2017-2018 Reflections on Teaching ENGL 232: Explorations of Self and Society

In the 2017-2018 academic year, I taught ENGL 232: Writing as Exploration. This course asks students to explore self and society using a variety of creative non-fiction genres. I loved teaching this class! I think I am most fascinated by the genre of literary journalism, in which students can switch perspectives/standpoints, moving between their own stories and others’ stories, and zooming in and out. In looking at the environment, for instance, one student moved between their own experience in nature and current events depicting environmental harm. Weaving together these perspectives is challenging, but it adds dimension and fosters connection not possible in other genres. Students then had the opportunity to create multimodal projects on the topic of their choice.

One of the recurring themes was about the need to listen to kids. Many of the students in the class were Elementary Education majors. I wonder if my focus on listening in the class influenced these topics. It was so refreshing reading students’ personal essays. Rather than your so-called standard essay (what is that, anyway?), these essays invited their audience to look at the world differently. In many cases, students did this by describing their own experiences of noticing and working with kids with special needs. They described how careful, sensitive listening and observation helped them connect to their students. I would love to interview these students about how their teaching practices and philosophies have evolved. I would also like to share their stories with other educators. These students are talking about important issues for teachers; I see them as leaders in the field.