Tuesday, October 23, 2007

i am claiming closet traditionalist

"science is a self-evaluating way of viewing the world". -michael's dad
(a quote that came from a conversation about how knowledges need to be continually revised, but in dominant culture "fact" stays "fact" even after it is disproven)

in our methods class last night, we were sharing our records of practice on our "Challenges of Teaching Writing" project, a mixture of video interviews, student work, and other proof of our mentor teachers' approach to grammar vs. content, in different genres of writing (personal essay, analytical essay, informal journaling). i admit that i am a stickler for grammar, which makes it unfortunate sometimes when i see my students' writing that has potential, but lacks mechanics. i do think that i'm doing a disservice to my students if i don't comment on these errors and set high expectations for their written work, but the reality of the situation (as i recorded in a really great interview with my mentor today) is that they don't tend to remember these things year to year (it's like they forget them over the summer!)

gillian termed me a closet traditionalist, because it would appear from the surface of my positionality that i would be less-focused on traditional aspects of teaching english, and more toward progressive models. while i do aim to teach for understanding of concepts, themes, connecting prior knowledge to text... i think that syntactical structures for writing (be it personal, creative or analytical, expository) are crucial for being able to effectively communicate your ideas. for me, this is not an arbitrary stance, but incredibly political.

i aim to educate my students in the language of power (orwell) in order to empower them in having access to a world that they may not choose to participate in (i.e. dominant or mainstream culture, the business world, etc.), but i do not have the right, as a teacher, to decide for them their destiny by allowing them to not learn standard English. i also think it's crucial for ME to respect and learn AAVE, Spanish and the other languages that my students speak, and have a responsibility to educate myself, because i don't believe that they dominant language is the most important one for them to learn, or that it holds authority over all other forms, dialects of English (or other languages), but being that we live in a society that values standard English and literacy in it as cultural currency directly related to success, I want my students to know it, so that they can subvert it.

i have always believed in the power of changing the system by infiltrating it, so perhaps that's why i would not seem at first glance to believe in tradition... but i think it's important to know it in order to fight it, in a certain sense. more on this later.

and now for something completely different, a video about fall colors (as taken on the train to chicago last weekend), featuring the sounds of my good friend krts.

the forest falls

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