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Amy Sawford

Hello colleagues,

This is an incredibly delayed introduction. So sorry! My name is Amy Sawford. I have been teaching at CityTech since 2017 and this semester, I am teaching two asynchronous sections of Comp 1.

I didn’t grow up loving to read. I loved books, having them, touching them (and smelling them), but I wasn’t a reader. I’d spend hours in a library, but I wasn’t reading. I wasn’t very studious either, but that’s a story for another time. I have ALWAYS loved books, but I didn’t love reading until I was in college. Maybe it was a professor’s influence, maybe it was boredom, I don’t really know…but I began to read often. These days, I rely on audiobooks to keep up.  Writing, on the other hand, was something I loved for as long as I can remember. I have stacks of poems and comics I created a long time ago aging in a box somewhere. I wrote a novel for a high school project when I was sixteen. I loved writing. I wasn’t very good at it, but I did it anyway. I’m still not very good at it, but I’m always writing.

I have been teaching in higher ed since 2012. This year, I have entered the realm of public schools and I teach a high school during the day and keep up with my asynchronous college courses in the evenings. I think my teaching style is laid back and my patience is an ally in the classroom.

I have recently relocated to my hometown in South Florida after spending 12 years in Brooklyn. I miss many things about NYC, but I am also happy to be near family. I have a two-year-old daughter and a three-year-old Boston Terrier. When I am not working, I spend time with my family and play video games with my husband.

For Nov 3

Now we turn to the curriculum for 1121!

Originally, the 1121 curriculum focused heavily on the term “discourse communities,” in which we had students read the article “Understanding Discourse Communities” (which you’ll be reading this week) and we used the term a lot in our assignments. However, we found that in doing this, students’ writing spent a lot of time just defining the term instead of focusing on the communities they are a part of and the language of those communities. So with this in mind, we no longer write assignments that focus on the term “discourse community.” Instead, theories of Discourse Community structure the entire semester. Of course, it is up to you how much you want to focus on the term itself.

For this week’s asynchronous course, please do the following (by Nov 3):

  1. Watch THIS SLIDESHOW about the final portfolios. I have opened up a discussion board about the final portfolios on Perusall (it is under “chats: general discussion”)  Please post there if you have any questions. You may also email me, but I prefer you use Perusall if you can because the whole group will be able to see any questions/ answers. Please note: this is the first time I’m using the Perusall discussion function. It’s an experiment!
  2. Read and Annotate “Understanding Discourse Communities” and discourse community slideshow (you don’t really have to annotate this part unless you want to. Just give it a look!) on Perusall. At some point in your Perusall comments, please reflect for a paragraph or more  about how you feel about incorporating these theories into your teaching. (It may be awkward to do it this way, but we can keep it private on Perusall) Do you think you’ll keep the term “Discourse Community” in the background or you’ll talk to the students about it specifically? Do you think this theory is useful to teaching? Why or why not?
  3. We will do a revised version of the day one assignment for 1121 students together. It is as follows:
    • First, watch “(un)Learning my Name” by Mohamed Hassan
    • Second, write a new post on padlet about your own name. (I will email you this link so it will be a private page.) You can do it in whatever way you want!  You can talk about the origins of your name, questions you have about your name, or a time you tried to change your name– or something else entirely.  As part of it, you can add images or links to videos… whatever you think will help us get to know you and your experiences better. You can even add a link to a video. Or record an audio file and link to it. Or draw something and upload the image. Whatever you want. Remember: we’re all about composing in the 21st century, so feel free to do what you think would be interesting for us to see/hear/learn about. The idea is to get you thinking about how those issues affect you. How they’ve helped shape who you are.
    •  Read over 1121 UNIT ONE. If you have any questions about it, ask them on the 1121 unit one message board on Perusall (“chats: general discussion”)
    •  We will discuss this briefly when we zoom on Nov 10, but we will mostly focus on 1121 Unit 2 unless there is massive concern/ confusion.

For Weds, Sept 29

Hi everyone! Great meeting you all today.

For next week’s meeting, we will be discussing “Navigating Genre” by Kerry Dirk. You can find it on our Perusall site. Please read and annotate before we meet.  Please also finish reading and annotating the Ellen Carillo piece from Bad Ideas about Writing, also on

We will meet next Weds, Sept 29, using the same Zoom link as before.

Please note: if you haven’t done so yet, you can still do the asynchronous work for the first week of our PD (outlined HERE) .

Also, I’ve moved our schedule for the semester under the “Course Materials” heading.  You can find it HERE

Shitty First Introduction (with apologies to Anne Lamott)

Hello Colleagues! I’ve delayed writing this post because I kept wanting to wait until I had time to write a really good and thoughtful introduction. But somehow I never found that time and now it’s Friday and I want to get this posted, so I’m going to take a page from Annie Lamott in “Shitty First Drafts” and start my participation in the PD seminar by just writing something, never mind making it perfect, in the few minutes I have between dinner and bedtime reading with my kids.

So my name is Denell. Weird name, I know–pronounced sort of like Janelle but it’s actually a combo of my maternal grandparents’ names, Daniel and Eleanor. My conscious perception of myself as a reader began when I was maybe four years old and my other grandmother Evelyn, a history professor turned children’s librarian, read The Hobbit out loud to me. I was blown away then by how reading (okay, being read to) expanded my world, how Tolkien’s words created a world whole in my mind. All these years later, reading can still blow my mind. Yesterday I reread James Baldwin’s “A Talk to Teachers” in preparation for class and was challenged anew by his urgent call for transformative teaching that disrupts the status quo, while also inspired by his eloquent description of a world that is “larger, more daring, more beautiful and more terrible” than anything anyone has ever said about it.

That lifelong love of reading led me to a Ph.D. in English and underlies my work in the writing classroom. I’m interested in exploring the connection between reading and writing, and in developing pedagogically-sound ways to emphasize reading in the writing classroom. I think that the turn away from literature in composition circles was a useful corrective but has sometimes been taken too far to mean not only avoiding a focus on literary analysis (which I agree is not appropriate in FYW courses), but also de-emphasizing reading assignments altogether. I’d like to see reading as an area of mutual interest among comp rhetoric scholars and literary specialists, rather than a line that divides English departments.

Multimodal composing is not my strength, but in an attempt to follow Carrie’s instructions I’m attaching a recent picture of myself (I’m the one with the straight brown hair) with my friend Emily and a dozen Wellfleet oysters.

Introduction: Megan Behrent

Hi all,

I have been teaching at City Tech since Fall 2014. Before that, I taught at Franklin D. Roosevelt High School in Brooklyn for 15 years. FDR H.S. is a 3000-4000 person comprehensive public high school that serves a large population of emergent bilinguals with students from 70 countries and 37 language groups. Most of our students attended CUNY schools after graduation, so the City Tech student body feels familiar to me. I also taught night classes at Touro College in East New York, and during my very early years as a graduate student, I taught in the writing program at Stony Brook University. My work as a teacher also led me into the world of teacher activism, as well as writing about issues related to teaching, pedagogy, and education policy.

As a reader and a writer, I have broad, interdisciplinary interests, in part due to my experience as a teacher and activist. In addition to writing about education and pedagogy, I write about literature and social movements and the intersection between race, gender, sexuality and class in twentieth and twenty-first century American literature. My current book project is an intellectual history of Audre Lorde and Adrienne Rich with a focus on their friendship and their political contributions and legacies. That they met as instructors in the SEEK Program at City College in the era of Open Admissions was part of the spark for the initial research that inspired the project.

Particularly important to me as a writer is the collaborative process of working with my writing group—a group of women from CUNY that began under the auspices of the Faculty Fellowship Publication Program (FFPP). We have been invited to share our experience in several venues and continue to work, write and learn together.

Pictured below are my teaching and editorial assistants: Ella and Meowie. They interrupt zoom events frequently, but are a model of collaboration despite serious differences in learning and communication styles.

Work for our first asynchronous class!

Hi everyone!  I just sent you an email about our scheduling. We’ll have it sorted soon, I promise, but I want to get us started, so this week, we’ll work asynchronously and in two weeks, we will meet on Zoom (we are off next week on Weds and Thurs due to Yom Kippur)

Before we get started, you will need to make sure you’ve signed up for this site (if you haven’t done so already) and that you’ve signed in to our “class” on I sent instructions via email.  Once you have done those things, please do the following:

By Friday, Sept 17:

  1. Write a blog post (not a comment but a stand-alone post) introducing yourself as a reader, writer, teacher and… a person!  Please include some type of visual, if possible. HERE is a video explaining how to write a blog post on Open Lab if you need help. Videos are extra-great, but not required. Please let us know what subjects you would like to cover in this seminar. Feel free to also add any questions or concerns you have about this PD or this semester there.
  2. Complete THIS EDPUZZLE.  Edpuzzle is a program that allows students to watch a video but asks them to answer questions as they go. This video outlines the theory and pedagogy behind the model courses. But please note! It is about 25 minutes long. With questions, this will take you about 40 minutes! IF YOU CLOSE THE WINDOW BEFORE YOU FINISH, YOU WILL LOSE YOUR WORK! I suggest you try to do this in one sitting, if possible.

( HERE is a link to the slideshow (without me talking!) But please do the Edpuzzle!) 

By Weds Sept 22 (in preparation for our Zoom meeting): 

  1. Read and annotate the reading “Teaching for Transfer” on our Perusall site.  Once you are signed in for the site (using the instructions from our email) it should be fairly self-explanatory. Instructions are on the assignment.
  2. Read over your peers’ introductions on this site and make a few comments!

Please email me at with any questions! If you leave them as emails or questions on this site I may not see them for a while.

Welcome to PD Fall 2021

Hi everyone and welcome to the PD for Fall 2021. Happy to have you!

First things first: Please join this site HERE–just click “Join Site” Under the picture of Viola Swamp (I hope some of you have read Miss Nelson is Missing!)

Second, please fill out the Doodle poll HERE. Keep in mind that while this is for next week, the meeting will be recurring (though not every week.) Once we have a day and time set, I’ll send out a syllabus.  We’ll meet sometimes synchronously on Zoom and other times asynchronously.  Please note that Doodle has three options: yes, no and “if necessary.” Please use the third option for times you are begrudgingly available.

Keep in mind, you are paid for the PD (30 hours at your non-teaching rate.)  This is based on attendance and  contribution. Basically, this means that you show up, read the articles and write the blog posts more-or-less on time (so we can discuss them!)

There will also be a “bigger” contribution to the department, which we’ll talk about, which will either be a new unit that fits into the model course curricula, a tutorial for a educational technology, or anything else that corresponds with the model courses that you think might benefit the department at large. It’s not a huge amount of work and will probably arise naturally out of the work we do together this semester. Please don’t sweat it.

Lastly, I’ve made Unit One overview videos if they would be helpful for you.  Here is the overview for Unit One ENG 1101 (Comp 1) and here is the overview for Unit One 1121 (Comp 2) 

“Navigating Genres” and Lowering The Stakes Of Writing

I first assigned Dirk’s article “Navigating Genres” to a class I was teaching at another institution called “Writing Across The Disciplines.” The goal of the class was to have students explore and research how writing varies based on the field they are planning on going into, so recognizing each discipline-specific style of writing as a type of “genre,” as Dirk describes them, worked well. But I realized when I started using the model syllabus this semester for my 1121 course at City Tech that there was a lot of overlap between Dirk’s ideas on genre and discourse communities, the main similarity being that we write and communicate differently in different contexts, and through this we can start to conceptualize concepts like audience and purpose.  Through this overlap, I can see the benefits of assigning an article like Dirk’s to a composition course, and how it might work to compliment concepts like discourse communities. 


As Dirk states in the piece, one of her goals is to take genre “often quite theoretical in the field of rhetoric and composition” and make it “a bit more tangible.”  It is this process of simplifying something typically understood as abstract that could benefit students in composition courses. The biggest takeaway for students from Dirk’s ideas on genre might be a “lowering of the stakes” when engaging with the daunting essay writing process.  Partnered with raising genre awareness is a heightened awareness of the fact that we are all writing all the time. When one is able to recognize that, the act of writing on demand becomes less intimidating, as one realizes they are going through the writing process in different ways everyday. With this awareness that we are all writing all the time across genres, students can begin to pay attention to how they already “orient” themselves towards the expectations of genres via text messages, tweets and even asking their roommates to do the dishes. Dirk illustrates this (in terms that I think would resonate with students) when she says “Because you know how these genres function as social actions, you can quite accurately predict how they will function rhetorically: Your joke should generate a laugh, your email should elicit a response, and your updated Facebook status should generate comments from your online friends.” The writing process in a composition class, then, is transformed from some “foreign and weird task that your professor just wants you to do” into a different version, or genre, of what you already know how to do on some level. In this way, students can begin to view themselves as active writers, rather than “non-writers required to take a writing class.” 


Furthermore, genre awareness lowers the stakes by letting you know that people have done what you are doing before, and therefore you can look to these previous examples as formulas for success. Dirk quotes Amy Devitt saying, “Genres develop because they respond appropriately to situations that writers encounter repeatedly….once we recognize a recurring situation, a situation that we or others have responded to in the past, our response to that situation can be guided by past responses.” When I’ve taught this reading in the past, the metaphor I use to explain this is building a car. Because writing does not produce “material results,” it can sometimes feel as though there are no directions or instruction manuals that you can follow, in the same way as if you were building a vehicle. Raising genre awareness allows students to see that there are sets of directions available to them when it comes to writing. Once the directions existed to build a car, it would be insane to try and start from scratch! Similarly, students can begin to realize that they do not have to enter the writing process blindly, but can rather identify the genre in which their writing and locate successful “directions” left behind by previous writers.