Up to this point in teaching at the University of Delaware, I have taught fairly standard E110 class sections. (E110 is the university-wide composition course that all undergraduates are required to take) I love teaching E110 and find the combination of first year students and the programmatic objectives of the course to provide rich variety. Each section of E110 that I teach is unique, depending on the mix of students, majors, group interests, and class meeting time, among other variables.
Since I have not taught E110 since Spring 2015 (my partner, kids, and I lived in New Zealand for a year on sabbatical!), I am currently revamping my syllabus, readings, and assignments taking into consideration some new realizations I’ve had about composition pedagogy over the past few months.
I’m redesigning my E110 course for the spring around the theme, “Fears, Phobias, and Freakouts,” and the course readings and writing assignments will all explore questions about fears and anxieties. (Please note that I had selected this theme before American voters elected Donald J. Trump to be the next president.) My course will not have an obliquely political bent to it. However, I believe that the current tensions in American society will provide a generative context in which the students and I can explore, research, and write about things that keep us awake at night. Another benefit to theming my E110 section in this way: I am presenting a paper about the role of difficult emotions in the First Year writing classroom at the 2017 CCCC Convention, so my classroom and scholarly work should dovetail nicely to reinforce and enrich each other.
In addition, this spring I will be shadowing Dr. Joseph Harris teaching E306: Creative Nonfiction. Because my background as a writer between undergrad and starting the MA program in 2013 was journalistic and creative nonfiction, I see this opportunity to shadow Dr. Harris as a way to continue centering my career in writing studies while also extending myself and my teaching portfolio with advanced courses in writing. The English Department often offers multiple sections of E306 and they usually fill up; I hope to have the chance to teach a section in a future semester. If that works out, I will relish the chance to design an upper-division writing course that helps students experiment with the creative nonfiction genre, itself a slippery, hard-to-define form that can encompass essay, journal article, lyrical prose, photojournalism, multimodal video/presentation… the possibilities of supporting and assigning creative nonfiction writing makes me really excited!
The spring offers me other opportunities to expand my teaching portfolio by leaving campus and teaching non-college audiences. I was invited to give a lecture to the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Delaware Wilmington campus. My talk, titled “Traces of Affect: Feeling and Being in Writing Studies,” will bring together my work on emotions and transmission of affect in writing processes. I look forward to sharing some of my research with the lifelong learners who will attend, and of course will employ immersive and interactive teaching practices like fastwriting, small group discussion, and problem-based learning activities to my talk.
Beyond these more traditional educational settings, I will also co-facilitate (with Professor Emerita Joan DelFatorre) the “Writing as Healing” support groups held monthly at Christiana Hospital. I visited the group in the past as an observer, so I’m looking forward to having a more formalized role of co-facilitator for my spring independent study, E666 Writing as Healing: Contemporary Theoretical and Practical Approaches to Reflective Writing for Personal Wellness. My ideal position after graduate school will include alternative-academic teaching, such as in medical, professional, or other community-based groups; teaching research-based journaling methods to this support group and helping develop a community of writers who come together for reasons other than academic credit is really invigorating to me.
Last, another teaching goal of mine is to offer an honors section of E110. I’m currently doing research about the topic, but I intend to propose it for next school year with the theme of mindfulness. To be clear, mindfulness is not a religious practice (though many religions include meditation, prayer, introspection, silence, etc.); in the honors E110 class I am proposing, these mindfulness-based forms of inquiry pedagogical techniques for learning through refined attention. I believe that taking mindfulness as both the pedagogical imperative and the subject of an honors E110 class will beautifully extend the already transformative work we do in first year composition.