Teachers of composition place a strong emphasis on their student’s using ‘voice’ in their personal narratives. For that reason, istructors are called upon to examine these writings outside their own social context-something easier said than done.
In the “Take 20” video, Brian Huot, when asked what he’s learned about his students during the course of teaching, says, “I’ve learned how the world I live in is much different than theirs.” That challenges us, as educators, to attempt to understand the cultures of our students as we judge their written work.
In The Norton Book of COMPOSITION STUDIES, Juan Guerra cites a study (Street, Literacy 29) which implores us to view literacy not as singular and monolithic, but rather literacy that only makes sense when studied in a social and cultural context. While at first glance, it seems obvious that instructors of writing focus on their students’ voices and seek to understand where their students are coming from, Richard Rodriguez addressing a dilemma which I wasn’t aware of. He maintains that the greater the difference between a student’s background and college, the greater conflict they’ll experience in the academic setting. (Defying the Odds by Donna Dunbar-Odom.) In Rodriguez’s experiences, as he continued furthering his education, talking to his parents became increasingly difficult.
How do we engage students in writing on such a level they can buy into how greatly literacy can empower them without creating problems within their context? (the family) As I seek to better understand students, I somehow always make my way back to books by Mike Rose. Donna Dunbar-Odom has studied Rose extensively and sees three themes running throughout his works. (1) literacy as a passport or an escape; (2) the role teachers play in shaping a student’s life; (3) effects or assumption we, as educators, have about our students. Although Dunbar-Odom interjects a thought-provoking quote by Rose: “Students will float to the mark you’ve set” (as a classroom teacher), I’m not altogether certain I can truly buy into this. I hope I’m wrong.
Encouraging our students to have a voice in their writing and making them feel empowered appears to be the key here. David Bartholomae The Norton Book of COMPOSITION STUDIES, is quick to point out that the basic writer may not even be aware of the conventions of his own community, Therefore, we, as teachers, may be called upon to help students sort out how better to “think,” “argue,”, “describe”, or “define” concepts as they seek to achieve their goals.
English 571 is truly challenging me, but I’m left with many questions as I prepare myself to teach college writing. Like many educators, I like concrete answers with easy to incorporate examples of how best to serve my students. I’m a hands-on, tactile learner and for me, much of what we’re studying is extremely philosophical. I welcome your comments and suggestions as to how I can effectively serve my future students.
Taylor, Todd. “Take 20.” The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Produced by Bedford/St. Martin’s. 2009.
Guerra, Juan C. “Putting Literacy in It’s Place: Nomadic Consciousness and the Practice of Transcultural Repositioning.” The Norton Book of Composition Studies. Ed. Susan Miller.New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. 2009. 1643-1653. Print.
Dunbar-Odom, Donna. Defying the Odds.New York:StateUniversity ofNew York Press-Albany, 2007. Print.
Bartholomae, David. “Inventing the University.” The Norton Book of Composition Studies. Ed. Susan Miller.New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. 2009. 605-629. Print.