that I know well is essay writing.  The rules for this genre are easily understood as Dirk details on page 258 of her essay, and even though the rules turned out badly for Dirk, these rules actually turn out to be the perfect vehicle for my students in English 1101 to begin to understand just how an academic essay should be structured.   My students have expressed that once they get the basic structure down, they feel they are free to explore variations in form and style in more advanced writing.

I learned this structure as an undergrad in CUNY (LaGuardia, and Hunter) and it has served me well because by knowing this structure, I was able to write essays on the spot for midterms and finals in class (and beyond), and that is what I tell my students they can do too.  I think it helps that I came through CUNY even as they are going through it now.  I suspect it shows them that someone who began in CUNY taking courses similar to theirs, can become an English professor and writer.  While the essay has only recently gained prominence as one of the major literary genres (following poetry, drama, and fiction), it can be used for the exploration of a variety of ideas.  This can be shown with increased interest in collections of essays as well as magazines like The New Yorker or The Sun, which predominantly use essay form.

Having started by modeling examples in rhetorical textbooks that I was given, as I went further in my student experience, I found myself more involved in reading longer essays for pleasure.  I was enamored with Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman as well as Woolf’s musings on “Shakespeare’s Sister.”  Readings such as these led me into my specialization in Victorian Literature with a focus on women writers.  Presently, I am catching up on the essays of James Baldwin comparing them to the essays of Ta-Nehisi Coates, which are incredibly relevant in considering the racial unrest that presently faces our country and which I comment on in my classes (utilizing some of the essays) in order to make the classes both contemporary and involving for my students using issues that concern them.

2 thoughts on “Reflection for First Meeting on August 5th

  1. Jennifer Sears

    Hi Lisa,
    Thanks for this reflection! Your discussion of learning to write an essay interests me because you emphasize how you found this useful, and it is clearly the usefulness that you wish to pass on to your students. You also show how learning this form led you to other writers, such as Wollstonecraft and Woolf. I think discussing those paths in class is important, showing how interest-fueled research leads to more research. And….that research can be fun. I’ve also used Ta-Nehisi Coates and James Baldwin in my classes. Letter to My Son (Coates) and Letter to My Nephew (Baldwin) seem to speak to one another and are both important reads that are so relevant for everyone right now.

  2. Carrie Hall

    Lisa, I miss teaching in person too. Obviously, this is the right decision, but as I said, I miss the f2f interaction.

    I encourage you to think about the specific types of “essay.” As you probably know, the genre comes from the word “try,” when de Montaigne decided to write some experiments in the 16th century. That is to say, its origins were not as rule-based as we sometimes teach it today– it was originally an experimental form. And even within the academic essay, scientific essays have much different rules than history essays than English essays than psychology essays and so forth. All of these don’t even have a thesis! Some have a hypothesis– and in the narrative, there often is no thesis, or the thesis can be implied. For this reason, it’s still good for students to look at the rules of the genre (which are always inextricably tied to audience and purpose). I’m sure you talk about these things! It sounds like you’ve gotten your students to do great work and you have a lively, community-based classroom. Here’s to hoping we’ll be back in those rooms soon.


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