I’ve been teaching some version of College Writing/Freshman Comp/ English 101 for approximately six years straight, and I really thought, that, by now, I would be revising this class every semester.

And yet, here I am, already revising in anticipation of January 2020.

I’m using the same textbook (They Say/ I Say with Readings), but I’m going back to a previous roster of assignments that should more clearly scaffold. As I design new assignment descriptions, I am being more explicit than ever about what skills are to be improved upon or acquired, how they relate to the previous and next assignments, and how these skills relate to their writing lives at large.

I’ve keep evolving my philosophy about this class – a class which seems to be designed to be all things to all people (and one that I’m never quite sure is getting the job done, whatever that job is supposed to be). After this semester, I feel more committed to:

  • Helping students learn to manage research and writing projects.
  • Helping students find support services on campus and learn to ask for what they need.
  • Improving students’ information and media literacy.
  • Promoting skills transfer.

None of this is particularly revelatory, but I sense that by not materially foregrounding these (actually typing this out right now, putting this on the syllabus), I feel like I lose sight of my priorities and the semester seems jumbly (to me, at least).

Still, I thought that I’d be done with serious syllabus/schedule revisions. I think more, these days, about unpaid labor, and contingency, and the dissertation that needs doing instead of the 47th syllabus rework.

I also think about how grateful I am to scholars like Raul Pacheco-Vega and other brilliant, generous people who share their syllabi and ideas with everyone, especially graduate student adjuncts like me. The inspiration for the upcoming NeMLA panel (Bridging the Praxis Gap: Tools for Early Career Teaching) I’m co-hosting came from this line of thinking – I’ve been very fortunate (and by extension, my students have been fortunate) to spend a good bit of time teaching myself, listening, reading, and learning more about effective pedagogy. It’s a luxury many if not most graduate students do not enjoy, and most if not all of us never get a class in pedagogy or even best practices for classroom management.

I don’t know where that class would fit, or where professional development fits (either in grad school or early in your career), especially considering the abysmal job market and the often-grim attitude towards higher education in the United Stated. I will be grateful to hear the panelists’ presentation in March and try to remember that being in continual revision could be a mercy.