Teaching Profile: Goals
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. once remarked that reading was one of the most difficult activities of the mind, requiring no small skill to transform the set of twenty-six little black marks arranged in rows on white paper into the complex dramas of human life. Foremost among my goals as a writing teacher is to lead my students into the abstract world of ideas and to help them acquire the skills necessary to bring that world to life. Along that path, I want to challenge students to leave their comfort zones and explore new possibilities and identities, to expand their range of conscious rhetorical choices and available designs, to increase epistemological understanding of existing artistic traditions, and to make creativity an ontological experience—i.e. one integral to human life.
I aspire to be a person who inspires (and exemplifies) (and rewards) scholastic dedication, helps students uncover the rewards of study, facilitates meaningful self-reflection, and teaches students to think critically about the world through the lens of the course materials. As a teacher I try to pursue a socially constructive role that merges my desire to live and work creatively with my desire to contribute positively in my community.
One of the biggest challenges in teaching WR100 at Loyola is introducing first-year students to subjectivity and abstraction. My pre-assessment data indicates that many students enter the class with trepidations about writing that relate to its qualitative nature. In talking with other writing colleagues about their teaching experiences in WR100 we noted a widespread tendency among first-year students to feel that ‘following directions’ is the main component in successful writing. While close reading and the ability to follow directions is doubtless important, I also note the importance of independent thinking, extrapolation and initiative for college writing, and I challenge myself to make sure I am also presenting these aspects of writing to students.
Along those lines, I also want to develop more collaborative writing exercises in my creative writing classes as a means to access more forms, more deeply in the time available. Beyond engagement, this technique is useful pedagogically to help me illustrate important points about form and genre while leveraging the ability of the group to write a complete story in two weeks. Research in creative writing studies shows that collaborative learning builds student confidence and creates a sense of shared responsibility in the classroom. Collaborative assignments also leverage the workshop ethos from the perspective of the classroom teacher, providing a manageable and practical compliment to theoretical discussion of complex forms and concepts. This pedagogy also offers a range of approaches that disrupt Victorian notions of the solitary writer in favor of networked models of 21st century communication.