I honestly find the two readings for this week, Lisa Delpit’s The Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy in Educating Other People’s Children and Bell Hooks’ Teaching to Transgress – Education as the Practice of Freedom, a bit difficult to respond to with the same personal rapport that usually would in a blog-like fashion. After all, I am a (European) white male, so to reflect on the experiences expressed within both texts as if I had some sort of specified authenticity regarding them would be disingenuous, so I will be a bit more reserved here. Nonetheless, I find both of them to be important reads regardless of the extent that one can “click” with them.
So there is this idea of a “culture of power” expressed throughout Delpit’s work, and after reading Hooks’ text I have concluded that the most absent force within education is the encouragement of educator’s to listen. I am certain that I’ve mentioned this in other blog posts, but even within my own teaching experiences did I find moments where I was the one listening to be when my students were most engaged, and most learning. Neither text necessarily targets teacher’s as a fault, but more as restricted cogs in the academia wheel, as there is an excessive amount of intimidation imposed throughout seemingly every aspect of the profession.
Delpit states that many educators want their children to be autonomous, where they learn completely within the classroom outside of outside influences, and that “this is a very reasonable goal for cultures of power.” Should it be, though? Throughout my student career I’ve always felt as if the “rule book” stripped me and other students of a considerable passion and identity for the learning environment that we exist in. Whenever I wrote an essay that tackled a sensitive subject matter, or focused on more “explicit” content, my teachers would ask me, often respectfully, to rephrase or rewrite it. I often would receive the line, “this is great, and you should definitely write about this stuff on your own time, or when you go to college.” Really what they meant was “if my supervisor checks this my day is gonna suck so can you please tone it down?”
It is not that my teacher’s thought that the work that I produced was not of an academic quality, and I knew that, but still found the situation deflating. It is shackling whenever a student can’t express themselves and their experiences within the already contrived nature of academia, where we already feel so often silenced by apparently out-of-touch ghost people of power who hold little understanding of what it means to be a student within the modern day (from what I hear from students and teacher alike, nothing has changed regarding this in the six years since I left high school). That considered, I sincerely question: What makes them understand what it’s like to be a female student nowadays? What makes them understand what it’s like to be a black student nowadays? What makes them understand what it’s like to be a student with ADHD nowadays? What makes them understand what it’s like to be a student who commutes from classroom to classroom in a wheelchair nowadays? What makes them understand what it’s like to be a teacher that recognizes that “being a teacher is being with people,” but feels limited in how to do so due to the overbearing semantics that rule over them so critically yet so blindly?
Perhaps the first time I truly understood what it meant to have and express my own voice came from trying to communicate with my grandfather. Now, I still don’t really know how to communicate with my grandfather through words. It’s been twenty-three-plus years but I do not speak very much Portuguese. I also don’t think that a ninety-plus year old man would appreciate me speaking what I know how to say confidently (the sort of thing you say when you stub your pinky toe or something). Fortunately, I realized quickly enough that I was unlikely to learn a second language at a very young age, and decided that physical communication would be the way to go, by wrestling (because of course).
Whenever I would get home from school and whatnot, I would enter with my fists raised boxer style, as would my grandfather, and we would simulate a wrestling match. If I took a “strike” and propelled myself flying backwards with three successive backrolls to follow, I am either really glad to be home or had a really good day thus far. If I were to simply fall to the floor dead, then my grandfather knew that I was tired or not in the mood for much physical discussion. Over the years my mother would even get involved as a referee or simple spectator, and would translate things my grandfather and I would say throughout.
While contemplating both the importance of voice and multilingualism in how they relate to writing and the ever-swirling whirlpool that is the education world, I conclude that I side with the perspective that both are undoubtedly essential whenever natural. As much as Peter Elbow may play contrarian in opposing voice in his text Voice in Writing Again: Embracing Contraries, I still grew a tad miffed in realizing that I don’t think that my grandfather would know how much I love him had I not been able to externally express my voice, albeit absent of speech. Emotional significance disregarded. I still believe that voice is equally essential to more text-based writing. Perhaps this may be some sort of generational thing that prior generations would chalk up to a poor attention span (or whatever), but if a text is even generously straight I feel less-fulfilled as an academic. I want to be inspired intellectually, and without the emotive conviction that a distinct voice can provide, my engagement checks out.
I have conversed with my fair share of ESL, ELL, etc. students over the past two decades of studenting, and I hate to claim that I loathed doing so when I was a kid. I just wanted to go home and play with my wrestling figures, let alone be in school. Having to be in school paired with someone who required more effort to communicate “effectively” was one hell of a chore for this elementary school future college dropout. After all, I couldn’t just put Daniella and Peter (random names) in a “calf crusher” or a “Hurrah! Another Year, Surely This One Will Be Better Than The Last; The Inexorable March of Progress Will Lead Us All to Happiness” (yes, that is the name of a wrestling hold) to show them how I felt about problem #5 on my mathematics worksheet. That E.T./Elliott-level connection was exclusive to two people; my grandfather, and Oliver (check my last blog post for the exposition).
However, as I’ve grown I’ve discovered that there is so much beauty to be discovered by simply listening to others speak in their monolingual language that is foreign to me. I actually almost disagree passionately with Paul Kei Matsuda’s (Teaching Writing in the Multilingual World) declaration “to prepare monolingual students to write like the rest of the world” because I don’t want the magic curtain of language to be unveiled. Okay, okay, that might come across as very limiting, but read me out! One, hearing broken English in a totally different accent (or POV) is wonderfully refreshing, and paints various contexts and pictures using said words that I am likely never to encounter otherwise. (Two, but expressed while kinda ditching consistency) Sometimes I actually prefer being grouped with two students that don’t speak any English (which I think has happened to me less than three times, ever) because I can make the effort to understand others experiences of interactions without any preconceived notion based on silly words! I love words, but it is really cool to look over and see how your “group partners” (I usually just sit in the group and do the assignment separately) interact and respond to this question and that question. There is so much that can be said about a person’s personality with just the tone of their voice and the physical expressions that accompany them.
I still think that monolingualism is a big curse in MANY ways, but I will limit it to one, another Portuguese-related personal anecdote. It is pretty wild when a kid less than half your age (when you’re only 18) completely schools you when you ask him “how do I ask the coffee shop man that I want some chocolate” and said kid gets you to say, NOT ASK, “eu como cocô.” I have since avoided such rascal trolley, but every time I visit Portugal I feel a bit jealous and bittersweet at how everyone from the ages of seven to twenty-eight (past generations less so) are almost perfectly bilingual. They speak English so well and with so much joy and pride. Even when talking to each other they will transition and weave in and out of English and Portuguese. It is so beautiful how certain words can add a completely different tone just from the way that they sound, and enhance one’s voice so much. Verbally or through writing.
I took Spanish for fourteen years and don’t even know how to ask “who is your favorite professional wrestler?” Absolutely tragic. I really feel like America needs to restructure the education system and copy whatever Portugal (and I am certain many other countries) is doing, because it’s results are wholeheartedly awe-inspiring, and rambling on about my experiences on the surface of the Portuguese language as an English-speaker has made me think considerably (in relation to the text assigned, of course) of how important individually and connectivity is to writing, in all shapes and forms. Regardless of the appropriateness of one’s voice, I think that there is always value to be found in expressing such, and letting your audience in as much as you comfortably can.
Despite one’s functionality being present within an academic, professional, or more casual setting, after reading Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed (champion 3), I really get the sense that the key importance of dialogue throughout humankind is to progress coexistence and empathy as much as possible. Existentialism is mentioned considerably within the text, and while I tend to view the subject matter under a well-beyond grim light (to quote Charles Lee Ray, “dying is such a bitch *big exhale*) this text really paved the way for me to consider how such relates to human connection. After all, conversing with considerate and explorative minds has always uplifted me, and engaging in dialogue has always reminded me of the beauty of discovery and learning within this life.
There is a bit of what would label a dog eat dog mentality presented within this text, of which I am not particularly fond of, as animals are presented with the self-awareness of sheer functionality as a result of their historical and artistic understandings (or as this text asserts, a lack thereof). While I personally hold the viewpoint that animals are some of our greatest scholars, and critical thinkers, I did find it quite interesting to relate this perspective of animals through a primitive lens as long as it relates to dialogue. Animals undoubtedly communicate, but I suppose, rarely in the way that we do within the environment of education or in-response to media and entertainment. I guess convincing you all that, yes, I once saw Zebra lecture Chimp about a literary text written by Mongoose in meta reflection of a performance art piece that Rhino put on about Lion dating Peacock but performed as a one-man show by Duck. Right?
Regardless of existential awareness, or purpose, tying the relevance of animals as they relate to dialogue and communication within Freire’s text is what allowed my reading of The New London Group’s A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Features to be even more notable. Before I progress further, I want to tell a personal story of dialogue. My now-deceased Scoodle was rarely allowed to go to the second floor of my house, but whenever my dad wasn’t home I obviously broke this rule. One time, after letting Oliver out to urinate, I brought him to my room to listen to Slayer records and watch some (likely very offensive) 80’s slasher flicks. Being a dog, Oliver got bored of pets and decided he wanted to dip, and began clawing at the door to inform me of his desired departure. I obliged, and once he began trotting downstairs took out my food and began to eat. Oliver was back to my bedside barking before I could swallow my first mouthful. He was demanding MY food be his, so I shh’d him, and he barked some more, and I shhh’d him, and he barked even louder, so of course I shhhh’d him.
After our back-and-forth something unpredictable happened; Oliver went silent. I was astonished, peace and quiet while eating? No way! Then I smelled it, and slowly turned my head to reveal Oliver, standing as confidently as one could over a puddle of his own urine. “Why are you StAnDiNg iN iT!?!” I questioned. Oliver then turned his head, held high, and began trotting down the stairs, placing little urine-based paw prints throughout the rest of the house. His tail was wagging joyfully knowing that I would have to rush to clean up the mess before Dad came home. I reference this moment with my closest family for two reasons; it’s funny and represents, to me, just how important dialogue is towards understanding. Without even speaking the same language, Oliver managed to perfectly communicate to me “if you’re gonna treat me like a dog, then I’m gonna act like a dog.” I insulted his intelligence, and as a result, had to clean his piss-ed off revenge.
I have mentioned in prior blogs that I went through the whole student teaching process, but I would nowhere near claim to be even a marginally mid educator. That is something that likely takes decades to achieve. Regardless, the big takeaway from both of these texts is to progress as much towards understanding as an educator as the classroom environment that you oversee should to be a beneficial whole where the individuals present feel free to be just that. Dialogue is absolutely essential towards accomplishing this, but it must be noted that dialogue conveyed through an honest yet empathetic lens is what allows true learning to occur.
The Freire text specifically mentions this idea of having faith in people, and that without such dialogue becomes a farce. I do not fully agree with this idea, as a lack of faith can be as honest a representation of how one may function given certain interactions, but it must be noted that, as an educator, you are wearing many different hats. After all, you are essentially the grand cultivator of an ever expanding array of methodologies and modes of thinking that will shape your students’ futures in ways astronomical and astronomically miniscule. This took me a lot of getting used to while teaching being that I barely trusted myself as an early-twenties college student, so what made me justifiable to assume that students five to seven years younger than me could do so as well, and vice-versa (especially through online education)?
Yet praxis makes progress, and by the time I began to feel comfortable with the whole role of teacher it was time to submit my edTPA (essentially your education thesis) and bid my students adieu. What really allowed effective dialogue to shine through was in becoming more open to vulnerability when necessary. Not only did this allow me to come across as what I was being, more authentic, but it also led to my students responding to whatever with greater consideration, critical thinking, etc. While my students were not necessarily excited to engage in Poe or reflect on current event articles, when honest dialogue stemmed from it that allowed them to reflect on their own experiences and interests, they became truly inspired. Some would leave a few sentences in the chat, some would type paragraphs, but most importantly and productively, some would turn on their mic, and engage in dialogue.
My students were rarely excited to talk about whatever reading they were assigned and whatnot, but if it had any relation to their interests or experiences some would type paragraphs in the chat, and if they were truly inspired, turn their mic on, and engage in dialogue.
My biggest takeaway from this week’s readings (“Writing Comments on Student Papers” by John Bean and “Ranking, Evaluating, and Liking: Sorting Out Three Forms of Judgment” by Peter Elbow) is that students should be encouraged to simply write and discuss writing than grind away in order to receive some representation of academic achievement. I will clarify upon this a bit more later, but it is important for me to state that said functions must be encouraged outside of how they serve as a class-oriented task to complete, or merely because a student is struggling. Rather, this should be encouraged consistently and positively regardless of grades, and simply for the prosperity of engaging in writing analytically or actively. If there is an aspect of a paper, regardless of how minimal it may be, that is notable to an educator in any way, than I wholeheartedly believe that such an aspect should be discussed with a student with the purity that comes through discussion, especially with someone (an educator) who represents the translation of qualitative and quantitative experience to do so effectively. I don’t remember a half of a percent of the feedback that I have received on my schoolwork, but I sure do remember a majority of the discussions that I have had about them.
poisoned the education system to a great extent. In Bean’s text the idea is presented that not only is short feedback cryptic, vague, and tonally misleading, but that it can also be counter intuitive to what we, as educators, are attempting to express to our students. Now, I have only experienced educating of my own as a student teacher, but I have been a student for nineteen years myself and have seen it all in regards to the process and results of feedback. I used to spend my free time in school (pre/post school hours, lunch, free periods, etc.) hanging around teachers, whether they were mine or not, just to pick their brains apart whenever they were not busy teaching class. That is just what I found most rewarding about a student, but needless to say that I have also experienced a great deal of student perspective to written feedback on their work.
When I started teaching I went full-overkill and essentially provided my students with an essay of my own on what they can do to improve their papers (this is brutal treatment). Of course, I soon realized the importance in understanding that, not only are these high school students but the school population averages at a third grade reading level. In response to this I went in the exact opposite direction because that is what I noticed from my superiors, but my students were still making the same mistakes despite this straightforward means of pointing out where they could be improved. Whenever I would get the rare chance to ask a student why they keep making the same mistakes I was met with the following sort of replies; “Mr. Machado, are you mad at me? You gave me such a low grade but only wrote a few words,” ”How am I supposed to improve if you only left me a few words?”
It is important to mention that I taught smack-dab in the middle of the COVID-19 era of teaching, so my experience is unique compared to those student teachers who came before, and those who will follow (watch this date itself poorly, I hope not). Coaching students was a big challenge for me to learn, but it is still something that I recognize as pivotal to the academic experience of both educator and student, and is something that I have benefited from quite a lot in college. Last week, I discussed in ENG 5020 how writing is something that did not come academically, as I was pretty much a straight “D so he doesn’t have to stay back a year” kind of student, and rather that it is something that, as Dr. Zamora acknowledged in her 02.11.2022 blog post (http://writingtheorypractice.miazamoraphd.com/uncategorized/remembering-how-we-learned-to-write/), “ sometimes it happened due to self-driven interest and discovery.”
By the time I entered higher education I was very far from a student that struggled with earning satisfactory grades, but regardless, meeting with my professors and then revising my work (which both texts touch upon) usually made the difference from a B+/A-/ paper to an A paper. While revision was heavily emphasized in Elbow’s text, I was disappointed that student/ educator discussions were not nearly as represented as they should be. Face-to-face discussion is so important to humans developing greater understanding and connecting said understanding to their academic mindset, at least I see it that way. For art and media, not at all. I do not want to coach David Lynch on how to make a better film. I want to submit myself to his artistic vision and then take away whatever it is that I take away from his work as selfishly as possible. In academia, however, there is always considerable room for improvement, and greater potential is always there (not to say that there isn’t in other realms but there is the functionality of an educator that, as a profession, I believe entails a different mindset than, say, film analysis for enjoyment’s sake). Written feedback is just no match for the long-winded organic purity of verbal discussion, and how such conveys tone and voice more openly, and vulnerably. For every instance where a professor has critiques the sloppiness of my sentence structures, the really good ones have also, as Elbow mentions, mentioned how much more potential the content of my work has and can be effective if I just revise a bit (or a whole lot, y’know).
Admittedly I must add that I do find some of Elbow’s alternatives to letter (which is really numerical) grading are quite tacky. Perhaps I am just too conditioned to what I have been experiencing for two decades, but I do not vibe with the alternatives provided in the text whatsoever. In an ideal world, educators would be provided an freer environment where they can really have the time to read and consider, greatly, every paper that their student submits prior to providing feedback, but I hate to break it to those uninformed that a good deal of your educator’s grade as they go along, and during their first and (often) only read. Once again, when I watch a David Lynch I don’t immediately log into Letterboxd and review it with an accompanying numerical score. I go for a walk and think about it, then I think about it some more, and I think about it some more, and then some more thinking about it, that’s a cute squirrel, now I’m thinking about it really intently, and now I’m crossing the street and I need to look both ways so that a car or truck doesn’t hit me, and BAM! Wow, I got it! That one scene with Willem DaFoe and Laura that really disturbed me is actually one of the most emotionally impactful within the film because… you get it (I hope).
Educators, unfortunately, are not provided with this sort of leniency, as the profession is intimidatingly multi-layered (wait, some educators have… kids?!? Good luck with that). As a result of this I find it so beneficial that a student meets to discuss their work with their educator rather than, say, submitting a portfolio. Not only is a student not always the best judge of what submissions would be most beneficial grade-wise, but my high school AP Photography teacher chose the absolute most trite, lame, and uninspired pieces that I hacked my way through just to get the assignment over with because “these are so much more pleasant on the eyes than whatever you were going for with those other ones” (check out my last blog post for reference).
I encourage even more than discussion after reading the Bean and Elbow texts. I encourage flat out debate. Sure, I have seen this student/educator debate thing backfire before, admittedly. However, this was under very specific circumstances such as students demanding a higher grade out of mere entitlement because “I worked hard on every other assignment” or because they simply “deserve it.” Otherwise, I have never seen a student/teacher debate go awry when focused on the quality of what was presented, and even more so when followed up with the opportunity to revise and resubmit. From my own personal experience I have always received a higher grade (no matter how minimal of an improvement) after revising a written assignment post debate/discussion, but more importantly, I felt like a better and more motivated student writer as a result. To me, I rarely felt as if I were simply changing my voice to meet my educator’s personal tastes.
The last thing that I want to focus on quickly (think of this as a bonus track) is the importance of free writing that Elbow focuses on more specifically. I have always thought that free writing (in the classroom environment) was a total dilly-dallying waste of time. That was, until I began taking ENG 5020 and it really clicked with me. In the environment of this course, where so much of it is discussion-led and collaborative, I find it absolutely rewarding to view it as me absorbing all that Dr. Zamora, my fellow students, and yours truly have presented and then unleash it all from mind to page.
I find it absolutely mind-altering that it took until the 1970s for doctoral programs in rhetoric and composition to come to fruition. I have never been stranger to historical ignorance outside of my personal, entertainment-based interests (see my last blog post for greater clarification), but I have always been under the impression that the world powers got together in a boardroom hundreds of years ago to lay out higher education, and what I perceive as it’s core programs of focus (math, English, science, history) in their entirety. Yet, Janice M. Lauer’s “Rhetoric and Composition” provided me with a similar sense of stunnedness that accompanied my discovering that Albert Einstein’s favorite film was Charles Chaplin’s City Lights (1931) back when I was fourteen. Before that, I assumed that Albert Einstein was some immortal deity that invented the space-time continuum or something. That Einstein died when my grandfather was even older than I am now blew my mind and helped me contextualize time, and how the world has progressed through it prior to my own existence.
Okay, so I do realize that all of this reflection may come across as distracting you all from Lauer’s text, but in regards to the dense focus on the lexiconal understanding of rhetoric and compositional evolution that is presented throughout, I found reflecting on that important. The main takeaway from Lauer’s text, to me, is the importance of continuously trying to grasp new understandings of the writer as an individual survivor. If I were to be super obnoxious in titling this blog post, it would result in something like “The Instinctual Survival of the Academic By Means of their Lexiconal Understanding of an Audience through their own Individuality.” Our understandings of rhetoric and composition can only come from what we know and have experienced prior to. Academic writing, as I further realize from Lauer’s text, is understanding the individual as expressed as their prior-selves before any written work that they produce is completed.
There is as much a push towards academic progression throughout Lauer’s texts as there is historical reflection. Of which is the asset to academia that I find most prosperous, revision. As much as I, or any other student, relishes in that ever-so-sought after “A” letter grade, I would much prefer if each of my professors were to write a reflection paper on whatever written work I present to them. Of course, I doubt the pay is worth that. To discuss my written work with a professor, and then have the opportunity to re-contextualize my perspectives or compositions is most beneficial to me presenting the most effective work that I can, and allow my work to survive within the minds of whoever reads them.
Lauer references the concept of the audience a few times throughout the text. To be completely honest, I never pay attention to the audience of anything that I write. While writing, I could care less what you think of it. Your opinion holds no bearing on the release that I obtain when writing (or typing). Syntax? Good luck. Grammar? I hope you get irritated. Diction/vocabulary? I will disrespect it to my liking, full liberal usage!
I am a selfish writer.
That said, I really care what opinions and considerate feedback anyone has to my writing the second I print it out or click submit. In another class (not ENG 5020) I brought up the whole “good artists borrow, great artists steal” perspective. I have heard this quote from so many artists in so many fields so I would find it insincere to credit the quote to any one, specifically. This can mean a myriad of things, of course, but to me it signified the importance of working within this lexicon of written understandings, genre-based expectations, and professor-student relationships within academia. Rough drafting is a good example of this. I know that my professor is likely to suggest that I cut the three pages of reflection referencing Kanye West’s “All Mine” before submitting my final draft on my biology research paper on sexual reproduction. However, in a rough draft setting my professor is not only obtaining a greater understanding of my personality, or where I am coming from, when writing said research paper, but they are also likely to reference a better source(s) that serves a similar function and also explain how I can incorporate that into my paper in a better, or more concise manner. As a result, I now know more of what my audience wants without completely compromising the ME that I want to showcase in my academic writing.
Once the opportunity of gift is presented to you, I say steal it! If you do not create something or come up with the idea to use it, every work of writing and idea to ever exist is yours. So steal it.
That condoned, this is not to condone plagiarism. Stealing is progressing in that, when you steal, you make something yours. Plagiarism is regressing and using someone else’s ideas to cover up for the fact that you fail to have your own.
There is a representation of how necessary it is to hold understanding in judgment to enhance growth that I agree with in order to achieve a considerate and prosperous learning experience. This is even apparent within the opening of her text, as the rhetorical and composition-based fields that serve as such a great focus throughout are compared to being exciting and challenging. For this to ring true, however, I believe that it is predominately through unfiltered presentation that rhetorical and compositional convictions can really prosper. To me, one has to be able to show the empathy and understanding of academia through genre and discipline that allow another the comfort and academic rigor necessary to shape their works vulnerably, and be open to as much growth and progression as they can possibly reach.