My questions to the question of making teaching practicum more rigorous are: Do we have time/energy for that as new TAs? What are the benefits of increasing “rigor” of a practicum? Should rigor be increased only if the practicum is graded? As a new TA in the fall of 2015, I was beginning to negotiate my roles of both teacher and student. I taught, took my own classes, and attended practicum once a week. Oh, and spent hours a week grading. Our practicum serves as more of a reflective space where we share, ask questions, and go over the curriculum and activities for the coming classes and weeks. As TAs, we were also required to take three courses to help us in teaching first-year writing (this class is one). This is where the rigor comes into play. The Composition theory course served as a foundational base for my introduction to Composition and Rhetoric. As Dobrin states, a lot of undergraduates are not exposed to it. As far as the purpose of practicum, Dobrin encourages “asking students to think not about how to teach, but how they think of themselves as teachers and writers” (20). As we think of ourselves as teachers and writers and learn and question theory and pedagogies, however, we do ultimately think about how to teach.
Moving to Ellsworth, she argues pedagogy “can be magical in its artful manipulation of inner ways of knowing into a mutually transforming relation with outer events, selves, objects, and ideas” (7). I found this quotation inspiring in the goal to create a balance between mind, body, and outside influences in the classroom. Ellsworth reminds us that “students are not simply brains on tripods” (23). We need to allow the body into the classroom. Ellsworth synthesizes the theorists discussed in the introduction and first chapter by writing, “the very possibility of thought is predicated upon our opportunities and capacities to encounter the limits of thinking and knowing and to engage with what we cannot, solely through cognition, be known” (25). What can be known by the body? Do we first experience through the body in order to produce any cognition at all? We certainly have memory through the body. Does the body operate first, then knowledge of the mind? Corporeal experiences certainly shape much knowledge stored in the mind.
This week’s text was Linda Adler-Kassler’s The Activist WPA which seeks to create a new narrative surrounding writing than the pragmatic progressive jeremiad narrative that has influenced historical and contemporary notions surrounding writing, student deficiency, and student under-preparedness for academic writing in a higher learning environment. Kassler proposes for WPAs and others involved in university writing programs to facilitate conversations with the public on both micro and macro levels in order to share stories, narratives, and experiences surrounding college composition as a way to reframe the dominant perspective of college writing.
While most classes involve mapping out the exigence, proposal, theories, and examples of each text, this week we first did some regrouping and rethinking about all that we have covered so far surrounding writing program issues and any questions we have been considering. Each of us shared what we thought about composition before the class and how class discussions and texts have expanded our ideas about composition. We considered our own principles and stakes within composition, our personal stories that perhaps influence those principles and stakes, and what we found most compelling (or problematic) about the text. Throughout the discussion, we also contemplated what stories we, as individuals, want to tell and change.
Lauren and Kasey posed select questions for the class to consider regarding Kassler’s “backward mapping” of long and short term goals, critical intelligence and alternatives, problematizing expectations for composition both within writing programs and for the public, as well as the importance and value of personal stories to do the messy work of facilitating conversations for all stakeholders involved.
Dr. Campbell also encouraged us to consider the repeating questions from the text excluding any sort of micro or macro level expectations as if we could facilitate our own composition course on our individual “islands”:
1. How should students’ literacies be defined when they come into composition classes?
2. What literacies should composition classes develop, how, and for what purpose?
3. How should the development of students’ literacies be assessed at the end of these classes?
Listen. Speak. Empower.
Feminist pedagogy embraces forms of identification with age, class, race, sexuality, disability, and more. However, the unique history of feminism rooted in women’s issues should not be disconnected from the pedagogy. A classroom employing this pedagogy is student-centered and collaborative. Students, along with the instructor, question power and agency. Power structures, and even emotions, are evaluated as social constructions. Corporealities and disability studies illuminate bodily expressions. Most importantly, instructors empower students and students empower themselves and empower one another. Listening is just as significant as contributing.