Electric and Elastic English Composition: Spinning the Web of Writing
I struggled to sit at my blue Fisher Price desk quietly and calmly to study as a youngster. My endless energy and active imagination supplied me with aimless ambition, assorted aspirations. My plastic desk and the four walls of any room only prohibited my focus. To survive, I quickly realized that in order to achieve something, anything, I first needed to gain mastery of this elementary material regardless of my fidgets and boredoms. Being the tiniest inventor with the largest imagination, I staggered my collection of stuffed animals on the twin sized bed, propped my chalkboard up against the plain wall and began teaching toys to retain and comprehend. This true anecdote not only depicts my loyal and ardent interest in education, but also it illustrates my own conquered battles with learning conventionally. Pictures of my passion, my recollections motivate me to instruct innovatively. It is here, at this point, that my teaching philosophy converges with the terms: diversity, empathy and network.
Upon initial observation of any class, I never see twenty college students; I see twenty very dissimilar brains with countless past encounters, cultures, values, lifestyles, goals and ways of thinking. Like a clump of snowflakes, a class produces a jumble of complex schemas. I resolutely believe that, as the instructor, I must present academic materials with wide-ranging approaches. A strong argument typically employs pathos, ethos and logos; it persuades its reader, viewer, or listener by targeting three divergent modes of reasoning. A strong argument hopes to make contact with the most minds. I am more than a strong argument, but like a strong argument, I aim to make contact with the most minds.
Diversity of teaching methodologies can gain the attention of students, but empathy promises mutual respect between the teacher and the learner. Techniques ranging from surprise, a quick change of tasks, on-the-spot writing, visual stimuli from the internet, diagrams or a film, group work, multi-cultural readings and original writing exercises (for example: witness five minutes of a film; note-take non-narrative details, then brainstorm ideas by clustering the details etc.) keeps young adults engaged. Identifying students as important individuals with untapped potential, unique insight and communal value captures students the most. In order to gain students’ attentions, the instructor must earn their recognitions. To earn students’ recognitions, the instructor must respect his/her students equally and conspicuously validate their efforts. Loyal to the Socratic Method, I listen and envision students’ comments and views, poised by my empathy skills.
I conduct a class fairly and captivatingly not only with empathy, but also with network. Network, as a word, branches out into a mess of connotations. This is precisely why I adopt the notion of network in my classrooms. The lesson plan may involve a medley of student-centered problem-solving, in-class group writing, or it may involve film, guided discussions and written reflections; regardless, the lessons somehow inevitably synthesize literature analysis, current public issues, history, multifaceted or debatable views, college majors, writing technique and self-expression. The focal point of every student’s network is the student’s developing sense of self and his/her social circumstance. Methods like journal writing, collage, found texts, small group discussions and student choice as part of assignments (choose the lyrics of a song that interests you…) beneficially ensure the student’s acquisition of self-confidence, original/individual thinking, an appreciation for diverse points of view and empathy. The network they construct in my class results in structured, original and complex writing. They promptly learn via peer reviews, feedback and grading systems that impassioned, sophisticated writing only succeeds when it is clear, legitimate, structured, engaging and vivid. I enforce essential writing habits such as active voice, argument cohesion, smooth flow of ideas, word/verb variety, concise phrasing, confident tones and fresh, authentic writing voices. Students practice these habits both in class and outside of class. I evaluate not solely based on the student’s product of an assignment; I gauge improvement, routine usage/implementation of class topics and noticeable efforts relative to the student’s previous work. Aside from their written exertions, students receive grade acknowledgment upon consistently participating in class activities, demonstrating organization and remaining on task.
Class preparation involves organizing and planning, but for me, it involves organizing, planning, collaborating, inventing and creating. Like my students learn to cultivate their networks as starting points for design, I, too, begin at my network, my-self, my world and my students, to invent exciting new goings-on for class. Without a doubt, my teaching philosophy stems from an intricate network that links my mind to my students’ minds to literary minds to the media’s (unsteady) mind to the University’s learning expectations and aims. As a teacher, I believe that all instruction must be flexible, electrifying and ever-changing like a student body and like the active advancement of human rights.