Monday, September 21, 2009

Common ground

I noticed a long time ago that I tend to have better conversations about pedagogy and academic theory in general with people outside of my own discipline than I have with people in it.

It was only tonight as I was talking with a couple of newly-met colleagues in rhetoric and composition that I finally figured out why this likely is: when I'm talking shop with folks from wildly different disciplines, I'm forced to seek out common ground with them, and that ground is usually centered upon academic fundamentals like classroom practices, curricular development, pedagogical theory, and the like.

With the aforementioned colleagues (one of whom teaches at the College of Charleston, and the other at Montreat College) I shared a wide-ranging discussion on college pedagogy, especially as regards writing, and we had what I felt were some excellent insights on college students and their education.

Among them: that first-year college students are delightful people with whom to interact because they're liminal beings in so many ways. They're positively brilliant one minute and downright stupid the next. They're jaded, arrogant, and self-assured in some ways, but naïve, immature, and credulous in others. They're truly passionate about learning, but they don't want to take the time to take it on, and while they've got enough energy and enthusiasm to change the world, their piss-poor time-management skills can barely get them from breakfast to lunch on any given day.

They're awesome people.

And as my new friend Nicola said tonight, whenever you're interacting with them, you've got the power to truly change their lives and offer them an eye-opening, life-changing experience. As lovely as they are, our upper-level majors, as a rule, have drunk the flavor of Kool-Aid we've offered them over and over, and they don't need their hands held any longer. They'll come to class willingly, and they'll often interact passionately once they've done so...but there's something about the wild-eyed eagerness with which freshmen feast on the ideas and concepts of a course which has first inflamed their passions.

"It's always exciting to be the first to spark that flame," Nicola said.


On that note, I'm going to hit the hay. It's a long day tomorrow (on the agenda: a presentation by my new friends from the College of Charleston, and break-out groups on various areas of concern to writing program administrators...and socializing...plenty of socializing...), and an even longer one on Wednesday.

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