A commitment to making a difference is not measured in terms of scholarly production alone; it is a commitment that also has a direct effect on matters of pedagogy. Critical consideration of the roles Composition and Rhetoric play in contemporary arenas, including pedagogy, public discourse, digital environments, and the practice of everyday life is integral to my work in contemporary vernacular rhetoric. As such, I am deeply invested in the research and teaching of composition practices that will further empower students in and out of the classroom.
My teaching philosophy is based on the notion that:
all forms of writing are inherently political acts oriented toward agency for students.
I conduct all my courses with this in mind, striving to steadily encourage students to participate in vigorous discussion and writing on a variety of topics that help to articulate the complexities of our shared roles in contemporary society, and to negotiate the efforts of memory, language, and culture that contribute to similar ends.
Students are not receptacles, waiting for knowledge to be dispensed from a single authority. Because knowledge is situated and shared among culturally constituted subjects who are interested (and implicated) in the range of material outcomes, any theoretical approach to rhetoric and subjectivity must have as direct an impact on pedagogy in the classrooms as it does on students’ day-to-day lives and the shifting contexts they must navigate.
Implicit in this vein is the notion that rhetoric, composition theory, and pedagogy count equally as real intellectual work, which is how they have been approached in my undergraduate and graduate courses. Concurrently, academic discourse is not synonymous with institutional attempts to erase the discourses that students bring into the classroom; working to achieve proficiency does not require any discursive excisions in order to be considered effective. On the contrary, I believe such instruction, though important, can only be transformative if we continue to practice it in the broader context of a pedagogical imperative that serves the students’ interests, as well as those of the institutions they attend. In other words,
the writing process and the written product should be approached primarily for how they promote student thinking and prepare them to engage with the curriculum, their careers, and the world.
As a compositionist, I see my role as one who, equipped with a broad understanding of the field, can help facilitate student awareness of the ways in which the texts they produce not only demonstrate their attempts (and, at times, our collective failure) to participate in the democratic experiment; but to show that they also exemplify how the rhetorical underpinnings of their respective discourse communities—cultural, linguistic, religious, or otherwise—are put into play to achieve these democratic ends. But challenges endure.
Students, particularly so-called “basic writers,” continue to adopt a fatalistic view of their writing performance and its connection to their overall discursive potential. And some pedagogues, beset by overcrowded classes and other institutional factors, are often forced to sidestep more complex pedagogical issues in favor of utility.
Faced with having to learn effective bridging methods, many opt for archaic methods that have long proven useless in the fostering of proficient writing. I am troubled by this, especially since bidialectalist approaches (as an alternative to persistent eradicationist conceptions) have successfully bridged extant discourse practices and academic ones for more than two decades. I do not mean to suggest that improved writing depends solely on recognizing students’ language choices; rather, I mean to advocate for a working knowledge of our students’ native epistemologies and cultural hermeneutics.
My affiliation with the Writing Program therefore allows me to fulfill another phase of my service to students, and to the field-at-large, by having a direct impact on teacher objectives, curricular outcomes, and methodology that incorporate equal parts theory and practice. This work is crucial because it helps us explore (and hopefully illuminate) the ways in which matters of justice, equality, and prosperity are interpreted and expressed among all people in meaningful ways for meaningful ends—we would, in short, be taking a direct role in the materialization of praxis among our students.
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