Revolution Lullabye

January 24, 2009

Elbow, “Embracing Contraries in the Teaching Process”

Elbow, Peter. “Embracing Contraries in the Teaching Process.” In The Writing Teacher’s Sourcebook. 65-76.

A good composition teacher (or really any teacher in general) must be simultaneously for the students (their advocate and coach, helping them improve as students and writers) and for society (upholding high disciplinary standards.) Elbow argues that it is possible to be both, citing that a similar contradiction is a necessary element of the writing process: a writer begins by opening up possibilities in invention and early drafting, and then polishes the piece according to standard writing conventions.

Quotable Quotes

“In order to teach well we must find some way to be loyal both to students and to knowledge or society” (75).

“underlying structure of contrasting mentalities” (76).

Notable Notes

points at Socrates and Christ as model teachers who embraced this contrary. Oxford and Cambridge have a tutor and examining committee model.

For students, we must treat them as smart and capable, act as their advocates, show them we are on their side and are ourselves still engaged in learning, individuals with “our doubts, ambivalences, and biases” (70).

For society, we must hold high standards, critically evaluate student work, don’t get too attached to individual students

In a course – set high standards at the beginning and then work with the students to help them achieve those goals.

Comments on drafts show “this is how you can do it better”

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