Over the past seven years, I have a built a teaching portfolio that spans a variety of English courses at several universities. Like most English instructors, I started out assisting with a composition course which, for me, was a hybrid section of Advanced Composition at Old Dominion University. The majority of the classes I’ve instructed since then are part of the first-year writing curriculum at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee (UWM). I have also taught English composition at the Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) and, most recently, the fundamental writing skills component of the Summer Bridge Program at UWM.
“[Your English class] is where I found my voice and learned about the power of a strong narrative.” -S.C.
My pedagogy relies on imparting practical communication skills through the composition of multimedia texts. In these courses, students are tasked with producing oral expositions, video essays, computer games, and other media-rich texts during the semester. Skill development is complemented with concurrent discussions involving the ethical implications that emerge in the production and consumption of media. This form of reflexive critical engagement fosters the student as an emergent practitioner who recognizes her significance in a larger community.
For example, students in my courses (English 102, UWM) are expected to identify “points of intervention,” a term borrowed from systems analysis where a small change can impose significant impact. Motivated by this concept, students enrolled in my MATC course took on enormous, complex systems. Whether it was the judicial system in Milwaukee or the effect of refrigeration on third-world nations, students demonstrated a recognition of how individuals can influence civic change.
Summer Bridge Program (UWM)
In the summer of 2017, I had the privilege to serve as an associate lecturer with the UWM Summer Bridge program, offered through Student Support Services. Part of my responsibility was to conduct the writing portion of the program while assisting with the critical reading component. My curriculum for this four week program was to introduce the broad concepts of writing students would be expected to master in the first-year writing program. Summer Bridge Writing Overview.
Here are some sample syllabi from courses I have taught:
The teaching philosophy focused on my writing courses is provided to my students as the first page of my syllabus:
- Writing is hard and requires practice
- Mistakes can help us move forward
- Words are power
In brief, my composition pedagogy is one that considers writing to be an acquired skill that must be refined over a lifetime. Because success also comes with mistakes, we must be willing to accept mistakes as inevitable milestones by which we measure progress. The payoff for one’s tenacity of practice is the skill to advocate for onself and one’s community with words. Because words (or any form of work) are power, one must be mindful of a diverse audience comprised of identities familiar and foreign to us. Therefore we must recognzie how our writing – as a form of public behavior and discourse – must strive to accommodate as best as possible people of all creed, class, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, and ability.
This demands a a safe and thoughtful arena for my students to not simply encounter other perspectives but reflect and perhaps struggle with their own. My pedagogy therefore champions each person’s perspective as vital and unique yet always subject to critique and reflection.
As a writing instructor, I am charged with nurturing a student’s capacity to better articulate their perspective but also understand how they are accountable for how they communicate it. Works such as Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Black Panther, Porpentine’s “Cyberqueen,” and Hamza’s sign language poetry are a few that I have used to springboard class discussion.
Most recently, my experiences at Milwaukee Area Technical College and with the Summer Bridge program at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee have called into question the privilege of tehnological access many of us early adopters have come to take for granted. For those students whose exposure to digital technology has been limited to smartphones or black-boxed campus consoles, the ethics with which they communicate must also be applied to the tools they use to create it.
As my philosophy evolves, I have revised my curriculum to accomodate those who have had limited access to the technological and creative tools afforded to me.