Even though the semester has not officially ended here at Morehead State University, I am momentarily caught up with grading. Apparently all my students are either eager beavers (turning in things ahead of the due date) or slackers (expletives deleted). While awaiting the grading tsunami headed my way I have decided to work on my summer syllabi (and classes don’t even start until June 4!). This summer I am scheduled to teach an online version of our Morehead Writing Project Summer Institute – while simultaneously attending/leading our on-campus version. This could either be really cool or my head might explode. Stay tuned.
However, planning my month-long journey with both sets of teachers has me thinking about my philosophy of teaching writing. That is, of course, the bottom-line point of the Summer Institute. Our goal is to improve the teaching of writing. We do this, first and foremost, by helping teachers become writers themselves. Teachers who write are better teachers of writing. But what else do we do at the Summer Institute?
We strive to make teachers reflective practitioners. We want teachers to think about, write about, and talk about what they teach and how they teach, but most important of all – why they teach. I don’t mean shaping the minds and future of little (and not-so-little) humans, but specifically why we teach the way we teach and why we teach what we teach as well as how we can do it better. Good teachers are never finished products. Good teachers are always a work-in-progress.
The teacher as writer part is easy. We are working with a great book, Writing Alone And With Others by Pat Schneider, and I have a lot of experience teaching writing and working with NWP to fall back on. However, I am still struggling a bit with the big topics I want to cover. Just as I am a work-in-progress teacher, I find that my philosophy of teaching writing is a work-in-progress. My goals for my writing students clearly reflect my philosophy. My goals for my first-year writing students this semester were:
1. Develop as reflective and self-regulating writer
2. Increase understanding of community and collaboration
However, those goals reflect my lifetime experience as a writer working with other writers, more than a decade experience teaching writing, and three graduate degrees in English/Rhetoric. But how do I, in just four short weeks, help the teachers I’m working develop their own philosophy of the teaching of writing? A few will have had some undergraduate or graduate work in the field of composition and rhetoric and/or theories of teaching writing, but most will have had minimal exposure at best.
I do not want to attempt some sort of crash course covering the theories of teaching writing and a history of composition and rhetoric (that way madness lies) but I do want to bring in some reading as well as my own musings to inspire reflection, writing, and discussion on some key topics. I hope my experienced friends will share what they believe those key topics to be!
I know I want to begin with an exploration of what it means to be a writer and how one becomes a writer. As we will be using Schneider’s book and writing groups then we will have discussion about writing workshop, feedback loops, and so on. However, I need to decide within the next few weeks what other big picture ideas I want to bring to the table. Then, of course, I will need to sort out how much of that I will share through readings and how much through my own words so if you have suggestions for articles that I absolutely must include please let me know.