Friday, January 25, 2008

Classwork

I've managed to get through two of my classes of the semester so far: English 520 (Non-Fiction Writing) and English 700 (the Teaching Practicum). The writing class will, in fact, be a heck of a lot of writing with which I am thoroughly unfamiliar: history, place, and most notably testimony (the last of which seems to be the encompassing factor). The professor isn't asking for unreasonable amounts of writing; rather, she's having us write a little based on each assigned reading, which is easier to accomplish than large amounts of writing only a few times during the semester. I was also provided with a binder of readings that seem to focus on the theoretical approaches of non-fiction writing, and creative non-fiction writing especially: What it is and how it's defined, technique, etc. The course is front-loaded with the theoretical and methodological readings more at the beginning of the semester, which I prefer at this point if for no other reason than for at least one class the readings will cause (hopefully) a bit less stress as the semester progresses - just as I'm up to my ears with books for my other classes.

The teaching practicum should be interesting also, although it's a teaching class that's designed to teach students how to teach the freshman writing classes at LIU, as opposed to a course meant to train future teachers on a more general level. The goal is such that by the end of the semester each of us enrolled in the class will have a working syllabus that we could implement should we teach a freshman composition class, although I'm not sure everyone enrolled in the class will be doing that. There are seven students in this class, of which I believe I'm the only student in the teaching of writing track; each of the other students are in the M.F.A. track (although another student might be enrolled in both). Everyone enrolled in the class has some teaching experience; the experience ranges from being a second semester writing tutor to a writing tutor with more experience; one student, a slightly older woman, taught in China; two students (one of whom has previous experience as a writing tutor) are teaching freshman writing classes this semester; and I, of course, have the secondary teacher certification. I'm not entirely sure I want to teach a freshman writing class next year, but at this point of course I'd leave myself open to it; either I'll need to be teaching in a secondary school, subbing, or teaching a writing class, but it needs to be one of those three.

I was offered - and accepted - a research fellowship position, which is an added bonus for this semester. I'm working with a professor who'd spent the 2006-2007 academic year traveling (as part of her Fulbright) around South Africa, where she became interested in the testimonies of the translators who were silenced during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Hearings during apartheid in the 1990s. There's obviously more it than that, but my tasks will include: helping to locate and select possible source materials (TRC public hearings in the form of transcripts, films, recordings, etc.) and narratives recorded but not selected to be part of the public hearings; to help locate relevant theoretical materials for analytical framework; to compile an annotated bibliography of above materials; as well as selecting transcripts for analysis. Time to really learn how to do some deep-level research and analysis.

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