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.