Conversation is Promising
The most promising revelation I had after reading Dobrin’s Introduction to Don’t Call It That is that there has been an ongoing conversation about the composition practicum. Therefore, the course (and the program as whole) is worthwhile. If all stakeholders involved just simply agreed on how writing should be taught in the classroom, there would not be as great a need for the field of composition. We could simply record such facts in a book, publish it, and say “Go forth and teach” to those willing to enter the teaching trenches. But by not having everyone agree on all aspects of the practicum, many views, teaching philosophies, ideologies, etc. are able to be published in journals and books by authors who are committed to the composition conversation.
Think about it. Literature departments are run (from what I hear, anyway) in a similar fashion. There is often debate on which authors and works should be included in the curriculum. And if you think about it, literature courses like American Colonial Lit. or Restoration Lit. are no longer evolving or expanding. Each will only cover a certain time period. They are more or less fixed subjects. So if literature courses like the two I mention are prone to discussion and debate when there is no new material being added, it is only fitting that an ever-growing field like composition should be subject to even more discussion and disagreement. Which is, frankly, a wonderful thing. And it is why courses that delve into the history of pedagogy and theory are necessary. We need to understand where we have been before we see where we are going in terms of composition.
Also, I agree with Dobrin (and others) that composition courses cannot just be about how to teach writing. The history of such practices must be covered. Think about all the studies cited by the plethora of authors we read each week. So much work, time, and energy has been put into the field of composition that it would irresponsible to ignore the work compiled by these dedicated compositionists.
Although I do believe certain skills can be taught in the classroom, no class is going to guarantee anyone that they will be able to effectively teach writing – or anything for that matter. It is not until one enters their own classroom with their own students that one truly learns how to teach. The experience and knowledge of how to teach others comes not from a book, notes, or a class, but the time spent in the classroom with students. Certainly texts are helpful in preparing one to teach, and classes offer a more than adequate place to discuss theory and experiences, but teaching (like most skills) is learned through experience.
Conversation is Promising