Friday, August 31, 2007

Shutting up

Now that I am taking this composition class, I have started thinking more seriously about my teaching philosophy. Thursday’s discussion was particularly effective for me in that it caused me to think about specific teaching methods I would use in the classroom and more specifically, about teaching first year composition.

I think the most important thing I want to implement is sharing authority within the classroom. Lunsford and Glenn discuss the importance of letting students’ voices be heard in order to develop their learning abilities. From the Take 20 video, I believe one teacher referred to it as the teacher “shutting up” sometimes. Writing is something that is nearly impossible to simply lecture and expect someone to learn. It must be hands on activity, and that activity must be shared. I believe fully in the value to be found when students begin to learn how to learn. As we discussed in class, it begins with challenging teachers who are willing to let students struggle through an assignment in order to develop their own abilities to think critically.

In addition, I think it is important to know the students’ “cultural history,” as discussed in Bedford/St. Martin’s essay. A teacher must know the cultural influences that have played a role in a student’s life in order to understand the biases towards writing he or she might have. Students’ attitudes towards writing affect their ability as well as their effort to write. By knowing the ethnic, socioeconomic, etc., background of a student, a teacher is better equipped to reshape (if necessary) or encourage a student toward writing.

Finally, I have to insert the “cliché” Lunsford and Glenn refer to for my final concept: making the work relevant to the student. The difficulty lies in knowing what students will find relevant; however, I believe the task is necessary. Sometimes, even letting students choose their own topics is enormously effective. Writing is personal, and it can become even valued by an uninterested student if he or she is allowed to write about his or her interests or concerns. Students will care more about their work if they feel it matters, not only to them but to others in the class as well.

That is all for now… =)


Anonymous said...

I agree completely! Although I worded it a little differently, I pretty much chose the same three pedagogical concepts. I think they're the most important in any class.

I like that you titled this entry "Shutting up." I've had teachers/professors (I'm sure we all have) that would not shut up and let students share their thoughts. As a somewhat vocal student the inability to share in those classes was maddening. Also, I think I have learned more in the classes in which discussion was a major part of the curriculum. I have learned from my fellow students' experiences as much as I have from any book or lecture.

You are absolutely right in stating that a teacher/professor should know his or her audience. I have gleaned more from classes in which a professor realized there were difference in race, class, gender, etc. and valued student input from different life experiences. I have also found it difficult to learn all there is to be learned in classes with a professor that speaks to only one life experience (mainly the middle-class white experience).

I enjoyed your posting and am looking forward to reading more of your ideas...

Brandyy said...

Hi Laura,
I think you have a lot of good points. I think the problem with finding things that are relevant to the student is that the student may not always be albe to quickly see what is relevant. I do think that a bridge could be built using your idea of incorporating the students' background with what Brian talks about in his post this week, that sometimes an assignment must be explained and then reexplained before the desired end result is reached. I also believe that in the current academic arena, it's just not as easy as before to know what has shaped your students, what their views are, etc. It is common in higher education for teachers to move to new areas, vastly different areas. And, of course, with technology and media, there are more variations than ever of the things that are shaping our students. I think a way to combat this is to try to have some kind of personal relationship with each student. Even if you only know one identifying characteristic (Susie like raspberry bubblegum, Tommy's favorite rock band, that's enough to build a personable relationship with that student inside the classroom.
brandy y

Brian said...

The idea of shared authority in the classroom is important, especially in the college classroom. So often we tell our students we expect them to behave and perform as adults but treat them like children. By encouraging student leadership and ownership of the classroom, we as teachers convey the message that we truly intend to create a space in which everyone is treated equally. I think this atmosphere is less threatening and encourages a greater level of interest on the part of students, who are at least partially responsible for charting the course of the class.