Musings

Finding Footing in a Community College

It’s been some time since I’ve written anything, and even longer since I’ve written about my work as a compositionist. There’s not really any excuse, except that I didn’t make my blog a priority this summer or fall semester. However, my goal for 2018 is to be more active as a writer here. Since I’m sitting in the library, importing a stack of CDs to my iTunes library for new Drive-to-Michigan playlists, I might as well begin working on that new years resolution.

I’ve officially completed my first semester of work as a composition instructor at Ivy Tech Community College-Bloomington. During the Fall 2017 semester, I taught three writing courses:

  • ENGL 075 – Integrated Reading and Writing
  • ENGL 111 – English Composition
  • ENGL 112 – Exposition and Persuasion

The 075 and 111 courses were paired as a co-req set, a class structure that I had not encountered before this semester. Essentially, I taught an ENGL 111 course, and some of the students in my ENGL 111 class also stayed afterwards for ENGL 075. It’s intended as a basic writing class to help support students in their efforts to be successful in ENGL 111. In addition to breaking down the larger composition projects from ENGL 111 into smaller, more manageable deadlines / practice sessions, I also spent a lot of time working with students on the Habits of Mind outlined in the Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing, and affective units focused on confidence and motivation. I know some of my colleagues spent a chunk of time on surface-level conventions, but I’m still trying to make peace with the best way of incorporating convention practice into 075. I find that it’s more useful to spend our time engaging with invention and drafting in 075, but even if we got to spent a day per project looking through our own drafts for conventional patterns, I wonder if it’s enough practice.  Questions to consider as I revise curricular materials for next semester, I suppose.

The other curricula set that was new to me was ENGL 112. This advanced composition class was solely focused on argumentation and the ways it is used in writing. Because I had only previously taught first-year composition and basic writing courses, I was a little nervous when designing my curriculum for ENGL 112. However, I’m pretty happy with how the pilot class went–particularly with the work my students brought to the table. The semester was broken into three types of argumentation (traditional/Toulmin, Rogerian, and multimodal). It seems like traditional and Rogerian argumentation is fairly common in the ENGL department here, but I wonder how many classes are explicitly exposed to lessons on multimodality, and are given the opportunity to compose multimodal arguments. From what I’ve heard, it’s fairly uncommon. That didn’t stop me from integrating multimodality into my curriculum, though.

As it turns out, I ended up being observed the day that I introduced multimodality and multimodal arguments. The colleague who observed me disclosed that she was unfamiliar with multimodality and was; therefore, excited to learn something new from my lesson. Supposedly, she stayed a lot longer than she normally does for observations and seemed really excited about the potential for multimodal composition projects. My hope is that word will spread and we’ll slowly see more instructors incorporating multimodality more explicitly into their curriculums. I think the only reason it’s not there now is because many folks probably aren’t familiar with scholarship about multimodal compositions. Hoping to shift this reality in 2018.

In addition to wanting to expose my colleagues to multimodality in composition, I have a few other projects that are taking form for 2018.

  1. After applying for funding to help cover the costs of attending and presenting at CCCC 2018 this coming March, I was asked by HR to put together a presentation/workshop for all the faculty at Ivy Tech – Bloomington. My CCCC presentation will be about the Habits of Mind and their impact on students’ process writing; however, I will be adapting this presentation for my Ivy Tech colleagues to make it more interdisciplinary–demonstrating how the incorporation of Habits of Mind can transcend the writing classroom and support student learning in all disciplines and aspects of life.
  2. I’ve also been asked to design a presentation on the benefits of using portfolios for writing assessment. I was speaking with the head of the English department–bonding over our shared love for crafting and good food–when I mentioned that I had to finish grading my portfolios for the semester. Apparently, I’m one of the few–if not the only person–using portfolios to assess student work. This was rather shocking to me, as so much scholarship articulates the challenges associated with only assessing students’ final drafts.  I’m not exactly sure when my presentation will be, but I’ll definitely be pulling from my readings in WRTG 514 to assemble my talk / proposal advocating for portfolio assessment protocols.

With these exciting projects on the horizon, I’m looking forward to my teaching in 2018. Although my move and transition to Bloomington, Indiana has been long and, at times, demoralizing, I absolutely love my college. I’ve confirmed that I want to teach at a two-year college instead of a big R1 university. There’s such a community here. Sure, it’s not perfect and politics still exist, and I will need to pick up additional jobs so I can afford to stay and work as an adjunct instructor, but I love the student population I get to work with. It’s definitely been an adjustment, since life happens for my students differently than it did for my 18 year old students at Eastern Michigan University, but I really feel like I’m making a difference here. And that makes me excited to keep moving forward.

 

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