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Pedagogical Perspectives

Thoughts, Opinions, and Ideas about Postsecondary Pedagogies

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September 2015

Unanswered Questions

I froze mid step handing back papers that morning.

“I’m sorry; what was that?” I asked the student even though I could already feel the blood draining from my face.

I hadn’t heard wrong.  The important pieces were still there.  Active shooter.  Delta State.  One professor dead.

And no one knew anything about the shooter.  Who it was, if he was still at large, nothing.

I thought about my former colleague who was at that moment crouched on the floor of her office with her husband and students, hiding in the dark behind a locked door.  What would she do if the shooter came?  What would any of us do?

That’s a question that unfortunately so many of us in academia now have to acknowledge.  What would we do in the unthinkable?

But we’re teachers, not firefighters or doctors or police.  We don’t save lives in any visceral sense.  Futures, maybe.  But lives, no.  Quite bluntly, we didn’t sign up for this shit. Continue reading “Unanswered Questions”

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First-Year Writing Communities: Making the Myth a Reality

If you stumbled into my Composition I class this morning at the start of class, you would have no idea what class you walked into. My students sat, their chairs arranged in a circle on one side of the room (in what they nicknamed “family time”), and they chatted away the first few minutes of class. Billy shaved his head last night; Adam’s shirt deserved some commentary. Text messages from students delayed by the rain were relayed. Salena, my teaching assistant, and I sat in this circle and participated in the conversation along with the students. Five minutes into class, with most of the students in attendance, I asked a question pertaining to the assignment. My students answered with insightful responses, respecting a peer’s input, listening and waiting for the peer to finish speaking before contributing their own input. This is the type of community building I’ve struggled to build for years, but never before were my attempts this successful, and never before would I imagine this community would show at the start of our third week of class. So how, after almost convincing myself that such communities are a myth, did I make this a reality? I stopped teaching the first week of class (and that is not a hyperbole). Continue reading “First-Year Writing Communities: Making the Myth a Reality”

Getting a Handle on Controversy in the Classroom

What can we learn from controversy? What can we learn from controversy in the classroom?

Recently there have been several incidents that have occurred involving the teaching of a particular graphic novel, Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, that have helped bring this controversy to, again, to the forefront of thought in certain academic circles.

There have been recent discussions, particularly and recently at Duke University, surrounding resistance of individual and groups of students to reading Fun Home because of part of the subject matter contained within it. What they primarily appear to be offended by though is the fear of encountering something that may upset them or may go against their beliefs or thoughts about the world. There are several articles discussing this matter at some length, but perhaps the best one, taking into account the controversy and how others are handling it, is a piece from Inside Higher Ed by Colleen Flaherty entitled “No So ‘Fun Home’.”

What about other kinds of controversy? What about the controversy in the everyday classroom?

Well, how does one deal with it? To start, I want to attempt to look at it in three parts: Continue reading “Getting a Handle on Controversy in the Classroom”

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