I got audited today.
It was fun, really. I got to show off my kids. I got the call at 8pm last night that Dr. Andrea Hermann needed to sit in on one of my classes sometime in the next few weeks. I picked today, because I really wanted to do a review of the material that I’ve covered so far before they finish up their drafts for next week. There has been a certain nervousness from some people in the department that I might be aiming too high for freshman students.
I mean, who tackles Thomas DeQuincey in freshman comp? Not many teachers on my campus, anyway. The interesting thing for me was that I had another huge paradigm shift when I was trying to sleep last night. I managed to superimpose the classic Greek appeals, James Britton’s classes of writing, and Henri Lefebvre’s representational spaces onto one model. This brings together what I’ve told them about the Roman model of the essay, the steps to an effective sale, and the appeals, into one easy to digest graphic model. So I taught it today.
It came off well. I skipped the techno-babble, as I usually do, and cut right to the chase of how it could work for them. They all managed to remember the Roman model, the appeals, and the types of formal logic when I asked. So there. Freshman students are brighter than what people want to give them credit for. I really feel like they get coddled too much, writing about their summer vacation and such when their writing could actually be doing work for them. I think the models that I’m offering work, are concurrent with the classical models, and at the same time are open to more postmodern approaches.
I suspect I’ll write more about them here in the few days as I get it sorted out (with jargon included, sorry) so that I can fix this little epiphany. Writing is a life skill. It needs to be taught that way, not just as an arcane technology for surviving school.
Damn, I love this job. Students came into class arguing about the Orwell essay we just covered. Great! I don’t agree with all of it either, and it was just gratifying to have them find its weak points on their own, without coaching from me. Of course, Dr. Hermann might have thought that I coached them to think that way, but really I didn’t. Their thoughts were personal, reasoned, and well placed. No argument, or essay, is ever perfect. Figuring out where the writer misses the mark is as important as where they hit. That’s the only way you can spot your own problems, and learn to shore-up your writing to avoid assault.
While I don’t think that writing classes should be feared as chemistry or the sciences, I do believe they should be as meaty as the sciences in terms of real practical knowledge rather than just skill exercises.
I feel like this is where the payoff of all those years of wondering how I would teach comes in. It feels good to present what is really quite complex, as simple enough for even a freshman to understand.
Dr. Hermann just quitely smiled through most of it. I wasn’t nervous at all. I’m pretty sure she’ll give me a positive evaluation. Dr. Levernier asked me if I was teaching the same class next semester. He told me that if he could match it to his schedule, he wanted to sit in on my class. As one of the co-authors of a writing textbook now in its sixth printing, that is indeed high praise. The way I’m approaching things is quite different from his book, but in some ways I’ve modeled it after him with a more classical/postmodern approach. His approach is the paragraph. Mine is the essay.