On Student Writing (just sharing a piece)
I am currently teaching the semester-long introductory course to rhetoric and composition, ENGL 1301. I haven’t taught this course in over three years (I have been focusing on teaching technical communication and media studies courses), and I had almost forgotten how much of a joy it can be at times. I have taught it during the summer term, but because of time constraints I have been forced to cut a few things out – such as the proposal to the first major paper, the Discourse Community Analysis. This is a shame, really, as the proposal lets me know if students are in the right track. Naturally, having the opportunity to teach Rhet/Comp during the regular term, I jumped at the opportunity of having students come up with proposals. I told them that their proposal should address the following questions:
(1) What is your DCM?
(2) How did you become an insider?
(3) What is one issue discussed in your discourse community?
(4) Where do you stand on said issue?
(5) Why do you think as you do?
The students asked me if they should turn this in on a bulleted list or in paragraph form. My reply was “It doesn’t really matter. As long as you address these five points, you can write your proposal in a paragraph, in bulleted lists, in pictures… however you want to write it. Just make sure it answers these five questions.
One of the students wrote me a proposal poem. It was too good to pass up, so I asked her for permission to share it, and she agreed. And so, here it is:
DCA Proposal by Stephanie Oliveras
When I was a girl only three,
my parents chose a life for me:
I wouldn’t drive a tractor,
I would be an actor;
and that’s how my life would be.
With skits and plays I filled my days,
never a complaint was had –
It’s a life that was surely not bad.
When I turned fourteen years old,
of a question I was soon told:
Out of all the ways
to act out my plays,
which method did I think was best?
Strasberg preached affective memory,
where from past experiences acting should stem as comodity.
Meisner taught that true acting should come,
not from what you do, but from what unto you is done.
Both methods have their proponents.
Both methods have their opponents.
But “method”, I think, is the one.
Of these issues a paper I will write,
intended to be read by those whose acting is their might,
the evidence I will say
will be drawn from my days
acting on stage, and will hopefully do well to show
that Method Acting is the way to go.
This poem-proposal in itself serves to highlight difference of thought between distinct discourse communities. When I showed this poem to a colleague science instructor, she said “this is wonderful. It’s highly creative – therefore, she should get an A.” Showing it to various relatives and acquaintances, they replied in a similar way – “It’s great use of language” or “How creative!” would always be followed by “it deserves an A.” If the course was about creative writing, or an ESL course, then yes. This proposal would get “an A” based on creativity and language use.
However, this is a rhet/comp course. This means that Stephanie still gets a full score (10 out of 10), but not “an A”. This particular assessment wasn’t worth a full grade. More importantly, the REASON why she gets the full score is that she addressed all the questions required.
I guess this shows a shift in perspective between the insider rhet/comp instructor (look for elements) and the outsider (look at how “cool” it is).
Anyway, hope you liked Stephanie’s poem.