I am joining a bit late. But I want to thank Curry for encouraging me to join in on this fantastic journey with you all.
About me: I work as a full time writing coach in the Writing Center. This semester I am on all 3 campuses: CLC, San Elijo, and Oceanside. I am a happy and incredibly grateful graduate of the CSU system where I did my B.A. at CSU Fullerton and my M.A. at Sacramento State. I have additional teaching certificates in Teaching Composition and in Teaching Reading to Adults. I am passionate about literacy and developing better reading/ metacognitive skills with students. I taught English 100, Basic Writing (when it was called that at Sac State), and a hybrid online model of English 100. I taught reading classes at Sacramento City College, and I spent a year at Montana State University teaching American Literature, FYC, and an advanced composition course. Then I had my twins and put work on the back burner for the wonderful and crazed work of raising my twin girls. While I did not anticipate doing writing center work, I started working in the Writing Center here at MCC in 2014, and I feel like I am following my bliss every day I come to campus. Right now I am right in the middle of my Orton-Gillingham certification training classes. I hope to be able to better serve our students with dyslexia after I complete my OG training.
My Framework for working with students online:
So I am hesitant to use the word “teaching” here, since I am coming from the perspective of writing center work—we facilitate- right?! But when I work with students online in a feedback session, I feel like we have to be more directive because we use a non-synchronous platform for our feedback. At times that lends itself to conversations and interactions that push that facilitator line to more directive type teaching. Because I have online connections with students in much shorter bursts than a 15 week class (I create a 5-8 minute personalized video with feedback), I have had to adapt my in class teaching pedagogy a bit for writing center work. Here is what I value in teaching:
I want to have deep connections with my students: I want them to know I value them, their unique experiences, their life and academic contexts and histories, and I want them to know that I am here for them as both writers and as people living in the world. To do this, I believe in a “call you in” type relationship where I invite them in and hope they will invite me in too. This means I create as safe a space as possible for them to express their ideas. I see students as my teachers in many ways. I learn something new from the students I work with every day.
“Because the students don’t actually see me, I try to create links between us, not just to develop a sense of camaraderie, but to create an audience for them” (8).
I want to push past this limitation of seeing or not seeing by using technology like screencast to record my face and voice in a webcam introduction to their feedback video. But I also try to create more personal links when their paper is on the screen, and I talk through a revision idea. I try to do this with specific compliments on what they have done well or a brief mention of my own writing experiences, if my experiences relate to what the student is doing in their writing. I do try to record a brief intro to my video using the webcam, so students can place a face with my name and voice. I hope this makes them feel more connected to me- the person giving them feedback. I almost always thank them for using our services and compliment something concrete they did in their writing.
Writing is a Process: I want them to learn something epic and life altering-ly big or to them seemingly small (I don’t ever think these realizations are small at all) about their process in each interaction I have with them both in person or online. In feedback, I use lots of open ended questions. I ask them to experiment with moving ideas around on the page. But I also want students to be metacognitive about their process. How did mind-mapping the reading help you? Why did mind-mapping work better for you than traditional note-taking? OR Why did moving that mention of the author’s credibility work better as the second sentence in your intro over where it was before? How/ why did you decide to move it there? If they walk away knowing they have a process and could draw me a map/ picture or narrate their writing process and why it works for them- I have succeeded in some way!
“The continuous writing environment makes it ever possible for students to learn through their own work in a studio-like environment (Grego and Thompson 8)” (xii)
This resonates with me because we use studio style at San Elijo. In fact the Greco and Thompson article was our jumping off point to shift to studio in the center. Students don’t need an appointment; they drop in. The time with students then becomes less about the product and more about their process and identity as a writer. With studio, I facilitate more active learning because we can talk out what they want to do in our time together and then after we have discussed an idea or concept have them practice and apply a concept while I either physically pull back to give them space to apply what they learned. But I get to check in on them again and read again what they just practiced on their own and validate it or get all meta with them on how it worked for them. I would love to find ways to do this online using our a-synchronous model, but obviously there are challenges there.
De-mystify Reading and Writing in a Safe Space: I try to be as explicit as possible about academic writing. I believe in models. I believe in explicit instruction. I want to break myths (elementary to high school) they have been told about writing or what makes a good writer. I think students want to be able to practice their skills in a safe space and have us there as that back up support to talk out what they just tried or experimented with in their writing.
Finally, one goal I have is to extend how we work with students online beyond the online writing feedback videos we create. This may mean online workshops, discussions, content pages, online videos on how to critically read for various disciplines… I am not sure yet what, but I hope to learn how to do that with the most sound online pedagogy.
Here is my video: