Reflective Memo on e-Portfolio
Welcome to my teaching portfolio.
I never would have done anything like this if I hadn’t taken Kimberly Harrison’s ENG 6937 Teaching Composition Pedagogy class at Florida International University (FIU), but now that it’s done I’m more than happy that I have—I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished and the image I’ve been able to put forward of myself as a budding instructor and writer. If you’d like to contact me for questions related to my teaching experiences or regarding this website, you may use this email: Joduckwo@fiu.edu, or alternatively Jduck007@fiu.edu.
I should admit right away that the notion of creating an e-Portfolio to catalog my progress as an upstart teacher is intimidating. By nature I’m not the most organized person, and compared to most Americans of my age group and socioeconomic level I’m a caveman: no Facebook, no Twitter, no Instagram, and my phone looks like it belongs on the set of Star Trek: The Original Series. With that said, I intend to create a professional-grade resource here that outlines my approach to and conception of teaching as it develops and at the same time offers a window into the stream of digression and free association I call a mind.
I’ve responded on an intellectual and emotional level much more to the hands-on experience of assisting in Professor Tania Lopez’s ENC-1101 Hybrid course than I have to the course readings in ENG 6937, though there are many useful–indeed essential–lessons I’ve gleaned from those readings, with particular emphasis on John C. Bean’s Engaging Ideas, which I believe has impressed me because rather than simply discussing teaching theory Bean also packs every chapter with practical advice that comes from decades of hands-on teaching experience. The content of this portfolio reflects these leanings.
Creating this portfolio has been made much easier by the examples of both Annik Babinski and my own classmate, Cayce Wicks, who started her portfolio when most of us were likely only worrying about them. Now that I’ve made an introduction, let’s continue to an outline of the portfolio as a whole, with explanations of my methodology for each.
I don’t attempt to hide the sort of person I am. When something stimulates me on an intellectual or emotional level I talk about it at length and often in poetic terms. Writing stimulates me on every level. Teaching writing is no different. Reading my About Me for the first time, you may ask why there’s a picture of a pine flatwood with a grave epitaph in the caption. My hope is that by the time you finish perusing my e-Portfolio, such a question will never occur to you again, because you’ll know by that time that I bring my full personality to bear in any creative endeavor (albeit often with a healthy dose of what John Keats called “negative capability”). I mention my early semi-nomadic life as a military brat as well as my mother’s Belgian nationality to demonstrate how I’ve lived a cross-cultural, translingual life. I include an epigraph from my novel project not as self-promotion, but because the words quoted have come to stand for me as a fifty-syllable statement of purpose.
I am a humanist, and I will teach accordingly. That is the most concise summary I can give for my teaching philosophy.
Originally I created this repository of TA anecdotes as padding when my e-Portfolio looked rather sparse. At this point it’s come into its own, and I think it shows me as a fallible but thoughtful human being, someone who may make mistakes but will learn from them and who won’t make excuses for himself. I include a few less-than-flattering glimpses into my early forays into teaching with the belief that far from shattering my ethos they will show my integrity and honesty. My favorite teachers are those that show up to class sweating, curse when surprised, and have the courage to admit when they’ve misplaced a student’s paper or made a mistake when grading. I don’t believe for a second that teachers should hide their humanity behind a veneer of pedagogical primness. That is why I include episodes about forgetting names the first few weeks, dithering when asked to provide feedback to a draft in the middle of a class, and about the perils of eating a heavy-carb breakfast before class.
The essays, projects, and other units included were all created (with inspirations and assistance provided by current FIU faculty and theoretical forebears) by the students in my ENG 6937 class. The literacy narrative is my own group’s work. Obviously I’m biased to think it’s the most important.
I created this syllabus for my group project in Dr. Harrison’s Pedagogy class. I started it before I even began this e-Portfolio, with the assumption that each individual would be responsible for their own syllabus rather than it being a collaborative effort. Having laid down the foundation already, it was natural for me to assume responsibility for building the group syllabus. My group members, Miguel, Hailey, and Michelle, mostly contributed by helping me moderate the “Jonathanness” that pervaded the first draft. In this first draft—and this may return in the future—I opened the syllabus with a Monty Python quote. Even with this removed I strove to inject a personable voice into what’s usually thought of as a “boring” document, with the aim of showing to my future students that not only do I understand my subject matter, but I can have fun with it as well. That is why there is a double-self-referential lesson/joke anent passive voice tucked into the course objectives. And I mention that Strunk discusses suicide while explicating “shall” and “will” with the hope that this will encourage my students to pick up an “optional” textbook. My group members reminded me to include a student agreement sheet at the end because we believe that a syllabus is a contract between student and teacher, a sort of pedagogical Magna Carta.
I didn’t think at first of any of my future students consulting my e-Portfolio, but then I saw a few of my peers including student sections in their own portfolios, and I considered how often I’d Googled professor’s names and stumbled onto their websites. I resolved that if my students were going to be curious, I would reward their curiosity with a useful smattering of resources and inspirational material. The Minding the G.A.P. section was inspired by Tania Lopez’s lesson of the same name, and is intended to give a brief, and easy to digest guide to the principles of genre, audience, and purpose. The Multi-Media Library includes essays, videos, and a Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, all of which either offer useful information or touch on the creative, humanistic impulse I hope to cultivate in my students. The Strong Statements on Good Writing caps this section off with a few golden nuggets of writerly wisdom.
Very early on it became apparent that I’m just not that interested in consuming and regurgitating pedagogical theory. Or at least that I’m less interested than some of my colleagues and peers. As a rule I don’t read reference books for pleasure unless recipes or maps of battles are involved. I also follow William Blake’s maxim—I must create my own system (i.e. pedagogy) or be enslaved by another man’s (and since we’re in the 21st century, I’ll amend that to “person’s”). Despite these difficulties I believe I’ve done a fine job of placing myself within a conversation of teaching theory, as well as elaborating on the practical principles I espoused in my teaching philosophy. I literally do put myself into conversation with John C. Bean in my page on Conferencing, where I give a list of his concerning conferencing tips and provide my own take on each tip and how it’s worked out in my own experience. The most recent addition to the Teaching Resources section is The Translingual, Post-Modern (Just Kidding About the Second Part) Classroom, where I once again explain my translingual upbringing and speak out against the traditional notions of “standard academic” English.
Writing and Reading
While reviewing David Esch’s portfolio, I noticed that he’d devoted some space to some of his personal interests along with his teaching materials. I decided that as a teacher of writing it was vitally important to give some attention to my own writing. The Literary Influence Web shows my complicated constellation of literary influences, ranging from poets like John Keats and James Wright (and my undergrad mentor, Barbara Hamby, who actually instructed me in fiction) to literary novelists such as Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, Nikolai Gogol, and Toni Morrison, to genre fiction mainstays such as Jim Butcher (who I must credit for getting me back into reading three summers ago after a long hiatus) and Neil Gaiman. I include this both to explain my writing style and to demonstrate that a writer is only a link in a long chain that stretches back to the first people to chisel cuneiform onto limestone. In my Publications page I ironically proclaim my meager bibliography, with the hope that not too far in the future it will be much longer. The latest addition, my Current Projects page, offers a glimpse into my present creative aspirations.
I included a directory in each section page for ease of navigation, assuming the dropdown menu isn’t sufficient. I hope my portfolio is as enjoyable to read as it is informative.
Happy reading, happy writing,
-Jonathan Louis Duckworth.
12/4/2013. 9:51 PM