Saturday, January 25, 2014

A Comment about the Spring 2014 Literacy Narrative

The literacy narrative I assigned to my students at Oklahoma State University in the Spring 2014 term focuses on redeeming a literacy experience thought negative at the time of its occurrence.  I have exhorted my students to consider something bad that has happened to them in terms of their literacy and to look for how that thing has been made good in the time since.  My initial, and admittedly cursory, review of their drafts has shown me that many students are focusing too much on the bad and not enough upon how it has become good for them; the latter is treated in a paragraph or two at most, when it really ought to be the bulk of the paper.  (And I have tried to model it in the literacy narrative example I posted for them.)

The specific prompt of the assignment is something I take from my experience as a graduate student.  Early in my master's curriculum, I had a class in how to teach composition.  (I am fortunate to have been explicitly trained in how to do so; I know that many who are asked to teach that most common college course are asked to do so without the benefit of such a thing.)  Part of doing so involved the students in the class discussing what brought them into the study of English, particularly at the graduate level.  I will not go into the details of my own discussion, although I will note that the essay I wrote (badly) in response to the assignment has the subtitle "My Plan B in English."  The professor (who has since moved on to publish more excellent scholarship and to take on an administrative position at a prestigious, if relatively small, school) left on it a comment indicating that her hope for me was that I would be able to someday rewrite the piece as a success story.

I am not in such a place yet as will allow me to do so.  But I am in such a place that I can hope my own students will begin for themselves the work I have not yet completed and can therein perhaps not continue to abuse themselves with misconceptions about their own failures.  I can hope that they do not make the mistakes I have made; that they will err is certain, as it is for us all, but I hope that they will make new and better mistakes.

And, just to clarify, I had determined the topic before I read this piece.  But I appreciate the piece, nonetheless, and recommend it to my students (again) for their consideration.

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