I teach rhetorical composition at the University of Washington (UW). I develop courses on experimental composition where students can have the opportunity to play around with different genres of their choice. I hope that my courses teach students from various backgrounds to have the confidence to celebrate their own creativity. Keep reading, allow me to discuss my pedagogical commitments and experiences that inspired my practices.
My work is rooted in debunking static, normative ideas of writing and composition. I constantly tell students that writing is an ever-evolving process that continuously shifts in regard to current situations; therefore, the idea of writing as either good or bad is an outdated concept that has no weight in my teaching. To enforce this, I integrate the concept of air into my many collaborative experiences, teaching being one.
Air flows, shifts, and changes through each situation it enters— making concrete meaning and fixed argumentation nonexistent. If something is constantly shifting, our work needs to constantly shift. I believe having courses that allow and encourage experimentation can offer students the space to keep practicing, keep trying on narrative voices, keep taking up different concerns, keep shifting. I often find that compositional brilliance occurs in a collaborative flow and exchange where we help each other develop our practices and ideas.
I believe deeply in mindful reading while engaging with cultural projects. This approach allows students to deliberately reflect on what they are bringing to texts because that informs their understanding of the texts. I emphasize metacognition, or I tell students that it’s important to think about the way they are thinking.
Revealing and exposing our thoughts is a great way to reject standardization. Standardization has a way of becoming thoughtless— like programmed algorithms. I want students to engage in complex, unorthodox ways so that they can think outside of tradition. I remember being constantly regimented on strict grammar and effective writing rules in school, and I want students to feel safe to rid themselves of that philosophy when they see fit. Sometimes I find students are hesitant-- fearful, it seems at times-- of breaking those rules. However, people aren’t categories, and we don’t always communicate the same meanings, the same way. It’s important for students to create with that idea in mind.
During the course, I engage with a text from a different genre every class session–– from literature to podcast to videos and more. I ask students a series of discussion questions that ultimately get them to think about why a creator would need to use a particular genre to get their message across. I have assignments where they can choose the genre or medium of their choice to create an argument or message; we will then go through a peer review process meant to help students develop the project for stronger clarity and impact. I teach them how to deep-dive into a genre study–– studying the ways other composers use the genre to make their arguments–– before they work in the chosen genre
Through workshops, conferences, online and in-class discussions, I hope students leave with projects they are proud of. I also hope they will understand that there isn’t one standard mode of communication, but many modes can achieve different rhetorical meanings.