Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Knock knock. Who's there? Basic Writing Teacher. Basic Writing Teacher Who?

Sorry, I don't have a punch line for my title. Feel free to leave on in the comments section. What I do have is a few thoughts on the article "Constructing Teacher Identity in the Basic Writing Classroom" by Jacqueline Jones Royster and Revecca Greenberg Taylor. The premise seems to be simple enough: “we are all racialized, gendered, and political subjects in classroom space” (213). The greater concern, however, seems to be that “while the issue of student identity permeated every facet of the scholarship, explorations of teacher identity seemed almost absent” (216). They argue that “basic writing scholars must cease to concentrate so intensely upon the act of defining these communicative ‘others,’ objectifying them and claiming all of the power that comes with the act of naming itself” (217). The article refers to Jerrie Cobb Scott’s challenge to “‘flip the marginalization coin’ in order to allow themselves to be described, discussed, defined, or named (217). At its best, the article could incite teachers and academics alike to reflect on their own approach to the field, but if nothing else, this process might make basic writing teachers and scholars slower to generalize, realizing that their basic writing students are bound to be just as diverse as the field of basic writing teachers and theorists.

I especially enjoyed the journal entries (allusive puns and all) and think they raise some very interesting questions, including the following:

“What experiences if any will my students and I share? Do we have to share experiences I order to work together successfully?” (219)

When students ask me to justify my grading “who will I turn to? Bartholomae’s work? Mike Rose’s books? How should I answer such a question?” (220).

“When should I speak, and when should I remain silent?” (222).

Even more interesting questions are posed within the material in the appendix, and the activities seem to provide a great starting place for reflecting on one’s own teaching practices (even though some of it applied only vaguely to my experience as a high school teacher). The fact that the majority of the questions are left unanswered is somehow refreshing as well (I certainly can’t imagine Bartholomae or Lu exercising such restraint), and I think this is a case where asking the right questions proved more effective than attempting to provide the right answers.

Royster, Jacqueline Jones and Rebecca Greenberg Taylor. “Constructing Teacher Identity in the Basic Writing Classroom.” Landmark Essays on Basic Writing. Mahwah: Erlbaum, 2001.

No comments: