Royster - When the First Voice You Hear is not Your Own I was unsure as to the exact scholastic meaning of this article for a while, as much of it seemed rooted in race, which is not something easily transferrable to every facet of life and schooling. But then I realize that she is merely writing about her African-American 'experience' to bring about the universal: the relations to the student in the classroom. As she indicates, the "goal is better practices so that we can exchange perspectives, negotiate meaning, and create understanding..." (620). Though this might sound like it's based entirely around racial relations, there's no doubt it applies further to students and teachers and instructors. The comparison drawn is surely an intriguing one: just as African-Americans were ushered into a silent era, so students of today are. Even the intelligent, articulate students (and black writers of the past) find themselves afraid to speak up, afraid their voices and words will be shot down. And truly, it is entirely possible that such a scenario will still happen. But such a possibility must not make us (or our students) afraid to speak out for lack of age or experience. I find that Royster's bit on learning to "raise a politically active voice with a socially responsible mandate to make a rightful place for education" particularly powerful (621). There must be an academic call to arms, especially concerning cultural and societal voices within academia. Students can (and should) be allowed to go beyond 'entertainment' purposes, should have a voice in the bigger picture. For too long, as Royster's words tell us, too many knowledgeable voices have been silenced, or otherwise redirected, and other less knowing 'scholar's have filled the void that should not have been. Truly, her entire position of honoring thy neighbor, as timeless as it might be in the general sense, is much less common in an academic sense. But it's partly that unique quality that makes it such an interesting concept. We get taught that idea in Sunday school, but yet it never quite carries over to everything. As I am a big proponent of happy interactions between peoples, I fully support the desires she claims. It's intriguing, too, how she says these nice, honorific things are necessary, yet too, that "contentious" engagement is critical as well (615). Now that is something that is likely very hard for a lot of people to grasp - "what, we have to be nice and argumentative?!" The idea is not to be so nice that you just agree with anyone, because after all, where does any meaningful discussion come from that? There must a gap, a difference in position, but that difference must be dealt with professionally, or else all the great discussion in the world that could arise from it will be rooted in hatred.
Daiker - Learning to Praise One thing I noticed Daiker never does is attack the institution of academia for fostering the bad writers it does...but maybe he should. To learn that so many
professors and graders and everyone involved in the teaching positions in schools and universities denigrate the writing of hundreds of their students, only to be surprised when their writing gets worse...how do they miss the logical steps? Are they really that out of touch with how their students feel; is there that great a disconnectedness from the two groups? It amazes me how different these institutions were from my own scholastic upbringing - apparently, either the teachers mentioned in this article are an anomaly, or my teachers follow the Daiker model. Almost every one of my papers was marked up, but they all had positives to balance out the edits (I hesitate to call them negatives) - and this was the case with all my fellow students, not just myself, not just the strong ones, everyone. If the teachers were, as Daiker notes, "sufficiently skilled to ferret out" so many mistakes, I do question why they couldn't turn their thoughts to praise, even a little bit (154). It brings up the issue of what and why the psychological impulse in teachers (or anyone) is to find fault in things. If the dominant desire of humans is to be praised, nurtured, and complimented, this exact correctional mindset goes completely against evolution. Or perhaps it might be in our nature to BE praised, but not TO praise. I believe that itself is worth further investigation. Even in grading papers for our class we're 'shadowing' this summer session, I've re-realized how easy it is just concentrate on the bad, and not the good. But I also know how heart-wrenching it is to receive a paper full of mark ups when you're a student, particularly a freshmen thrust into an unfamiliar academic world. It really does seem as if the professors forgot they had once been students - perhaps 'tough (educational) love' is their best attempts to get everything in line as they believe it should. Belanoff - What is a Grade? As Belanoff quite rightly points out, grades, even those in the English department, are “both objective and subjective” (149, her emphasis). There can never be a complete separation of personal opinions from grades, nor is there a universal set standard for “quality.” I personally believe this is how almost everyone grades anything, not just papers. The Pulitzer Prize is judged and handed out to the winner based on how they compare to the other contenders, scholarship winners achieve victory because they did 'better' essays or projects than their peers. Yet, every teacher always seems to champion a separate ideal and value ranking for everyone - this is simply not true. A student can be (or should be) commended for going above and beyond their normal writing (or penalized for the inverse), but they still will be judged based on their peers, many of whom might be better (or conversely, worse) writers than them. And they should be - you can never become better until you compete with others on a higher level (applicable in sports, too), and you can never learn how to be better until you are judged along the same line. The idea of communal grading particularly strikes me as useful. This might sound like heresy, involving others in the grading process, but after all, that's what peer grading is, and that is often encouraged. Now it would just be more formal than peer
grading, not to mention more useful (on a certain level). It's a simple way to bring the approval or disapproval, the critiques and the compliments and the helps, of a number of people - which is how the world works, despite what the sheltered reality of academia tries to deny. I realize the idea of utilizing other professors or TAs might be too difficult, but perhaps very academically involved (or strong) undergraduates? Or perhaps even high school teachers, as I know many of them have received their master's degrees.
Bishop - Teaching Grammar for Writers in a Process Workshop Classroom This paper brought up the issue of balancing out a sense of correctiveness in the student, and how hard it can be to effectively manage. As Bishop notes, if the students spends too much time on the sentence level corrections (the 'lower' level), then those corrections are obsolete once the students change their bigger ideas around and have to delete those sentences; conversely, and perhaps paradoxically, if the student first spends too much thinking of the bigger issues that must be mended in their paper to make it 'good,' then they won't want to throw out a piddly sentence or two, even when they don't work well at all (179). We always stress how much the big picture (re: the theme) matters in papers more than the sentences, but as this shows, only concentrating on said 'big picture matters' will cause the student to lose focus of the details, and make them not want to change anything unless it's of major importance. This balance is difficult to establish and maintain, but it must be stressed during the editing process. One particular thought that sprang to mind whilst reading this was that students essentially play their work 'safe.' For them, everything in school ties to their grades - it's the culture of fear and anxiety and competition that drives so many of them. I've known some students who believe nothing about school is important but the A they receive. The concept is true at its core: grades are important, and I do advocate for some kind of measuring system. However, the idea of grades and the pressure received from all kinds of outside sources means the students will be hesitant to produce the "global changes" many of their papers truly need, as opposed to the local ones, for fear they will miss the mark since those global changes are more abstract, not concrete, and thus much harder to hit on(178). As a result, they might get their A from the local changes, but they often will learn very little from the process.
Tobin: Teaching a Composition Class: Combine and Conquer Truth be told, this article gave me quite a bit of concern - of course, nothing particularly surprising happens in that first part, which is the scary part. I envisioned a class in which that happened to me - something with a great chance of happening to someone completely new to the profession. He makes several good attempts to engage them, including talking about the rhetorical context of the piece (White's relationship with his father). However, one other bit of
worry that this piece causes is something I fear struggling with as a professor: that is, playing favorites. Tobin does not explicitly do so here, but he does claim that he essentially did it before, pitting students against students, the 'good' ones against the 'bad.' The only problem is, I think it's human nature to feel this way, at least in brief flashes. Of course the cooperative, willing students we will hold in higher regard than the less friendly. But it brings to mind the question of how to combat such a thing? Or is there even a way? Additionally, past his narrative, Tobin also brings up a piece of interest, where he imagines "the teacher as performer, the students as audience" (82). Now, while he claims that this is not for us to envision the class as a play stage and us the teachers as actors, but the metaphor certainly presents an inescapable image of just that. Performance, and performativity very deep and somewhat abstract concepts, especially as can be related to the classroom. How much can be termed acting what teachers do - a front they put on? Surely, everyone in any business acts to a degree - we have varying shades of individuality we keep private. But why distance yourself from the act, as Tobin seems to think necessary - teaching is an act, and it could be beneficial to treat it exactly as so.