A girl and her cat take on the world with nothing more than a cup of tea and a good book and enough dreams to fill the universe.
Today I got to observe one of my dreams in action. My advisor, the head of the geology department and a scientist through and through, is co-teaching a class on environmental policy with one of the most thought provoking English professor’s I’ve ever had. Science and English teamed up, combined, working together. It is wonderful. I have been looking for ways to combine science and English in my classroom and how to incorporate the two when sometimes it seems they are completely different and like stubborn children, they sulk in the corner and make mean faces at each other. This class is a dream come true for me. I go and sit in whenever I can. I’m not terribly interested in the subject matter, but I want to see how it’s taught. What’s possible. What could I do as one person that these two people do? It raises many, many questions for me and gives me hope that I can do this strange combination and make it work.
Science and English, the chemist/detective and the blogger. Watching this class is like watching real life Sherlock and Watson not solve crimes, but educate people.
For example, there is the rhetoric of science and the rhetoric of English and the two overlap a little bit. While Dr. Leite, the scientist, was explaining the scientific method and what law and theory mean in science, Dr. Miller, the English professor, would chime in and point out why language is so important and why, perhaps, science is so hard to understand at times. It was thrilling to watch and it raised some questions for me.
It’s like watching a rocket launch (or Atlantis). You sit there and you think “How?” while at the same time, your hopes are soaring up at 18,000 miles per hour.
What does our language use revel about our beliefs and identity? How does communication/rhetoric generate our beliefs and identity? Can language reveal while transforming our ideas at the same time? What does my language use reveal about me to my students? To my family and friends? Do I use different language between the two? Who does my language include? Who does it say isn’t allowed without ever directly saying it?
So many questions….
I want my students to understand me, but I want to speak to them like they are adults and not baby them. I want them to feel comfortable in their own language use. It would be easy for me to reject certain ‘dialects’ of English, to laugh at the slang and strange grammar conventions, and unintentionally make a student’s cultural background illegitimate. To unconsciously say it is wrong. I’m a white, middle class, educated female. What am I saying when I’m talking?
I know I have to talk, but maybe I should be quiet until I know what I’m saying.
This got me brainstorming of ideas on how to embrace voice in writing. I think it would be easier in fiction and poetry to write ‘unconventionally.’ It would allow for a great lesson in poetic license. I want to share writing that does not fit the norm to make my class a more welcome place to all language. I’m suddenly looking through Amazon and trying to remember all the books I’ve ever read that had a young person’s voice, that they didn’t conform to the norms of proper English. Embracing diversity will have it’s challenges, I’m sure, but I think the rewards will be well worth it.
While I know that this is an ad supporting speaking different languages, I think it could probably be extended to different English dialects as well. I speak Science and English. What do you speak?
Now, the question is how do I walk that knife’s edge of teaching students proper, accepted English without accidentally telling them that their dialect is wrong? I don’t know. I will most definitely fail at figuring this out, but I’m already looking forward to the breakthrough when I find the answer.
It may be like this for awhile and that’s okay.
In other news, I have an idea to make writing in the writer’s notebook less painful. For my free writes, I am going to take down a postcard or a picture from my wall collage and tape it into my journal and then I’m going to use it as a prompt. I’m actually very excited about this because having this enormous collage on my wall, while interesting, will not work as I become an adult and a collection of journals and notebooks will be the perfect place to store them.
My wall collage – a tiny portion. This is going to be a very large project.
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Brian Marggraf, Author of Dream Brother: A Novel, Independent publishing advocate, New York City dweller
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Stefan Falke photographs artists who live and work along the 2000 miles long U.S.- Mexico border to document the vibrant culture of the region on both sides. All photos © Stefan Falke (use with written permission by the author only)