Pull Cord to Start

I know I'm not alone in saying this, but today was my first day back to teaching after a long and much-needed break. Blogs are nice this way; you can write what everyone else is writing and it's okay. Since one of my classes only meets on Thursdays, today was just the "Composition Theory and Practice" class that I've taught a few times now.

It can be so easy to teach such a course, designed for future K-12 language arts teachers, as a review of composition/rhetoric scholarship. I mean, that's what we're prepared to do, right? The problem, as I've come to see it, is that such a focus generally attends to the context and issues of fyc and college comp—which are not always the same concerns that come up in the K-12 setting.

So I've been remixing the class since I started teaching it, which has been fun, and it gradually has become more and more about practices of the K-12 classroom and less and less about issues localized around post-secondary composition.

Today was also fun because I got to tell my students about the new Disaster Preparedness Plan. The gist of the plan, as it has been passed down to me at the department level, is that students are to "Follow your teacher in the event of an emergency! No matter what, follow your leader!" Students in my courses, however, need to know that if there is an emergency or crisis of any kind, that is precisely not the thing to do. I pretty much guaranteed them that a shrieking assistant professor is not only not a pretty sight, but not at all useful should they need to head for the tornado shelter.


  1. And, you know, I'm inclined to think that even courses for new teaching assistants of first-year college writing should avoid the "review of scholarship in rhetoric and composition" trap. I've noticed a tendency in myself to want to fill new teachers with as much content as possible (they need to understand everything about invention! and also about commenting! and also and also and also and also). This semester I'm trying to be much more streamlined with the content and to make the course as interactive as possible (but you, Spencer, with your wonderful orientation toward "making things" probably do this already). Just thinking alongside your thinking here, that reviewing a whole heck of a lot of scholarship from the past thirty years probably doesn't do new teachers at any level a lot of good.

  2. I completely agree. The course for new TAs can be a robust pedagogy course that activates and engages the scholarship without being an introduction to the field. And here I mean pedagogy in the most general sense -- topics like "using the space of the classroom" and "sequencing assignments."