So besides working on getting my Master’s in TESOL, I’m also trying to get a Certificate in Teaching Composition. I’m taking two classes, one on basic composition theory and another on developing an integrated reading and writing freshmen composition curriculum. One of the assignments for the basic composition theory class was to write a rough draft of your teaching philosophy based on the theories we’ve gone over so far. While the assignment was just a warm-up/review activity to help us think about the different stances the theorists take, I wanted to post this anyway in case I’d ever really want to use it professionally in the future. Again, it’s a super rough draft. The professor gave us some questions to help guide our teaching philosophy:
- In our teaching, to what extent and in what ways should we empahsize process?
- Should we focus more on students’ personal growth as writers or students’ apprenticeship into the academic community? (And what are the teaching implications for each?)
- Should we see writing mainly as a cognitive process or mainly as a social process? (And what are the teaching implications for each?)
- When we’re teaching students, how should we deal with the notion of audience?
- Should we see teaching as a political-ideological activity or a neutral apolitical activity?
Teaching Philosophy Draft:
In conjuring a clear and defined statement of my professional beliefs in how writing should be taught, I feel confronted with theoretical binaries that are often assumed to be polar opposites or competing interests in how they come to play in a classroom. Discussions between the cognitivist and expressivist approach, an awareness of audience versus the freedom to write purely for one’s self, and the inclusion or recognition of political ideological factors in a classroom are just a few of the debates that pit one side against the other, framing a black and white approach to writing. However, I believe a more realistic manifestation of these theories in a freshmen composition classroom applies a blended approach, recognizing that different situations call for different approaches and focuses which target different purposes in learning.
The freshmen composition course provides students with a relatively specific situation to tackle: an introduction as well as a foundation for future exposure to academic discourse in their college career. While I recognize that the process and skills necessary of writing branches off to greater academic skills of critical thinking, synthesis, textual analysis, and research as well as the discourse of formal writing overall in their future careers, the immediate, pressing concern and responsibility of the composition instructor is to address the student’s interaction with academic discourse, or in other words, writing the academic essay.
“Immediate” and “pressing” are words I use to characterize the sense of urgency a composition instructor feels in having to address specific learning goals in a limited amount of time. An instructor must make decisions and shape lessons that most efficiently guide students towards the required learning goals. Hence, I approach my lessons and curriculum in “levels”. At one level, an instructor must introduce students to the skills and activities common and characteristic of the process of writing adapted by academia, such as brainstorming, pre-writing, outlining, drafting, revising, and peer-editing. At another level, and arguably one requiring higher cognitive thinking skills, an instructor must also introduce and challenge students to question assumptions, analyze text, read critically, and construct rhetoric to prepare students to participate in the academic conversations required of them in college. And yet, at another level, arguably one projected moreso in the background context of their writing, instructors must also bring awareness to the greater socio-cultural context and academic ideological system that their writing actively engages with, one that may call for instructors to address controversial, political-ideological issues embedded in the reading and writing process. In considering these levels, the task and challenge of the composition instructor as well as the goal in my own teaching is to present these levels in an organized and yet integrated manner, laying them out step by step, lesson by lesson, unit by unit, but also highlighting the greater process of writing that these levels come together to create.