Revolution Lullabye

August 24, 2012

A Symposium on Mentoring the Work of WPAs

“A Symposium on Mentoring the Work of WPAs.” WPA 35.1 (Fall/Winter 2011): 148-166.

The symposium, which features five short essays, is presented in response to “The CWPA Mentoring Project and Survey Report” published in the fall/winter 2010 issue of WPA. This particular symposium focuses on the mentoring needs and experiences of new or beginning WPAs at non-R1 institutions, demonstrating the range of challenges faced by WPAs at American colleges and universities.

Joyce Olewski Inman, “Reflections on Year One as an Almost-WPA” 149-152

Inman is completing her PhD and simultaneously serving as a WPA at that institution, against the advice of her mentors. She points out how difficult it is to seek mentorship in her role as an “illigitimate” WPA, citing the rhetoric of CWPA resolutions that call for WPAs with terminal, specialized-in-composition degrees.

“I am hopeful it will lead to additional reflection on how our field might become more accepting of the fact that ideal circumstances rarely exist and more conscious of the ways our own rhetoric may be dismissive, not supportive, of WPAs who find themselves in these less than ideal situations” (152).

Kathryn Johnson Gindlesparger, “Snapshot of a Tenure Decision” 152-155

Gindlesparger is a full-time WPA in an admininistrative, not tenure-track faculty, line, and she writes about the benefits and consequences of converting her line into a faculty one. She specificately cites the relative freedom and safety of an administrative position and describes how the culture of a writing program is changed when its control moves from a full-time administrator to multiple faculty members taking on small administrative roles. She calls on CWPA to expand their mentoring to WPAs who are not on the tenure track.

Darci L. Thoune, “The Pleasures and Perils of Being First” 156-159

Thoune explains her position as the first-ever WPA at her institution, describing the challenge of creating a centralized program in a formerly decentralized non-tenure-track instructor system. She explains how one of her primary objectives was to learn about the culture of the department and program, something she did in part by observing classes. She explains how many of her early initiatives at professional development failed, but through those and attending the WPA conference, she decided to implement different, more successful ways to create commonality in the program and manage the many decisions she had to make as a WPA.

Collie Fulford, “Hit the Ground Listening: An Ethnographic Approach to New WPA Learning” 159-162

Fulford discusses how she used ethnographic approaches (especially listening and observing) to learn about the culture of her new department, a HBCU.  She explains, though, that there came a time where she had to stop listening and start speaking, start participating as a member, not just an observer, in the department and college community.

Tim McCormack, “Boss of Me: When the Former Adjunct Runs the Writing Shop”  163-166

McCormack discusses the difficulty in transitioning from an outspoken advocate of adjunct rights to becoming the WPA who did not always have to the power to do the things he thought as an adjunct a WPA should do.  He discusses how he has learned the complex context a WPA works in, and although he has been able to come to terms with some of the decisions he has had to make, he’s uncomfortable with the dissonance with the progressive stance our scholarship often takes about contingent labor and the day-to-day administrative decisions about contingent faculty WPAs need to make.

“My WPA role at the college has evolved from my unquestioning righteousness in support of adjunct faculty to a more nuanced understanding that includes making decisions based on what is good for the writing program and our students.”

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January 10, 2011

Connors, Overwork/Underpay

Connors, Robert J. “Overwork/Underpay: Labor and Status of Composition Teachers since 1880.” Rhetoric Review 9.1 (Fall 1990): 108-125.

Connors looks at the change in the institutional position of composition teachers from 1880 to the present (1980), tying composition’s current low status to broader changes in society and American higher. Connors explains how the structure of the composition course in the late 1800s – which most often contained the entire freshman class, not split into sections, and which was based on frequent essay-writing and individual attention to students – butted up against the rise in American university student population. Professors of rhetoric were overworked, often moved on to another less laborous field, and rhetoric was not considered a desirable field for a scholar to enter. The growing graduate student population provided a large pool of cheap labor, which extended after the graduate students graduated and became poorly-paid instructors (disproportionalty more women than men compared to other fields) in order to have a foot in the door for a more well-paying assistant professor position. Connors uses historical documents and reports to construct his history, including reflections written by and about the Boylston Chair at Harvard, the Hopkins Report of 1913 (which published the results of a nationwide survey of over 600 composition teachers about their working conditions and expectations), and the NCTE “English and the PhD” report from 1925 (which argued that literature PhDs were not trained to teach composition)

Notes and Quotes

“Rhetoric has changed in a hundred years from an academic desideratum to a grim apprenticeship, to be escaped as soon as practical” (108).

Connors explained the first American college literacy crisis, which originated at Harvard in 1874 and resulted in the institution of hte required basic freshman writing course.

late 1800s: coeducation (men felt more comfortable writing arguments to women than debating them); rise of business and industry that demanded consistent written communication; larger debates of linguistic correctness; university student population growing rapidly and the emerging notion of writing instruction that should be individualistic (and hence labor-intensive.)

Hopkins Report estimated that, given how fast a teacher could read (2200 words an hour, 10 hours a week), a composition teacher could only effectively teach 61 writing students.

“While teachers in other fields were dealing successfully with the larger numbers in their classes by evolving techniques of discussion and lecture, composition teachers were tied to the reading of thousands of themes” (115).

mismatch between the work required to get a PhD (investigation, research) and what the TAs were then expected to do (teach, often sections of freshman composition.) TAs were assigned multiple sections of labor-intensive composition while trying to complete their dissertations, and they hated rhetoric andcomposition as a result.

Why did people agree to be part of the composition underclass? 1. “Surplus” PhDs who wanted to stay doing something academic in the hopes of getting a better job 2. Women who did not have a fair shake in competing with fellow male PhDs for academic jobs 3. Women who had the added burden of raising children and couldn’t compete in scholarly production 4. Women who needed part-time jobs to raise children. 5. People who wanted part-time flexibility

“Unless and until teaching and studying writing can be made work the entire English faculty wants to share in, irresistable social forces will maintain the underclass and all of the unhappiness and poisonous inequality that have always followed in its train.” (one solution – give extra credit to faculty who agree to teach writing)

uses late-19th and early-20th century reports, articles in English Journal, monographs, surveys on the teaching of English and composition

December 9, 2010

Schell, What’s the Bottom Line

Schell, Eileen E. “What’s the Bottom Line? Literacy and Quality Education in the Twenty-First Century.” In Moving a Mountain. Eds. Schell and Stock. Urbana: NCTE, 2000. 324-340.

Schell, looking at the changing landscape of higher education that is increasingly corporate and reliant on part-time contingent faculty labor, argues that in order to provide quality writing instruction, the discipline needs to work toward four conditions – “compensation, contracts, conditions of work, and coalition building.” Schell argues that arguments about contingent labor need to be brought from the individual level (citing the problematic rhetorical shift that blames the people, not the institutions) to the systematic level, where employment policies and their effects can be critiqued and changed. She advocates moving from a “rhetoric of lack” to a “rhetoric of responsibility”: asking and working for what is required for part-time and NTT faculty to be successful in their work and also who is responsible for it: institutions, faculty, students.

Notes and Quotes

“How can we work around what I have come to call the ‘hidden economy’ of part-time work, the ways in which institutions often profit from the undercompensated emotional and material investments that non-tenure-track faculty make in their teaching?” (327) These investments “constitute a not-insignificant, hidden economy of part-time labor” (327) – these costs are hidden because part-time faculty compensate for that which they are not provided for (copying, office space, etc.)

This hidden economy has both a “gendered and classed nature” that cannot be ignored

“Why do institutions hire and then fail to provide part-time faculty with working conditions necessary for the provision of quality education? The bottom-line answer is simple: cost-savings” – but at what cost? (329)

Writing instruction is regarded as essential to a student’s undergraduate education, so why are those who teach not given the resources they need to teach it well?

There is a need to build coalitions and visible teaching communities – communities that nuture and sustain the development of both teachers and students (332)

need to connect quality education with quality teaching and working conditions.

4Cs

1. compensation – wide range in salaries. Need to change the “piecework system” that persists (333).

2. contracts – get multi-year contracts that guarantee good salaries and benefits

3. conditions – value writing and teaching-intensive positions, work to get better working conditions

4. coalition-building – including unionization, collective bargaining initiatives

December 8, 2010

O’Grady, Trafficking in Freeway Flyers

O’Grady, Helen. “Trafficking in Freeway Flyers: (Re)Viewing Literacy, Working Conditions, and Quality Instruction.” In Moving a Mountain. Eds. Schell and Stock. Urbana: NCTE, 2000. 132-155.

O’Grady points at the contradictions between institutional mission statements and radical discourse about literacy and the working conditions of contingent faculty working in those institutions. O’Grady argues that changing how we address the contingent faculty labor problem could result in more productive ways to create better workign conditions.

Notes and Quotes

concern for quality undergraduate education but not an inadequate investment in the faculty delivering that instruction

teachers treated unprofessionally are preparing the next generation of professionals

link faculty working conditions to instructional quality

forums, dialogues, studies about part-time labor

O’Grady works part-time at several institutions – speaks from experience.

November 20, 2010

Bloom, Teaching College English as a Woman

Bloom, Lynn Z. “Teaching College English as a Woman.” College English 54.7 (1992): 818-825. Print.

Bloom describes her history of teaching college English as a woman. Her personal stories intersect with scholarship about the treatment of contingent faculty and women in traditional male-dominated departments: fly-by-night jobs with no benefits, no office space, and no recognition as a contributing member to the university; efforts by tenured faculty to deny her tenure and eliminate her position; and moves to marginalize and silence her as a scholar, as a teacher, as a administrator, and as a woman.

February 8, 2009

Moran, Technology and the Teaching of Writing

Moran, Charles. “Technology and the Teaching of Writing.” 203-223.

Computer-based technology is knit into the very nature of modern composition pedagogy. Four of the most prominent ones (and the ones most theorized and written about in the field) are word processing (which allow for easier revising and drafting but can mislead the student with auto-correct functions that do not take into account the writer’s context); e-mail (increases informal communication between student and instructor, for the good and the bad); online discussion forums (increased the amount of writing our students did and allowed for quiet students to voice their opinions, but can easily get out of hand, so it’s best to focus the discussion around a collaborative task), and the Internet (discussion and production of hypertexts, online research.) Those teaching with technologies must be aware that technologies don’t erase differences between students (English-centered Internet does not accurately reflect the diversity of society or the classroom) and must keep in mind issues of access (what students have access to use for assignments, both at home, in the workplace, and on campus.) Finally, it is essential that teachers using technology continually train themselves to keep updated about the latest applications to inform their teaching and help their students.

Quotable Quotes

Want students to become “reflective and critical users of emerging technologies” (220)

Notable Notes

Sources: Hawshier et al Computers and the Teaching of Writing in Higher Education; Palmquist Transitions: Teaching Writing in Computer-Supported and Traditional Classrooms; Computers and Composition journal

Language of email – discourse conventions: Hawshier, “The Rhetorics and Languages of Electronic Mail”; ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Exchange); English-only standards

women and men in online chat rooms

computer use among basic writers, women, race issues, ESL classrooms

February 7, 2009

Jarratt, Feminist Pedagogy

Jarratt, Susan. “Feminist Pedagogy.” 113-131.

Feminist pedagogy in composition is made manifest in several ways and rose out of the 1970s women’s movement (second wave feminism.) Some scholars in composition focus on the differences between men and women writers while others take a broader theoretical approach to feminism, looking at how gender is created and determined within society, through language and discourse, and to whose benefits and ends. Composition as a discipline is also interested in the work of feminism, as the field, populated by many women and heavily involved in both teaching and service, has faced difficulty in the larger, white, male-dominated academy. Feminist pedagogy is a practice, not a subject or content, that believes in decentering classroom authority, recognizing the knowledge of students, emphasizing process over product, viewing society as both sexist and partriarchal, and whose classroom practices include collaborative learning, discussion and talking, and dialogue between the teacher and students. It asks students to pay close attention to their words and style (their effects and meanings) and expands its study beyond gender to ask how race and class and other social differences affect a person’s language.

Quotable Quotes

Feminist pedagogy “is not about forcing all the students to subscribe to a particular political position but rather engaging with students on the terrain of language in the gendered world we all currently inhabit” (118).

Notable Notes

Important Sources for feminism: Betty Friedan; Angela Y Davies, Women, Race, and Class

Historical studies of feminism and women writers: Reclaiming Rhetorica (Lunsford), With Pen and Voice (Logan), Nineteenth-Century Women Learn to Write (Hobbes)

Composition field: Schell, Holbrook/Miller, Phelps/Emig, Fontaine/Hunter

Men teaching feminist pedagogy: Connors, Villanueva, Bleich, Kraemer, Schilb, Tobin

3rd wave feminism: bell hooks (Talking Back), Anzaldua (Borderlands), The Bridge Called Me Back (Morgan/Anzaldua)

Jarratt/Worsham, Feminism and Composition Studies; Culley/Portuges’ Linda Alcoff; Laura Brady; Elizabeth Flynn; Joy Ritchie; Pamela Annas (Style as Politics), Bauer (The Other ‘F’ Word); Faludi

gendered pronouns Spender Man-Made Language good for classroom exercise

student backlash against feminism

February 6, 2009

Covino, Rhetorical Pedagogy

William A. Covino. “Rhetorical Pedagogy.” 36-53.

Rhetorical pedagogy, which developed in the 1980s after the process and expressivism movements, looks to rhetoric to form a foundation for writing instruction. Advocates of rhetorical pedagogy define rhetoric as both dynamic and interested (48): dependent on context and attending to the needs and desires of writers and audiences. Rhetorical pedagogy draws on the entire history of rhetoric, from ancient Roman and Greek rhetoric to twentieth century rhetoricians, who expand rhetoric from the truncated empirical study of style that defined the discipline in the 18th and 19th cenutry to a more social, psychological, context-driven understanding of how rhetoric functions. Later twentieth-century rhetoricians argue that rhetoric is about finding shared values (Perelman), that even reality is rhetorical (Bakhtin), and that rhetoric can be found in non-human nature (Kennedy.) Modern historians of rhetoric are focused on recovering the rhetorical traditions of marginalized groups (women, African-Americans, etc.)

Quotable Quotes

Rhetorical pedagogy “consists in both more deliberate attention to the history of rhetoric and the acknowledgment that ‘rhetoric’ names a complex set of factors that affect the production and interpretation of texts” (39).

Notable Notes

Kinneavy’s theory of discourse increases the range of discourses available for students, a turn to the rhetorical tradition.

Expressivism encouraged a turn to classic invention heuristics.

1980s: emphasis on classical rhetoric (Aristotle, Cicero) 1990s: complicate it with other rhetorical traditions.

Sourcebooks for students and teachers: Corbett, Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student; Lunsford, Reclaiming Rhetorica; Kennedy, Comparative Rhetoric; Murphy, A Short History of Writing Instruction; Crowley, Ancient Rhetorics for Contemporary Students; Knoblauch/Brannon, Rhetorical Traditions; Winterowd, Contemporary Rhetoric; Bizzell/Herzberg, The Rhetorical Tradition; Jarratt, Reading the Sophists; Covino, The Art of Wondering; Kitzhaber; Crowley, Methodical; Berlin, Writing Instruction; Bitzer, “The Rhetorical Situation”, Olson/Worsham, Race, Rhetoric, and the Postcolonial

Important figures: Aristotle, Cicero, Quintilian, Plato (Phaedus and Gorgias), Ramus (Arguments in Rhetoric), Hugh Blair, George Campbell, I.A. Richards, Kenneth Burke, Perelman, Derrida, Fish, Rorty, Chomsky, Belenky, Feyerabend, Kuhn (rhetoric of science), Bakhtin

Important 20th century: I.A. Richards (The Philosophy of Rhetoric) and Kenneth Burke (A Rhetoric of Motives)

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