Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Teaching in Style? Wearing Jeans, Talking about Language
But we're free to put together our own curriculum, and I always build the foundation for the term's research project around some topic of broad social concern that interests me and that has implications for citizenship. This term, I blithely decided we'd think about the politics of the English language, fanning out from Bill Bryson's history of its evolution to a consideration of living in ESL, the debates over descriptive vs. prescriptive grammar, language and class, disappearing languages, the purported degeneration of language in the face of technology, David Crystal's book on Texting etc. Then towards the end of summer, I started panicking over my choices, worrying that student would perceive the topic, and Bryson's book, as dry. ("Yay," one student rolls her eyes at another, "We're reading a book about the evolution of the English language. I bet that's going to be fun. NOT!")
But from the first day of term, I'm delighted to report, students have been surprisingly enthusiastic. We've debated the need for strictly correct grammar, using this charming animation as a starting point, written short autobiographies of our lives in language, considered the implications of English competence as academic barrier via this Ted talk, and read, analyzed, and summarized scholarly articles on pedagogy around text-speak vs. standard English. One major reward has been noticing the ESL students in my classes paying particular attention and then finding space in our discussions to bravely join in -- and to see the native-speaking students listening carefully, having been alerted by Patricia Ryan's talk to some of the challenges those international students have had to overcome.
My Literature survey course engages and cheers me as well, and I'm currently trying to move our lively in-class conversations about poetry onto the Moodle forum where I might be able to capture part of them in all their fluid glory.
Meanwhile, though, it's my work-at-home day, and I'm trying to make a dent in those fall lists. Worked on my essay for an hour this morning and am determined to start drafting a proposal today AND to finish my Leave Report. Have to fit in my run as well. You're probably busy as well. So I'll stop now, leaving you with this photo of What I Wore to teach one day this week: my new ACNE boots, brilliantly comfortable; my favourite jeans, Denham; a black 3/4 sleeve, v-neck T; chocolate gold beads, my double-tour watch, carved silver First Nations bracelet; pose by Wendy B.