Teaching Philosophy

Can You Have A Teaching Philosophy If You Don’t Want To Teach?

When the semester first started we were asked to go around the room and explain why we wanted to teach. When it was my turn I explained in as elegant language as I could that I didn’t want to teach. I’d been asked all my academic career if I was going to be a teacher because I was studying English, and my answer was always no. It was when I was eighteen and a freshman in college, and it is now at twenty-six and beginning my master’s degree. I was accosted after revealing my stance, and asked to explain why. That by “learning” how to teach through the teaching assistant program was paying my tuition didn’t seem a good enough answer, and I was somewhat shunned after that. I wasn’t as such, dismayed, since I didn’t want to teach and being accosted didn’t change my mind, but rather hurt that as someone revealing a flaw in the system (i.e. requiring funding to achieve a degree that is now deemed necessary since a bachelor’s degree is worthless nowadays) I was shunned and put down. I almost nearly did drop out, but after speaking to a number of different teachers and professionals, all who agreed (and some who had told me before doing the degree) that doing whatever you need to get through isn’t sometimes just required, but smart and necessary.

In my first post I claimed that “It may sound crazy, but I don’t think that you can teach writing” (Jefferis-Nendick para. 1). After reading through Naming What We Know, attending three graduate writing classes (The Genres of Creative Writing, Understanding Writing as a Process, and Introduction to Professional Writing), working in the writing centre, talking to a number of other students and teachers I have concluded that … I still think you can’t teach writing. You might be face palming right now, but I really still don’t believe that writing, in of itself, is something you can teach. I stated in my blog that “I believe that everyone can write, so therefore you can’t teach something that everyone knows how to do. It’s like breathing for example” (Jefferis-Nendick para. 1) and I really believe it. I still have yet to see an example of someone teaching how to write. I’ve been taught personally how to write in different ways, how to do different things with my writing, I’ve seen others teach elements and aspects of writing, and even myself at the writing centre I’ve read over people’s work and taught them mainly how to format their work on Word. But in none of these instances have I seen how you teach writing.

And it’s because you can’t teach it.

Video would not embed so I downloaded and uploaded it here. Link to the video can be found above.

So why am I writing a philosophy statement if 1) I don’t want to teach, and 2) I don’t think you can teach writing? Well because I inevitably, for a short time, must teach. And although I have no drive or desire to do so I’m going to do my best, try my hardest, and act on all those times over my academic career I’ve thought “oh if I was the teacher I would do…” Obviously I will be constrained in some ways in what I teach and what I have to assess, but within those constructs I want to create a fun environment where my students and I can inspire one another, broaden our views, and see different perspectives. So what I’m going to try and ride on in terms of teaching writing is not focus so much on how you can do it, but rather share unique ideas and points of view that I don’t personally think are addressed enough. I want to show students that in writing there isn’t a right way to do things necessarily, and that if you can argue your point differently and effectively maybe we can change things. I’d also really like to introduce aspects like dialect and cultures into my class, and different styles of writing that we all will inevitably run into or dabble in personally.

Throughout our class we’ve addressed the Threshold Concepts in extreme detail, and after doing the Syllabus Analysis Project is became abundantly clear just how prevalent in the classroom they are. And I’d like to also bring them into my classroom in both obvious and hidden ways. Like I may not literally spell out to my students that we are on concept number four, but I might get my students into a discussion about how writing represents the world, events, ideas, and feelings (Concept 2.1) like I did in my third blog post. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure exactly how I will incorporate them in. It will most likely require some mapping out into my lesson plan, but also it seems they may naturally find their way into my class as they seem to everywhere else.

So to summarize: I don’t want to teach, I don’t think you can teach writing, and yet I’m going to not only teach but also teach writing. But let me amend that slightly, and say that I’m going to teach ways you can write. Teach techniques and ideas and problems and solutions. I want to teach my students that you can’t teach such a thing, but altogether we can teach ways to be better writers through the threshold concepts (though they won’t know we are) and whatever outside forces they believe can help. I want to show my students that writing isn’t something to be feared, and especially when they fail. I want to show my students that writing is everywhere, and it touches everything, and they will be writing their whole lives. I want to show my students that no one is perfect, but together we can workshop and try to get there.  

Also, evidently you can have a teaching philosophy if you don’t want to teach.

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Works Cited

Adler-Kassner, Linda, and Elizabeth Wardle, editors. Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies, Classroom Edition. Utah State University Press, 2016.

Dr. Climmerian. “I Can’t Teach You How To Write.” Youtube, uploaded 12 Sept. 2019. www.youtube.com/watch?v=eMAd7Ms2Gjo&t=6s. Accessed 1 Dec. 2019.

Jefferis-Nendick, Miro. “Failing With the Red Pen in Hand.” Miro Muses, 23 Sept. 2019, miromuses.com/uncategorized/failing-with-the-red-pen-in-hand/. Accessed 27 Nov. 2019.

Jefferis-Nendick, Miro. “Introductory Writing — Writing What We Know.” Miro Muses, 1 Sept. 2019, miromuses.com/uncategorized/61/. Accessed 27 Nov. 2019.

Jefferis-Nendick, Miro. “Scaffolded Writing Assignment.” Miro Muses, miromuses.com/projects-and-assignments/scaffolded-writing-assignment/. Accessed 27 Nov. 2019.

Jefferis-Nendick, Miro. “So Amaze. Such Magic. Much Adventure.” Miro Muses, 8 Sept. 2019, miromuses.com/uncategorized/so-amaze-such-magic-much-adventure/. Accessed 27 Nov. 2019.

Jefferis-Nendick, Miro. “Syllabus Analysis Project Fall 2019.” Miro Muses, miromuses.com/projects-and-assignments/syllabus-analysis-project-fall-2019/. Accessed 27 Nov. 2019.

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