Author Archives: Robert Lestón

Reading for Next PD Wed., 3/20

Hi folks,
We’ll be reading this piece by Reiff and Bawarashi. Rather than writing individual blog posts as a response, please posts your responses below in the comments section. We’d be interested to hear the connections between the reading and your own teaching this semester.

Our meeting is scheduled in the Dean’s conference room, not in the President’s room. If anything changes I’ll be sure to let you know. See you Wed!

Compiling a List of Genres

Hi Folks,

So I’m working on compiling a list of usable, visible, practical genres for our students. I’d appreciate if you’d add any you can think of in the comments.


Spotify “About the Artists
Police Blotter  Brooklyn Daily
Death Announcements
Urban dictionary entries and Sample Sentences
Mug writing
SNL Weekend Update Jokes
Movie/Show synopsis (NYT Watching)
You Write the Cartoon Caption
Questions and Answers to Judge John Hodgson (A Twist on the Advice Column)


New York Times Best of Late Night
New York Times Morning Briefings
Book Back Cover Copy
Time Out New York News
Our Favorite Songs Playlist

Game Guides and Walkthroughs
Band Interviews 


Never Innocent

“This should be apparent that a way of teaching is never innocent. Every pedagogy is imbricated in ideology, in a set of tacit assumptions about what is real, what is good, what is possible, and how power ought to be distributed.”

This is the underlying premise not only for Berlin’s article but for his entire obra. Becoming conscious of the fact that whatever we do is linked to the social construction and distribution of power and disempowerment is the essential lesson, for me, from Berlin. When we talk of transfer, half the battle is becoming conscious of our and our students intentionality. Like transfer, Berlin’s key message of becoming conscious of the ideological imbrication of our pedagogies is also half the battle.

If we teach a course with a sense of managerial consciousness where students are being trained to become good servants of corporations so they can increase profit for the companies, move up the corporate latter, and ensure their own financial survival, that’s fine. I get that. Students have to get jobs. But I believe that we have a charge as instructors to attend to civic responsibility, and so if we are teaching students how to survive in a corporate environment without teaching them the role that corporations have in the imbalance of power and the exploitation of people, then we are not attending to the civic component. Whatever we teach carries an ideological implication with it. That should be basic, but it’s not always.

Fortunately, for our little group, we collectively seem to already understand that, but that may not be true for a lot of people who are teaching composition. This essay was published 31 years ago, and I think that as a group we have likely internalized much of what goes on here. Compositionists don’t have these discussions anymore (thank goodness, actually), but these types of cognitive mappings were being written when there was fierce competition for the professionalization of composition. It all started with Richard Fulkerson’s “The Four Philosophies of Composition.” It’s good that the field has moved past it, but there’s some historical relevance that’s good to be aware of. Unless you want to take a semiotic critical- pedagogy approach to composition, something that a  lot of people have done, Berlin may be  best read as a glance into the history of the professional formation of composition studies and less as a practical approach.

I would say that I find his description on 489 of subject formation is a pretty good precusor to what we understand today as intersectionality.








Last, I did want to mention one delightful reference Berlin made when he referenced William Lutz and “English Composition as a Happening.” I couldn’t say what Geoff Sirc, who championed Lutz, might say about our own curriculum development revolving around transfer, but if you  get a chance and if you are of the artsy incilination, check out Sirc’s book as well as his other pieces. Sirc’s book has been made downloadable, so that’s a nice development of events.

First PD Meeting–Feb 13 in N321

Just a reminder that our first PD meeting is next week 2/13 at 3 in N321. This is the conference room in the Dean’s office. We won’t have any reading due that day, but we would like to hear from you in writing about how the first two weeks have gone in 1121. You can post these to this website before we meet on the 13th. Go ahead and post these as new blog posts. Use the category “Teaching.”

Cool Word Press Stuff

Grade Plugin

I just discovered that when you comment on a blogpost, you have the option to post private comments and also to assign a grade. I know somebody (Jackie or Carrie?) mentioned that in our last meeting, but that’s a really great feature that we can put to use.

In addition, Jackie’s site has a plugin that will allow students to check their grades. I don’t see how to set this up, but another awesome option.

Library Search

I saw on Jackie’s site that you can do a CUNY Onesearch library search directly from the OpenLab. Is this a plugin?


Camera Angles

This whole MAGA Covington Highschool controversy has me thinking about the multimedia project. It might be worth discussing camera-perspective bias with students. There’s an interesting NPR audio bit about this where Steve Inskeep interviews Adam Benforado the author of Unfair.  It’s just a short bit, but it’s a conversation starter. Benforado talks about the tinted lenses that we see the world through, what Kenneth Burke called terministic screens. Anyway, thought it was worth sharing.

This article ain’t no Kynard

“In this way, students not only become writers but also genre theorists, a process that can be well applied wherever they write. This to me seems the purpose and goal for the freshman research paper class.” (136)

This piece works well with Graff, especially considering the mentor texts. There’s rhetorical analysis in there, and so that’s helpful. Finding texts that push outside the boundaries of the traditional research paper that has personal meaning for students is one that I think all can agree with. Not using library sources would be a tough sell, but projects that combine various different kind of sources should be explored. This is a chapter from Writing across the Curriculum where you can find the bibliography.