Grades have been submitted, and I'm finishing up on a few final assignments of my own, one of those assignments being this final reflection. I thoroughly enjoyed teaching this semester, and I learned a lot from the experience. There ended up being some crossover between both of my classes after I selected Kathleen Blake Yancey for my scholar profile in my English Theory course. Yancey has done a lot of work to advance first-year composition courses, with her specific focus on writing reflections and her studies on teaching for transfer. Reading her articles and books concurrently while teaching my first First-Year Composition class helped me understand the required syllabus I was given to teach. Additionally, reading her works helped open my eyes to ways I could emphasize the importance of students’ reflections as well as areas where I could point out connections to other uses of the writing tools they were learning.
One of the articles we read that really stuck in my mind was the one by Lucille Parkinson McCarthy called, "A Stranger in Strange Lands: A College Student Writing across the Curriculum." (As it turns out, this article was also referenced in some of what I read by Kathleen Blake Yancey.) This article stuck with me because it showed how, despite the best intentions of instructors, students might not always be able to transfer learned writing skills from one course to another, or from one semester to another. This leads to the importance of Yancey's work, "Teaching for Transfer."
I know that if I were moving forward at WIU, (instead of changing grad programs), I would be able to make a lot better use of what I learned from reading Yancey’s work as well as what I learned from my experience teaching a hybrid course. It wasn’t until nearing the end of the semester that I realized how each of the major ENG 180 assignments fit together. When first looking over the syllabus, they seemed like random topics that didn’t make a lot of sense together. I feel that I would be able to teach this course again with more confidence and direction, which I also think would be of great benefit to my students.
One of the more frustrating aspects overall is seeing potential in students who don’t see it in themselves. They are stuck on this idea that they are incapable of writing, or else they don’t think writing will be important or necessary for their desired career and as a result find it difficult to apply themselves enough to succeed in this first-year course. GP was a student who actually enjoyed writing, but still found these writing assignments difficult to do, and ended up not turning in any of the major assignments. They were one of three students who received an FW this semester because, though they still attended class most of the time, they didn’t turn in any work after the first month of class.
Then there were some successes, as with CG, who, even though they didn’t receive a C or higher, they significantly improved from the middle of the semester until the end. Yes, I definitely consider this student a success! After submitting a care referral for CG, they contacted me, and that resulted in a video conference with them, which proved to be a turning point in the semester. They perked up and started taking an interest in the class and the upcoming assignments. Some of the assignments were turned in late, but they kept at it and communicated with me so that I knew where they were at with completion of the work. I really hope they aren’t discouraged by receiving a “U” grade and having to retake ENG 180. They have so much potential, and it was really exciting to see that spark that helped them turn the corner and put more effort into the class. At the same time, I know that a “U” was the right grade to give them. If they were to be passed on to ENG 280 at this point, I think they would struggle even more. I am so proud of CG’s progress!
Even though I’m not returning to WIU next semester, I am grateful for the instructors, students, and friends who helped me along the way. Hopefully, my career will include some aspect of teaching. I will use what I learned from teaching this semester, and what I learned from reading the work of Kathleen Blake Yancey, as well as some of my own research to build on the great ideas of other scholars to provide a solid learning foundation for other students who struggle with writing.