I spent 900 days in TA orientation and All I Got Was This Lousy Blog Post Idea

Q: Why, oh, why do we blog?
A: So that the Internet will remember all the ephemera that otherwise get written in notebooks, lovingly stored and transported around the country with every move, and never opened again!

Here is what I learned in six days of TA orientation.


Designing classroom practices that make material accessible to as many students as possible, all with their multiple ways of learning, participating, and contributing. Because not everyone can use stairs, but everyone can use a ramp. These principles come from Wendy Harbour professor in SU’s School of Education.
– present information multiple ways: flexible, multiple examples; highlight critical features; use multiple formats; have students reinterpret back to you
– students access information differently, so give them multiple ways to learn and demonstrate their learning: using scaffolding; offering context and background info; sharing grade rubrics
– offer multiple, flexible ways to be motivated and engaged: give students choice and options; respect their opinions; challenge but don’t overwhelm them (Vgotsky’s “zone of proximal development”); rewards for doing well; time for reflection; ways for them and you to monitor their work and progress

I.E. shared notes for everyone – extended time for everyone – flexibility and choice – know what’s essential in your class to know what’s inessential
(of course, individual assessments are still often necessary)

I’M THINKING the big change I’ll make toward UD is to have students post notes onto our blog after class. I already use a lot of visuals/audio media so that is good. But I could also talk more slowly, face the class instead of the board, and make sure things I say also always appear somewhere written down.


You will hear a lot more from me about the new Writing about Writing syllabus I am teaching in my freshman comp course this fall, WRT 105. I am working in some “rapping about writing” but many of the course texts are still composition studies documents about literacy, discourse communities, et cetera. MY CONTENTION is that rap fits in quite seamlessly because RAP IS writing about writing!

I start to think, and then I sink
into the paper like I was ink.
When I’m writing I’m trapped in between the lines
I escape when I finish the rhyme.


so, those TAKEAWAYS:
– the importance of setting my intention when lesson planning and grading. Thinking (even making a note somewhere): what do I want my students to get out of this lesson/ my comments? How do I center their needs and writing instead of my own top-down interests?
– I can record a video and survive.
– the power of positive teacher feedback
– creating real democracy in the classroom
– this continuing question of how to be vulnerable in the classroom? the very thought of it makes me so uncomfortable. I am starting by wearing my forearm tendinitis straps all the time. I don’t always wear them because I get self-conscious but actually my ARMS HURT when I don’t. So that’s a start. (I worry that if I am honest about my experience as a writer in the classroom–an experience characterized by passion, devotion, struggle and success–that my students will dismiss me as a privileged dork. but maybe a privileged dork they can look up to?)
– from Avi: “intimacy: asking how, not what, students are doing”
(reading and writing practices) (expanding outward) (then being internalized) (unpack it on the board)

– wonky terms like FLASHPOINT and NOTICE AND FOCUS and the WRITER’S PROJECT (what’s the author trying to do/ responding to vs. merely what is this about?)
– Student feedback: what do they think THEIR project is? what did I as reader think it is?
– there is a Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives
– If I were the student, what did I learn about my paper from this feedback?
– Michael: Blood Meridian and the “mechanics of astonishment”
– In feedback, explicitly explaining why a grade is what it is.
– “You need to be the architect of your own work now”
– Letting students reflect in the viewing pane of their own paper before sending it to me (vs a cover letter)
– “What was the most exciting part of this paper to write? Because to me it seemed like…”
– Turn the writer back toward the conversations of the class.

aaaaand I’m out. Gotta go ice my arms y’all. Til next time – TRB, PHD (in training)


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