By Laura Rosche, IWP Intern, RTW MA Student
As I reflect upon the process of blogging for the Interdisciplinary Writing Program, I realize that I have had the opportunity to rethink my identity as a teacher. I’ve found research with which I strongly agree that has reshaped my personal pedagogy. I suppose, lamely, I hadn’t given much thought to my teaching philosophy before I took the job teaching English 105 at NAU. I hadn’t taught before; I didn’t go to school for teaching; and I was naïve enough to believe that my because I knew how to write, I would know how to teach writing.
I have particularly appreciated the support I have found in favor of the blend of traditional and alternative assessment strategies. Though the letter grades students receive are important because of their implication in the greater academic context, I have been able to communicate with my students the importance of feedback over the importance of grades. I’ve become much more aware of different ways to motivate my students so they see writing as a relevant tool for their current and future successes. Teaching composition, my classroom is filled with almost anything but English majors. Working with the IWP has made me more aware of the writing expectations in different disciplines, and being able to articulate those to my students has been tremendously beneficial for their interest in the subject, and consequently, their success.
My natural tendency towards a positive attitude in the classroom has been reinforced, and I’ve found academic support for the ideas I had only before guessed to be true. By maintaining a positive attitude towards my students and curriculum, I am able to maintain a sense of motivation every time I step foot in my classroom. Quickly approaching graduation, I know that a PhD is in my future, but for the next few years, I hope to stand exclusively at the front of the classroom. I’ve had to think deeply about type of educator I want to be once I leave NAU. So what, after this experience, do I believe to be true? What have I learned? What do I want to take with me?
While I understand that college is a business, education is not. Education is personal, and through the convergence of teacher and student, should always be able to reach its profound potential.
Recently, a former student came to my office and asked me about my plans for next year. I explained that I hoped to get a job teaching freshman composition. Instead of the confused look that I get from most family members and professionals, he said, “Stay passionate, Miss Rosche.”
I was inspired.
My desire to teach stems directly from my desire to learn. My affinity with change and all of its adventures is a constant inspiration to keep a relevant and accessible curriculum. Education should be as ever changing and unique as the students in the classroom, and should constantly be considered for reconstruction. As an educator, I believe it is imperative to provide students with a curriculum with which they can relate. As a writing instructor, I believe this fact to be indisputable. I believe passion and improvement go hand in hand; providing students with a curriculum they find compelling sets them up for a success inspired by creativity and enthusiasm, rather than regurgitation.
The classroom is a place to take risks. It should be an environment in which a student feels safe to ask questions and express his or her self. To deprive a student of this opportunity—to stifle his or her voice—is to discredit his or her thoughts, which is a deed that can quite literally never be undone. I believe it to be important to establish a student-centered learning environment. Lessons and lectures should be done for the total benefit of the student; directions should be given in a way that is comprehensible by the students’ standards. Every lesson should be taught with purpose and gumption to inspire understanding in the students.
As an instructor, I have the right to my unique philosophy, but students possess that right too. They deserve their independence; they have a right to their beliefs about what education should or should not be. To be successful, I must find a way to appropriately accommodate to that. I think it’s important to consider the fact that not all students learn well through listening; thus, lectures aren’t always effective. Some students feel most comfortable with material when they have the chance to talk about it; seminars and class discussions benefit those students. I’ve got to teach according to the needs of my students in order to be successful as an educator, and I think students have the right to respectfully tell their teachers what their ideal classroom looks like. Students should be given the time to figure out how they best process new information; learning does not stop after graduation. They should know how they best obtain knowledge, and they should have a right to that learning strategy.
I want to believe that certain skills are inherent, that articulation itself is an art form. I want to believe that good writing comes naturally to certain people, and for that, they are lucky; however, like all skills, I truly believe that a person’s ability to write can and should be improved. There is a certain confidence needed to write well; a person must trust in their thoughts to accurately put them on paper. It is that very confidence that should be cultivated by educators because all writing, from creative to formal, is personal.
I believe that it is a writing instructor’s responsibility to help his or her students understand that disbelieving in their ability to write is refusing one’s natural ability to articulate the thoughts and ideas that they should be proud to have. My success in the classroom with thus be measured not only by the ascension of grades, but also by my ability to instill willingness in students to share their own ideas.