As a teacher of writing, I invest time and energy in helping students experience writing as empowering, holistic, and satisfying. First and foremost, I want to help my students develop a practice of writing regularly: for expression, for discovery, and to communicate well with others. I am most interested in helping students experience writing as more than mechanically cranking out a draft, proofreading it for errors, and turning it in for a grade. Because I see writing as a difficult but rewarding process that by its nature is discursive communication between thinkers, I foster an intentional community of writers. In my classes we regularly discuss the emotional, affective, intellectual, and political aspects of writing. A central aspect of the work privileged in my writing classes is metadiscoursive/metacognitive reflection about writing. Students not only draft and revise their texts several times each; they also write informal self-reflections that require intentional and deep thinking about the discourse community for which they write, why they’ve revised as they have, and what challenges they addressed in their writing and revising process. This helps demystify the processural, always-in-becoming nature of research and writing.
Since learning how to write well is not one unified task but rather a complex series of skills that build upon each other, I choose to focus on several core lessons that students can take with them into new rhetorical and academic situations: the understanding that writing is not easy; the practice of thinking about audience through all stages of writing and revision; and an understanding that knowledge is co-created in discourse communities. Along with reflective writing and process-based pedagogy, peer review is also a vital component of my classroom because doing peer review gives student writers a real community of readers. I devote time each class session to actually writing and responding to real student texts; as a community of peers, my students get the opportunity to explore the challenges and triumphs of becoming better writers.
To help my students mindfully join the discursive university communities of which they are a part, I encourage them to conceive of their writing as projects in which they are doing something instead of just saying something; this means seeing the connections of words and ideas to real worlds, whether internal (emotions, convictions, beliefs) or external (their audience’s response and the material/political impact of their writing). My PhD research on the intersections of individual emotion, group affect, and anxiety in writing inform my classroom practices and support the type of mindfulness-based pedagogy I strive to embody. By asking my students to think about audience, about persuasive and writerly strategies, and about how their project contributes to an ongoing conversation, writers in my classes gain rhetorical skills to express their thoughts and positions clearly to a broader audience. Just as importantly, the work students do in my classes–in class discussion, drafting, revision, reflective writing, peer review, and multimodal composing–embraces students as whole people, not just as students newly-arrived to academic writing.