Saturday, January 29, 2011

Status report

Almost daily now I find myself explaining just what it is I'm working on, to Facebook friends and students who've caught an oblique comment or passing mention of my book, making me realize I've not been nearly so forthcoming as I ought to be. Regular readers of this blog will likely know, but newbies may as likely not, that I'm under contract with Jossey-Bass to complete a text on teaching writing and using writing as a learning tool in math-based fields. The working title is More than number: writing in the disciplines and writing-to-learn in the quantitative sciences.

As of this moment I've written somewhere on the order of 42,000 or 43,000 words of the book, comprising nearly four finished chapters, a halfway-decent outline for a fifth, and the very beginnings of a sixth. (My original outline called for seven chapters, but I suspect the first two will be folded into one.) As it becomes more and more fully formed, I'm becoming increasingly aware of the things that it will do well, and the things it will not do so well. Fortunately, I believe that the things it won't do well are things that are done well elsewhere, and which I never intended to do well in the first place.

Namely, it will not offer extensive treatment of more "traditional" discipline-specific genres like research papers, technical reports, and literature reviews. Those forms of writing are addressed at length by authors who have come before, and who are most definitely more qualified than I am to speak on those forms. It will not offer a ready-made blueprint for making writing work in this course or the other: the reader cannot expect to be able to read the book and become an expert overnight, capable of guiding her students through numerous complex writing activities on the first day of the new semester. As important as knowledge is practice, and this I cannot offer.

It will (and, in fact, does) give a great deal of direction in teaching writing in the quantitative classroom, offering advice on sequencing and structuring writing activities, assessing student writing, delivering feedback on writing, and helping students use writing to help them think, learn, and explore, rather than simply to communicate. It will (and does) involve new contributions to writing instruction from me, my colleagues, and my students. I'm particularly proud of the exemplary samples of student writing I'll be able to include.

I'm quite happy with the book so far, despite occasional nighttime anxiety that drives me out of bed to work on the damned thing at two in the morning. I'm sure it'll only get better as I get more and more feedback from my friends and editors.

I've got two more months before the first draft is due in completed form, at which time it'll get shipped off to various reviewers. Between now and then if I look sleepless and haggard, if I stumble past you in the hall or mumble something to myself before scribbling something frantically on the back of a campus mail envelope, forgive me: I'm likely lost in a literary world hovering somewhere several feet off of the ground.

Tired? Yeah. Nervous? Hell, yeah. But excited.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yay! :) Congratulations! Keep up the hard work. I am sure it will pay off one day; you have great abilities when it comes to teaching!