I found the Brooke’s piece particularly tugging at me from many directions. The examples of underlife, at least for me, can really harbor on the point of rude. This productive side-chatter, I can, as Brooke’s notes, can apply the concepts of class. However, I think there are a plethora of ways in which this chit-chatter cannot be productive. Take for instance, the relationship of the two students and the engagement of students in general in class. Not to mention the position of the actual professor, that is, their physical body and identities that they occupy, can make for this chit-chat or non-traditional modes of learning be sites of contention. As someone who has experienced this kind of chit-chat, side conversations, open jokes, I would never assume they were engaging with the ideas or materials productively for many reasons. I am uncertain how I should feel or how far I can take Brooke’s examples.
Close to the ending of the essay the relationship and management of identities within the classroom really emerged: ” It is in this desire to shift roles, from student to writer, from teacher-pleaser to original thinker, that writing instruction comes into greatest conflict with the existing educational system, and also has the most to offer it” (152). This urges the question: what kinds of students are we perhaps discussing? The teacher-pleasers of the class tend to also be the ones most interested, most engaged with the material and their writing, the ones who are actually doing that original thinking. On the other hand, oddly, the students who do not try to please at all, and should for the sake of their grade, could care less about pleasing, less about original thinking, and ever less so on their writing. This is perhaps a bleak outlook on the kind of possibilities he is calling for, but I am skeptical of them. I am completely on board for the idea to unsettle the scripted identities we place on students, in order to get them to be writers and original thinkers, but there has to be a level of care and interest on their part.
Ultimately, I think a lot of these articles we read regarding composition instruction tend to overlook, or don’t know how to exactly attend to (neither do I for that matter), student interest and care for the class. The blessing at teaching at somewhere like Baruch is you can attend to the instruction of writing through the mediums and texts you find most effective. Therefore, the care and interest from the professor is usually there. However, what happens when the care from students isn’t there at all? What happens when you try to elicit, or grow that care by several means, and nothing seems to germinate? I just don’t know what current institutional road blocks are in the way, if any, that help sever student care and interest in the course. Perhaps it is merely the form of writing, as some of my students have noted. Or maybe it’s just the fact that it is a mandatory class and that makes it seem annoying. I wonder if addressing the mandatoriness of the class, and the politics of importance that ultimately jam English and writing into something that is only important to teach students to write memos without error, that we could actually get to somewhere new in terms of writing and having students interested in being in these zones of conflict Brooke’s addresses.