…so good. I’m settling into my routine as adjunct prof. at Local U. I feel like I need a little more runway before I’ll well and truly be off the ground, but I’m not crashing and burning, either, so I’d say, on the balance, it’s going well.
So far, we’ve talked about the basics of writing. What surprises me is that so few kids come to the writing process with any idea about HOW they do it; they’ve never been asked to be metacognitive about it, so they’ve never given any thought whatsoever about what has to happen in their brains before they put pens to paper. Today, in both my classes, we talked about the ideas of topic and purpose, we defined and described the concept of genre, we talked about one’s audience and one’s stance and about how all of these things – and more – affect their rhetorical choices (after, of course, we defined “rhetorical choices”). I’m pretty sure they were all bored out of their nuts by this conversation, but it’s one that needs to happen if they’re going to go from “hating” writing and feeling incompetent to being mindful, deliberate, and skilled writers.
I had a couple of semi-fruitful conversations in class today about Malcolm X’s piece, “Learning to Read,” and, with the evening kids, I added in Frederick Douglass’s essay “Learning to Read and Write.” Yet again, I was surprised and saddened by how little my students knew about either of these men, but I recognize that my job isn’t to teach them history. I gave them a brief biography of the authors, we discussed the tone of the pieces and how the authors’ backgrounds helped to shape the way they wrote, and we mused about who the intended audience for each piece might have been. We talked about what kinds of information might have been helpful to know ahead of reading these excerpts, and we wondered what kind of person each author was as a result of the experiences of literacy. All in all, not bad for the first full week of class.
I say the conversations were only “semi-fruitful” because most of the students didn’t have the book with them (I posted the pieces online so they could at least write their response papers) and, I suspect, only a handful of them really did anything even approaching a careful reading. I think I may do a few pop reading quizzes in the near future, just to keep the students honest – one or two questions to elicit a couple of pertinent facts from the readings will ensure that the kids actually, you know, READ.
As for me, I think I’m handling my learning curve pretty well. I know all the names of my 23 kids in the morning, and I’m well on my way to knowing all of my Monday-Wednesday evening kids, too. I think I’ve laid a good foundation for trust in the class, and I’ve got most of them at ease. I’m telling stories and getting responses, they’re laughing at my jokes and answering my questions. I’ve still got to figure out how to manage the drastic increase in paper that I’ve got to read, and I need to figure out how I’m going to meet with each of them four to five times over the course of the semester, but I’ll get there. I’m loving this gig so far, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to be doing it.