Wednesday, January 31, 2007


I really enjoyed the metaphor in "The Discovery of Competence." It was interesting, and kept my attention with how a teacher may view students entering a basic writing course. I especially paid close attention to the woman's first reaction to the trapped starlings. She said, "'How did you get in here?' 'What are you doing in here?' and observed, 'You don't belong here.'" (1) That last question really struck a cord with me. As the story is a metaphor for teaching an entry-level course in writing, it represents a gut reaction to students that a new teacher may have. It's a terribly insensitive reaction to have, but I don't think I would be immune to this sort of reaction at first glance, either. I like to think of myself as a patient and caring individual, but I could see myself reacting with a sort of awed helplessness when faced with a task as daunting as teaching a class full of, as Shaughnessy put it, "those who had been left so far behind the others in their formal education that they appeared to have little chance of catching up..." (2)
I know that this class is designed to help with this feeling of helplessness, and I know it will. And, with time and dedication, I'm sure that my initial reaction will not be "You don't belong here," but "where do we start?"
I remeber my first teaching experience in a practicum. I taught the graveyard scene in Hamlet to juniors in high school. The kids weren't really impressed with the material. I was utterly amazed. I mean, this was Shakespeare! How could these kids not love and respect every word on the page? Of course, then I remembered what I thought about Shakespeare when I was their age. I tried to bring it down to the kid's level and make it applicable to their lives, and I think that some of them actually liked that scene after I was done.
I like the Mike Rose approach of meeting the students on their own ground. He mentioned talking to a kid about rap music, and using that as a jumping-off point. It was his way of putting his foot in the door. This is a similar sort of technique to a "reading don't fix no chevys" mentality. This is brought up in the metaphor when the woman puts down the books in her hands in order to better handle the bird. This, I think would be the best approach. Meet the kids on their own ground, find out what they are interested in and attack with both hands.
As mentioned in class, the metaphor has its holes. It falls apart in some places, some of the devices are flawed and some of the explanation is stretched. But, I still think it was a great way to open the book.


bluegypsy said...

I definitely understand the feeling of asking "What are you doing here?" As much as I like people, I always have a student or two in my class that I could do without! I struggle with liking that student and wanting to work with him/her in the capacity that that individual needs. Oddly, many times I find the student who was most difficult or unlikeable in the beginning to be my favorite student in the end! Maybe because of all the time I took to force myself to like him/her... maybe just because I really took the time to find out what made that particular student who he/she is. It's a happy discovery... sometimes!

Amy said...

(I responded to your comment at my blog.)

Wordage said...

I responded to your comment @ wordage. It is a writing project so I agree that should be the focus.