Playing with My Friends

I’ve blogged before about how much joy I get out of playfully collaborating with my colleagues to create exciting and awesome new ideas and compositions. From presenting at conferences to reflectively exploring new areas of scholarship to writing this awesome piece on composing with sound for Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy, some of my best work has come from working alongside others to create something much greater and more complex than I could have come up with using just my mind alone.

Carrying on in this developing personal practice, I have teamed up with Kate Artz and Anne Mooney to publish our most recent piece with Kairos, “Transmodality in Action: A Manifesto.” It’s definitely my oddest, most experimental publication to date, but I love it passionately, largely because it was really really fun to make.

Don’t get me wrong; the scholarly value and complexity of my publications and research matters to me greatly. However, there is just no way around the fact that I like doing things that are a lot of fun with people that are fun to work with. Playing in this way inevitably leads me to create excellent work. And therein lies the heart of what I want to say in this post.

Here are some things that happen when I playfully explore my field alongside like minded colleagues:

  • I discover new facets and angles to issues that interest and excite me and that shape the way I think about my discipline.
  • I create high quality work that expresses my passion for my field and engages others to play with or dialogue over the ideas we are exploring.
  • I push myself to articulate my thoughts and observe how others understand and interact with them.
  • I find myself happily and willingly dedicating long hours of hard work to scholarly endeavors without excessive fatigue or frustration.
  • I develop habits of questioning, trying on multiple perspectives, and hunting for new ways to view things.
  • When a project draws to a close, I am eager and excited for new, bigger, and more elaborate projects.

I can say with certainty that my colleagues experience all these same benefits in their own ways. And if it’s true for us, it’s true for our students. Looking over this list, these are some of the core skills and experiences I want my students to have in my classroom. So while I am pouring over elaborate lesson plans and assessments, I resolve to make it a goal to carve out time to let my students and their friends play with composition and literature. Because that seems to be where the real magic happens.


My 2017-2018 Teaching Manifesto

The 2017-2018 academic year is right around the corner and, per the urging of fellow teacher/blogger Susan G. Barber, I have set aside some time to compose my manifesto. These are my commitments to myself, to my colleagues, and to my students for this academic year. My goal is to be intentional, focused, and public about my standards for this academic year. I want to be transparent and tenacious about this manifesto, and I hope to make a yearly ritual out of this process, regularly assessing and refocusing my attitudes, philosophies, and standards for myself and my classroom. So, for my 2017-2018 manifesto,

I will honor my students.

  • I will be careful with their time. I will not overload them with homework, but will instead be conscious of spacing assignments and deadlines. I will only ask them to do what I feel is most necessary for their success, and I will not intentionally ask them to sacrifice necessary sleep, extracurricular, or family time for my class.
  • I will place their personal and educational needs over my desires for how my classroom looks and unfolds. This may mean shifting deadlines, rearranging schedules, adjusting assignments, or repurposing my carefully planned class time. I will not cling to my own visions for my class out of vanity, selfishness, or personal goals.
  • When my students share reactions, emotions, or expectations, I will carefully listen, process what they say, and incorporate their feedback into our class time as much as I can.
  • I will build relationships with my students. I will attend games, performances, and awards ceremonies. When students stop by to talk, I will take time to stop what I am working on and have conversations with them. I will make an effort to stay aware of what is going on with them inside and outside of my classroom so that I can understand and pray for them as people as well as students.
  • I will work passionately and diligently to make sure that the lessons, assignments, and assessments I am providing my students with are high quality, well-researched, and deeply thought out. I will create opportunities for collaboration, real-world experience, experimentation, and exploration.
  • I will only speak with positivity and respect about my students, whether or not they are there to hear what I say. When my students can hear what I am saying, I will make a conscious effort to praise and affirm each one of them.
  • I will resist the temptation to rely on quick grading schemes, easy teacher-centric lessons, and passive teaching. I will continue to push myself to do the extra work required to promote student choice, empowerment, and involvement.
  • I will allow my students to be individuals, celebrating their differences and creating opportunities for them to engage with literature and composition in ways that interest and challenge each one of them. I will not ask for uniformity or standardization, and I will push myself to recognize unique gifts, interests, and abilities, explicitly affirming each student individually.
  • I will enjoy my students, laughing, learning, and playing with them. We will drink tea, eat snacks, and take breaks together in addition to working and learning alongside one another.

I will honor my colleagues.

  • I will seek out guidance and advice from my colleagues on questions I have in my classroom. I will ask for support and rely on their experience, even if I  feel am capable of resolving my concerns without their assistance.
  • I will cheerfully provide them with my encouragement and support whenever I possibly can, even if it detracts from my free time or cramps my schedule.
  • I will continue to build personal relationships with my colleagues, taking time to get to know them better, remembering interests that they have expressed, and responding with prayer and support when they share frustrations or struggles in their lives.
  • I will enjoy my colleagues, laughing, learning, and playing with them. We will drink tea, eat snacks, and take breaks together in addition to working and learning alongside one another.

I will honor my scholarship.

  • I will stay current in my field. I will continue to make time to research, write, and publish during the school year, resisting the urge to place my scholarship on the back burner. This may be as simple as continuing to read articles and books within my areas of research, or it may involve conference presentations or publications.
  • I will not guilt myself into dedicating time to scholarship just for the sake of continuing my research or achieving career status. I will only give my time to topics and opportunities that capture my interest and authentically spill over into my classroom practice.
  • I will continue to reflect on my practice and connect with others in my field through my blog and Twitter account.
  • I will make time to continue my own practices as a reader and a writer, creating space to read and write for a variety of personal and enjoyable reasons.

I will honor myself.

  • I will make time for my life outside of school. I will spend quality time with my family, cuddle my dogs, and allow myself to forget school work intermittently.
  • I will prioritize my physical well-being. I will do my best to keep myself reasonably well-fed, well-rested, and physically active.
  • I will maintain a healthy, guilt-free faith life, praying, worshipping, and resting in ways that bring me closer to God, enrich my daily life, and shape my pedagogy.
  • I will push myself to be my best, but I will be kind to myself when I fall short.

I am sure there are things I should add, but this, at least, is my manifesto for this next academic year! And I can’t wait to start.