Basic Writing for a Transcultural Era

William Lalicker started off the discussion with the ways we underserve basic writers by limiting what students have access to in their written discourses. Lalicker compared a basic writing approach to teaching, “Get it neat, practical, and readable” with selected titles from last year’s 2011 conference program. Why, Lalicker asks, do we allow ourselves the language of “Fuck Tradition!,” “Helping a NOOB PWN the Griefers,” and “Mo Rhetoric: Nomos, Nommo, Zapatismo, and the turn toward a Critical Transnational Rhetoric.”. Why do we allow ourselves this language but deny it to our basic writers in the name of “standard” English. Lalicker went on to highlight the rich voice and use of language in YA books like Sherman Alexie and Junot Diaz.

How do we engage students in a trains lingual approach to teaching writing? Lalicker called on Alastair Pennycook’s 2007 work, “English is a translocal language, a language of fluidity and fixity that moves across, while becoming embedded in, the materiality of localities and social relations. English is bound up with transcultural flows, a language of imagined communities and refashioning identities” (6).

He ended with a quote from Deborah Mutnick, “Basic writing courses enact the crucial, if not always exemplary role…in the unfinished democratization of American universities and colleges” (323).

Kathryn Perry called for a reconception of how we evaluate student writing. Basing her theory on Mike Rose, she called for a practicality in assessing student writing, paying attention to a variety of issues that affect student writing.

Perry focused on the material conditions of labor in composition. She wanted to apply what she knew pedagogically, but when balancing scholarship, practice, study, and teaching, she felt she didn’t have time to find out all of the stories she knew her students brought to the classroom, the very issues Mike Rose chronicles in his work. her teaching load leaves almost no room for reflection. So, she has little time to think about her classroom; like many others, the classroom becomes triage.

She further compared annual review documents (from an anonymous university) for tenure track, term, and contingent faculty which reveal that only tenure track faculty are assumed to be conducting research.

Her paper is a call for simplicity in returning to description and reflection on the class, focusing on the classroom itself. We need to change how we evaluate our students and do so in conjunction with the material realities of teaching.

Yvonne Stephens addressed the reciprocal ethics of care. She opened by listing the issues she can’t prepare for in her classroom: the real life issues that affect our students such as health issues, family issues, and financial issues. Stephens addressed the “borderlands” of the classroom in addressing students’ personal concerns. What happens in that space of overlap and intersection?

Stephens outlined the different roles faculty members play: mentor, confidante, teacher, coach, guide. How does this complicate teaching & research with students?

Stephens outlined a heuristic for thinking about affective issues in teaching:

1. Reflect on current practices
This essentially creates a reservoir of practices and stories

2. Be informed about institutional rules
Additional knowledge and sensitivity helps us to make appropriate accommodations

3. Be informed about students
Be a good listener and observer of students in the classroom and one-on-one interactions

4. Engage in dialogue

This common sense, smart approach to knowing our students is really important to student success and meaningful teaching.

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Filed under CCCC 2012, What's New in Basic Writing

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