Thursday, April 24, 2008

Writing What We Teach

I’ll admit outright that I found no joy in writing a textual analysis for the “writing what you teach” assignment. This is a sentiment shared, I feel reasonably certain, by most of us. I mean, we’ve got enough shit to do as students and instructors as it is, so the additional obligation of a paper that doesn’t directly serve the goals of our particular degree emphases—no matter how easy it might come to seasoned veterans such as ourselves—seems to be mostly an unnecessary burden.

And while I stand by the expression of the latter sentiment, I must concede that the assignment wasn’t without its merits. To begin with, and most obviously, we ended up with a text we could (or at least ought to) feel confident about using as a model for our students. The practical implications of having this text, in terms of teaching the textual analysis, should be obvious, not the least of which is that having such an intimate knowledge of the composition process and product permits us to speak definitively about how and why certain aspects of structure and content were made. Moreover, and more important to me, is that being required to not only write but also reflect on the process of writing a textual analysis (a kind of paper which, in and of itself, I’ve never before been asked to write) helped me become more acutely aware of some of the particular challenges attendant therein, and which I might not have otherwise addressed in class. Whether or not all of this had a positive qualitative impact on those textual analyses written by my students, however, is debatable. On the one hand, logic dictates that it couldn’t have but helped their performance; but on the other, it was hard not to question the veracity of that logic once I actually evaluated them. Nevertheless, I feel like it was a worthwhile exercise.

That said, I hope to never write another textual analysis. I mean, I’m glad for the insights and model text that I gained, but I really hope those will last me until such time that I’m either dead or not required to teach Comp I any more.


Casey White said...

I agree with you, oh Bearded One. I found that the assignment itself was much more work on our part than it needed to be--why assign an English 110 paper to graduate students when they have so much other work to do? I remember that the emphasis on the first day of our orientation as GAs was to put our classwork first.

Certainly the assignment made for an effective model to show our students, but I found that most of them didn't use any of the techniques I used in my "model." In all, I found the assignment tedious and poorly executed.

techsophist said...

Completely off the subject, you've been tagged for a meme. Why? Because we all need more writing fun right now. See Can your sum up your life in just six words? (a meme) to see how, then as a part of your post, tag at least six others.

smm933 said...

How can you say that this assignment serves no purpose related to what we do? I teach the Textual Analyis. The assignment teaches close reading skills better than any of the other major papers. I consider this skill so important that I'm now incorporating critical reading in my level 4 reading class at the ELI.
Additionally, you say we don't have time to do this stuff - I don't know about you but if I had read and done the assignment correctly in the first place, I wouldn't be re-doing it now. The whole point is -are we capable of accomplishing what we're tasked with - as Graduate Assistants, can we jump when they tell us to jump? We'd better be able to - because that's a good portion of getting a graduate degree.

LBusby said...

Wow, not that's a rant!
Seriously though, I have to say that the one purpose I got out of the paper was that I now have a personal model for the Critical Analysis to show my students and I can truthfully talk to them about the composition process involved in said paper, but outside of that, I felt the paper was keeping me from my own course work.

BeardedFury said...

While I stand by the underlying sentiment of this blog, I must admit that I might have been a little cranky in how I expressed myself. The assignment was ultimately a functional one for us as instructors since, as noted, it compelled us to come up with a viable model to present our students as an illustration of not only a Textual Analysis, in and of itself, but also an example of the composing process. This latter aspect was, in fact, more beneficial to the students than merely having a sample text, and for that I am glad for having been required to complete the assignment.