I want my students to be empowered by their ability to write. As we celebrated the end of a class where students had used research and writing to impact a real audience in their communities, the room filled with the culminations of their work. A military veteran addressed a letter to her senator while a classmate tuned a guitar, singing lyrics he’d written. I opened the guide a student made for the bilingual customers at his auto body shop, and saw Barbie become an engineer in the pages of a children’s book. The book’s author, like many of her peers, was a first-generation college student. Throughout the semester she had researched how to attract women of color to STEM fields. After learning about a book that portrayed Barbie as a white engineer who depended on men to realize her designs, this student set out to tell a better story. Hands-on, multimodal projects are central to my teaching, giving students agency to choose how to put their writing process, digital literacies, and rhetorical awareness to work. Given authentic situations with a real purpose, students engage in deeper learning.
My teaching career began in South Korea and then rural Hungary. Since then, I have worked with a diverse range of populations, including language learners seeking asylum, community college transfers, and liberal arts students in an experiential learning program. In all these settings, students have expressed fear about writing. Some fear they won’t succeed, don’t know the “rules,” or don’t have the elusive “writing gene” they perceive others to possess. Because I know that many students harbor anxieties about writing, I address them with my course design. I ensure students understand that everyone is capable of developing as writers, readers, and rhetors. I create hands-on activities to demonstrate how the many skills they already have transfer to academic writing situations. They gain the habits of mind to consider the genre, audience, purpose, and context of any text.
Fostering an inclusive and engaged environment, I work to de-center my authority in the classroom. I show students that I’m invested in their whole-person education and value the experiences and knowledge they bring. I make myself available as a mentor. I believe assessment should be a transparent tool that helps students learn, so I utilize contract grading, a practice that gives students agency while striving for a more equitable grading system. I strive for students to understand how their learning transfers beyond the classroom to their civic, social, and professional lives.
Writing is a collaborative and social process. I give students the opportunity to take risks and “think out loud” in low-stakes writing exercises, where they can choose to compose in multiple languages and media. I support students as they generate incremental drafts. By observing their own process through metacognitive reflection, my students develop a drafting strategy they can use in any situation.
My students often share their work with the audiences they hope to reach. The children’s book author read her story aloud to the children she tutored, offering a more representative view of her field. When the class began, she had expressed resistance to taking a writing class. Now she and many of her classmates were offering their unique voices to ongoing conversations relevant to their lives. I am driven to teach so I can guide students to feel invested in their own education, enthusiastic about what they can achieve through writing, and equipped to be lifelong learners.