The ideal teacher

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The ideal teacher

Lalicker The great Mina Shaughnessyone of the Founding Mothers of our professional praxis in basic writing, famously analyzed the programmatic assumptions that stigmatized neophyte academic writers and that supported ineffective pedagogies.

We remember how, in Errors and Expectationsshe excoriated the institutions and practices that eschewed research whether cognitive science or the compilation of teacher experience ; she condemned ways of teaching that reflected the most sinister biases about race and class and that focused on the mere surface features of texts rather than The ideal teacher the intellectual lives of students challenged by written academic English.

The material conditions under which the teacher labored, the freedoms granted or exigencies exacted on The ideal teacher teacher, had and have a manifest effect on the success of the basic writing student.

As Shaughnessy said in her introduction describing her approach, Sometimes I offer actual lessons; sometimes I recommend a method or strategy…and at others, I merely urge a fresh perspective on an old problem.

This book is concerned with the orientations and perceptions of teachers in relation to a specific population of student writers. It assumes that programs are not answers to the learning problems of students but that teachers are and that, indeed, good teachers create good programs… 6 But have good teachers been afforded the agency to create good programs?

In the four decades since Shaughnessy wrote, we have found the freedoms of the basic writing teacher consistently restricted, the exigencies regularly exacerbated, and the respect for teacher knowledge continually attacked by administrators, public pundits, legislators.

Unfortunately, even programmatic improvements and respected research in basic writing have not resulted in the empowerment of basic writing teachers, who do their jobs in ever more scholarly and productive ways while still largely being denied the choice of employment options beyond part-time and non-tenure track status.

And thus it is high time to shift our focus again on empowering basic writing teachers. Fortunately, the Council on Basic Writing has consistently focused on empowering teachers through scholarly and practical approaches to basic writing.

The ideal teacher

In the workshop, Jensen and Toth specifically focused on preparation for basic writing faculty—a faculty category whose heavy teaching workload generally teaching more classes per term than their four-year college counterparts means a sometime denial of scholarly opportunities and moments for reflection on innovative practices.

Clearly, we still have work to do when it comes to basic writing teacher equity.

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In fact, as an activist for justice in higher education, I think justice and the provision of agency for teachers is the first condition for righting some of the wrongs visited upon students, especially basic writing students.

For the whole chapter-length argument, go to https: Although faculty of many disciplines, and even teachers of the more traditionally prestigious areas of English Studies such as literary criticismare suffering from a neoliberal trend that treats teaching work as piecework rather than a profession—with the shrinkage of fully professional tenure-track positions that support academic freedom and thus teaching innovation—basic writing teachers and two-year college teachers have long borne a second-class faculty status, with inimical results for their students and for our field.

Basic writing needs policy influence to enact progressive program structures like the Accelerated Learning Program; to keep the number of students per class section small enough to encourage teacher-student interaction; to include support services for second language students; and for a host of needs that determine student success.

The ideal teacher

And in the competition for resources, if for instance the literature faculty is largely tenured and promoted, producing scholarship and voting in policymaking committees in the department and division and college, but basic writing faculty are mainly part-time freeway flyers without the right, the time, or the reward system to do that policymaking, lit will get the resources and policies, and basic writing—our basic writing students—will be stuck with leftovers.

Justice for basic writers requires attention to justice for basic writing faculty, this first equity.

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Forty-plus years after Shaughnessy, thirty-plus years after the Wyoming Resolution championing part-time and graduate faculty rights Robertson et al. It matters that the first equity recognized in our striving for better basic writing is equity for basic writing teachers.

It matters that basic writing teachers achieve the first equity because they do the most challenging and most important intellectual work in higher education, for students whose intellectual empowerment through their ability to communicate effectively in the dialect of authority has the most transformative potential for themselves, for the workforce, and for our larger culture.

Philosophy is on the ropes. And although I might argue for the value of the liberal arts and against an anti-literature reconstruction some would see in the futurism of the Chronicle report see, for instance, Selingonobody is disputing the value of writing. In fact, every employer survey seems to put written communication at the top of the list for academic skills that employers want see, for instance, Hart Research Associates.

Yet the institutional assumption is that literary criticism where it still exists requires a stable, scholarly tenure-track where it still exists set of teachers.

Well, good for those lit teachers.

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But it is time to confront the injustice that teachers of writing—teachers who share the most practical and job-applicable discipline in the broader world of English Studies—and especially basic writing teachers, are still not granted equity for our vital calling.

We can start by focusing on the agency of basic writing teachers as the first equity, the necessary priority. A former co-chair of the Council on Basic Writing, his publications include research on structural equity and labor justice in writing programs; basic writing; and transnational and intercultural composition pedagogies.

Accessed 1 June Cox, Anicca et al. American Association of Colleges and Universities. Jensen, Darin, and Christie Toth, coeditors. A Baseline and Five Alternatives. A Guide for the Teacher of Basic Writing.

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