JENNIFER MARCINIAK

Pre-Reading

One large element of pre-school social assessment we did not discuss much last class was a student’s “language prep” at home before the initiation into a group learning environment. Rose talks a bit about this with his reflections on Harold and “the books from the bottom shelf” and how he would bring them to school to try and “connect literacy of home and school” (122). Although these are noted, that is where the engagement ends. The family environment seems to be the missing link here. The border between home and school is rarely breached, but Rose crosses it and visits Harold’s mom, which grants him a more well-rounded understanding of Harold’s behaviors that are not readily testable in a clinical or standardized exam setting.

My hopes for the second part of Rose’s book are a more well-rounded approach to understanding the single student as a person and not just someone who needs to be taught to “fit neatly into our classrooms” (120). I am also hoping to see how he approached adult literacy, like with Tranquilano, and examples of juggling a multi-lingual, multi-level classroom without letting students slip between the cracks. This seems idealistic, yes, but Rose has proven that patience and a willingness to not just hear, but listen and not just see, but watch, can fundamentally help lonely and isolated basic writers/learners open up. I am interested in seeing how he manages working with students who are taking that leap over the crevasse between high school and college.

Post Reading

"They are literate people straining at the boundaries of their ability, trying to move into the unfamiliar, to approximate a kind of writing they can't yet command"(188).

To me, this is a wonderful illustration of the people Rose encounters in this teaching journey. We move from the El Monte students from low income and impoverished areas to the non-traditional Veterans Program students and students at the Tutorial Center at UCLA. Although their backgrounds are different, they all feel disconnected from writing, either because they were never introduced to certain forms of it, or because they were left in the dust in the past. Connected to this is my experience at South Texas College. Although I will be writing about this in my interview paper, I found several very important links between Rose and teacher attitudes toward developmental students at this community college in McAllen?. After talking with a developmental teacher, she had some pretty harsh things to say about 1301 teachers, who are actually segregated in a different department, even in a different building. Many of her Developmental students are ESL, and therefore their writing can have grammar switches like adjective/noun to noun/adjective like in their Native Spanish. Although she works with them on correcting this and getting their ideas through to the reader, when they move on to 1301, the teachers are not so sympathetic to their language and cultural differences that pop up in their grammar. Instead of understanding and help, they are given and F.

The standardized placements tests are also problem to Rose. The students' knowledge of a critical theory is missing, which these "objective" tests aim to examine. Therefore the student, who, as we have seem systematically throughout Rose's experiences, are totally capable of writing, but are told by a government test, which they are taught to fear, that they are inadequate. In psycholinguistics we took a look at one such "fair" test, the language exam for the Foreign Service. The test did not look at your language speaking ability, but instead focused on what they considered logical questions using numbers and letters that supposedly were to be an accurate portrayal of your ability to learn another language. It did not take into consideration however someone's learning environment or past language learning processes.

If I took one thing away from this book, it was that there is potential to learn in students if they are willing to communicate with the teacher. All of Rose's success stories involve communication and listening, which is very difficult in a classroom of 27 students. I particularly like the story of Olga and Macbeth: "You know, Mike, people always hold this shit over you, make you... make you feel stupid with their fancy talk. But now I've read it, I've read Shakespeare, I can say, I, Olga, have read it. I won't tell you I like it, 'cause I don't know if I do or I don't. But I like knowing what it's about" (162).

(Enter Reading Rainbow theme song here)


Tammy Graham: Pre-reading

In the first half of the book, Rose gives us several examples of the struggles that a basic writer might face at home and at school. Like Jennifer mentions above, literacy skills begin in the home and then follow the child into the school setting. Non-traditional students face a variety of obstacles, whether it be language barriers or other physical or emotional issues. Once in school, the teacher then must determine why the student is struggling, and find ways to help them bridge those gaps. Rose also shares some of his techniques for getting his students to write (picture and music prompts, etc.).

I think that the second half will be much the same as far as format goes. Rose will give us several different examples of people struggling with their literacy skills, and then explain some of his techniques that were successful.

The only thing I can offer as critique is that, while success stories are great, we also need to hear more about what did not work for him. I want to know if there are any students that he could not help? If so, why not? When students do fail, we often find a number of reasons: the parents, the teachers, the students themselves, and even the curriculum. Is it that non-traditional students will only respond to non-traditional methods? These are some of the questions that I have.


Joanna Hodges - Pre-reading

In the first half of the book, Rose provides insight into the downfalls of the educational system in America, showing how it fails underprepared or underprivileged students. As promised, the book is so far an interesting read with detailed accounts of Rose's experiences as both a student and teacher. From what we've read so far, Rose appears as if he consistently knows how to best teach a student he encounters, such as Harold.

I agree with Tammy that it would improve the narrative to include pieces where he might have struggled as a teacher or where he might not have made such a large impact on a student--where he feels like he failed at doing so, that way he can compare or analyze and show the difference between effective and ineffective methods of working with basic writers. Don't get me wrong; it is excellent that he has included stories like working with Harold--it shows the possibilities of teaching and shows benefits of the profession. I just wonder where he is going to take it from here. Is the whole book going to be in this style, narratives of his life and how he has impacted the lives of others? Or, is there going to be more analysis of teaching methods? I guess thinking it would continue along in the same narrative style would be one of my main preconceived notions about reading the second half of the book, since I am basing my prediction on the first half of the book. I'd like to see how he transitions from his work with the students in the final chapters of this first section--Harold, adult ed students--into the field of Composition.

The back of the book says it is an "award-winning account of how America's educational system fails its students--and what can be done about it." After the first 5 chapters, I feel like I've seen the failures and am now ready to see the second part of this quote: the solutions.


Holly Corkill - Pre-Reading

Do I know anything about this topic?

Having participated in a class discussion and having read the first half of the book, I feel that I know a little more about basic writing, but know I still have more to learn. Also, after reading the book, I realize that I also have a little more experience with basic writers than I thought I did. In fact, after our class discussion and reading the first part of the book, it seems like I’m now noticing more basic writers than I thought there were in some of my classes. As we are working on writing now in my sophomore classes, I have heard “I’m not a very good writer” more than once this week.

Do I know anything about this author?

From class discussion and further time spent on the bastard source of Wikipedia, I know that Mike Rose is such a good teacher that he doesn’t have a personal life. There is no mention of him being gay, straight, married, single, or having children. Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that, to be a good teacher you need to trash your personal life, but teaching does take a lot of time, and the more time you devote specifically to teaching the more time you have to get better at it. That’s the same with anything, though. Practice makes perfect. From reading Mike Rose, I also know that he is very passionate about reaching at-risk students because he feels that he was an at risk child.

What preconceived notions do I have about the reading?

I am hoping that the first part of the book was merely exposition and that now Mike Rose will tell me specifically exactly how to become the best writing teacher possible. The chapter titled ‘Reclaiming the Classroom” serves to bolster that hope. If this is not the case, then I assume that the book will continue with more anecdotes and commentary on the current state of the education system.

H. Corkill - Post Reading

Good Writing/Good “language”/ Where does your understanding of the text begin to break down/become confusing?

“As writers move further away from familiar ways of expressing themselves, the strains on their cognitive and linguistic resources increase, and the number of mechanical and grammatical errors shoots up. Before we shake our heads at these errors, we should also consider the possibility that many such linguistic bungles are signs of growth, a stretch beyond what college freshmen can comfortably do with written language. In fact, we should welcome certain kinds of errors…” (188). This statement certainly creates some food for thought, because it contrasts so strongly against that notion that Mike Rose presented earlier about the idea of there being some finite “correct grammar” that we should all be using. However, I do find that this assertion of welcoming “certain kinds of errors” kind of fails itself. If we welcome certain kinds of errors and consider them to be the place where “education begins” (189), are we not saying that there is, in fact, some finite “correct and proper” way to write? Yes, a student can learn from their errors, but Mike Rose spends a lot of time talking about how the basic writers he has tutored and taught have been scared away from writing because they believe that they cannot do it the way it’s “supposed to be” done.

What theories is the author building the discussion on?

Mike Rose states that “what young people come to define as intellectual competence—what it means to know things and use them is shaped by their schooling”(190). He goes on to quote John Dewey who says that “Only in education, never in the life of the farmer, sailor, merchant, physician, or laboratory experimenter does knowledge mean primarily a store of information aloof from doing”(190). By quoting John Dewey, Rose makes the argument that students should learn by doing and that learning is its most successful when students are not involved in the transactional/banking system of education where the student listens and the teacher gives the information. Freire is another proponent of this and Mike Rose mentions him as well in his book.

Of interesting note on the teaching style of John Dewey, I recall a passage I read in To Kill a Mockingbird recently (I read this every year with my sophomores, and have found myself amused by this passage several times.). In the book, the adult Scout interjects her commentary on the “Dewey Decimal System of Education”. She says, “The remainder of my schooldays were no more auspicious than the first. Indeed, they were an endless project that slowly evolved into a Unit, in chich miles of construction paper and wax crayon were expended by the state of Alabama in its well-meaning efforts to teach me group dynamics[…] I knew nothing [of the Dewey Decimal System] except what I gathered from Time magazine and reading everything I could lay hands on at home, but as I inched sluggishly along the treadmill of the Maycomb County school system, I could not help receiving the impression that I was being cheated out of something” (Lee 33). The reason I included this quotation is that I feel like Mike Rose has good ideas. Paulo Freire has good ideas, and John Dewey has good ideas as well, but there is no absolute, and what suits one student will not always suit another.

Roles of Teachers

The second part of the book has no decline in its emphasis in the importance of the teachers in their students’ abilities to be successful. Like the first part of the book, this second part shows that Mike Rose and the tutors he coached have the most success when they are working one on one. The example of the woman taking the aptitude test and needing explanation to better understand the root words is a very good example of this. No amount of self-study would have made her as successful as the one on one tutoring Rose gave her.


Darcy Lewis

Pre-Read:

Other than a few isolated instances in which he gives the contents of his lessons, I felt that Rose was raising awareness of what was wrong with education in the first half of the book without giving much practically-applicable in the way of solutions. I hope that the second half of the book dives more into what can be done in the classroom to be effective and exactly what that looks like. It is one thing to point fingers and say that things are being done incorrectly. It is quite another to be specific and explicitly define and detail the solution(s). So I am hoping that there is some of that in the next half.

Also, although I found the details of his work with the elementary students pretty interesting (and at times inspiring), I am anxious to hear how all this manifested in adult literacy issues and basic writing curricula for college students. Rose made some pretty bold statements about the “romance” of teaching and how students just want to connect with their teacher first, then they can be taught effectively: “Teaching, I was coming to understand, was a kind of romance…Knowledge gained its meaning, at least initially, through a touch on the shoulder, through a conversation of the kind Jack MacFarland? and Frank Carothers and the others used to have with their students. My first enthusiasm about writing came because I wanted a teacher to like me” (102). I’ll be interested to see if that comes up again in the second half of the book once Rose starts connecting with adult students. Can his quixotic notion of reaching out and making a connection before instruction can begin hold water with adults? On the one hand, it seems idealistic to believe that this theory can apply to all ages, all levels, and all situations. On the other hand, the romantic in me hopes that it’s true.


John Lamerson Reading Responses #2a – Pre-reading

This second assignment is to read pgs. 133-242 of Mike Rose’s book Lives on the Boundary: A Moving Account of the Struggles and Achievements of America’s Educationally Underprepared.

I know more about this author than I did prior to last week’s pre-reading entry. Mike Rose is an educator who believes that the early labeling of children as developmentally disabled causes irreversible damage to a child’s education. Mike Rose described his early educational environment, including his tenure in the developmentally disabled classrooms at his private school. He further referenced how these early educational blunders hindered him at the private university he attended. He gives credit for his education to teachers and professors who were willing to look beyond the blacks and whites of standardized testing and who were willing to teach outside the preapproved curriculum.

My preconceived notion of this second half of his book is that it will continue to discuss Mike Rose’s attempts to teach basic writing students in non-traditional ways. I believe that Mike Rose will discuss how the current educational system marginalizes students from poorer socioeconomic backgrounds, far before determinations of these children’s capacities should be made. I believe that he will roundly condemn our primary school system’s reliance upon standardized testing and the belief that children designated as substandard will be forced into a cycle of vocational schools and low-income employment.


Liza's Pre-Reading #2

Mike Rose really cares about education and his students. He has high expectations of teachers and how they should inspire, teach, and approach basic writers. I am hoping that the conclusion of this book will help address how he gets past the one on one interaction with students in order to still be successful. At this point, it seems that much of his theories about success in students have dealt with a very hands on approach and since we do not immediately know who the basic writers are here at TAMUCC, it would be beneficial to have a better idea of how to move forward and access all students while still managing to connect with the ones who need that extra help. I am hoping that he provides those types of examples as well.

How does he tackle classrooms where every student has trouble because their skill sets are completely different? That is what I want to know. We know what he expects of teachers, but what does he also expect of the students? It must be a two way street. Some of our instructors have so many students that it seems impossible to provide the kind of attention that he describes for the one or two students he discusses.


John Lamerson Reading Responses #2b – Post-reading

According to Rose, basic writing extends beyond the ordinary K-12 and college freshman environments. He wrote that basic writing courses extend to non-traditional classrooms such as teaching combat veterans, tutoring at Learning Line, and teaching shut-ins and persons in need of assistance to write. Although this was an interesting section of his book, it was somewhat unsatisfying as he does not write about any long-term positive effects of his teaching these non-traditional students.

Basic writing can encompass activities as varied as tutoring at UCLA, to helping “remedial” students adjust from the change from high school to college, to working with Teacher Corps. A basic writer can be loosely defined by Rose as a writer at any stage of education who has not been able to comply with the black and white writing standards of the institution.

According to Rose, Basic Writing is seen as the red headed stepchild of a university. He detailed his issues with the UCLA administration (over which he eventually prevailed) in maintaining a basic writing program in the college due to budgetary issues. He fears that, due to such budgetary issues, those basic writing programs are always the first on the chopping block. He writes that such programs are necessary for even good students who, for whatever reason, are having difficulty in college. Those reasons can range from simple homesickness to uncertainty as to what constitutes plagiarism.

Rose questions as to whether correctness the most important factor in prose. He cites different students’ inabilities to determine prefixes/suffixes on standardized tests. As he did in the first half of this book, Rose writes that students in less affluent neighborhoods tend to find little use in writing, an this apathy towards writing cannot be overcome using traditional methods. A student’s interest in music can be used to spark an interest in writing, whereas very few people become interested in writing because of the Latin/Greek roots of English words.

At his root, it is rigor in teaching writing that Rose is most against. He does not see the purpose in determining whether a student is remedial only based on a student’s knowledge of grammar, punctuation, spelling, and style. He also has little use for the canon, as he has found that canonical learning is stripped of human connection – students don’t understand the significance, if any, of what they are being forced to learn.

If there is any weakness to this book, it is the fuzziness on what exactly Rose thinks should be done after the black and white walls separating the "remedial" from the “normal” from the "advanced" have been torn down. He makes extremely valid arguments against the labeling of young children based upon near-arbitrary tests that the children themselves may not even understand. And he provides excellent advice to those seeking to teach students who have already been labeled as “remedial” – specifically, he seeks to bridge the gulf between the English students know and the English students are forced to learn.

But I am confused as to what Rose actually thinks should be done. Several times throughout his book, Rose looks at the difference in how students are classified based on accidents, such as immigration status, socioeconomic status, and IQ tests. Except for his statement that each student should be treated individually, he does not seem to provide an alternative. While it seems unfair that students such as Lilia, Mario, Caroline, Chin, etc. are labeled “remedial,” he does not answer a simple question – what should we do about it?


Ben Howard - PreReading? 2

I feel like I know a lot more about this topic (how Mike Rose teaches basic writing students, not how to teach basic writing students) than I did before reading the first half of the book, but I have no idea where he’s going to take it from here. I feel like a lot of what he’s saying is pretty common sense, or at least common sense to me after the classes I’ve already taken and various class discussions. I’m enjoying it though because it’s not a text book. I can only assume he finishes up at UCLA and goes on to teach basic writing students at an older level. I am also going to assume that he works magic, and any roadblocks he hits are easily overcome by being nice to the children and just plain “giving them a chance.”

Also, according to Wikipedia, everything Mike Rose says is true. Wikipedia also confirms the PHD. Also he has a pretty website at http://web.mac.com/mikerosebooks/Site/Welcome.html .


Darcy Lewis

Post-Read:

As I talked about before, I was anxious to hear how Rose implemented specific strategies in the classroom for adults. All his theorizing and criticizing about the problems with other people’s approaches to education was all fine and good, but I wanted to hear him talk about what we can take and employ in our own pedagogies (for those of us who may be teaching basic writing in the future). On page 138, he talked about devising a curriculum for his veteran’s program that found “a methodical way to get my students to think about thinking…I finally decided to build a writing curriculum on four of the intellectual strategies my education had helped me develop.” The four strategies were spread out over the next few pages, and I jotted down some of his accompanying ideas:

1. Summarizing – needed to manage information, make crisp connections, rebut arguments

2. Classifying – familiarity with academic classification schemes, systemization of what the student studies, develop a critical awareness of the limitations of the classification schemes that will surround the student.

3. Comparing – develop confidence and facility in comparing points of view and explanations and works of art.

4. Analyzing – breaking something down into its constituent elements so as to better understand its nature—helps student to read with a critical eye and speak and write with more authority.

This “checklist” seemed helpful to me since I’ve had no teaching experience or classes in teacher training. I realized when re-reading this section for writing this journal piece how these “do or die” skills can be taken for granted when you get to the graduate level. I can’t think back to my own educational experience and pin-point when I learned to summarize or classify, specifically….they just seem like skills that built upon one another over time. But I can’t imagine being an adult student and struggling through school without them.

Rose also touches on something we briefly mentioned in class last week in the second half of the book—the old prescriptive grammar conundrum. Rose’s opinion is pretty anti-grammar as far as basic writing students go. He says that “if anything, concentrating on the particulars of language—schoolbook grammar, mechanics, usage—would tremendously restrict the scope of what language use was all about. Such approaches would rob writing of its joy, and would, to boot, drag the veterans back through their dismal history of red-penciled failure. Furthermore, we would be aiming low, would be scaling down our expectations—as so many remedial programs do—training to do the minimum, the minimum here being a simple workbook sentence free of error” (141). This is also echoed late in the book when he talks about the Ohio state college basic writing program. Students work on constructing proper sentences but never move beyond the sentence level into actual “writing.” The assumption of programs such as this is that a student must attain the building blocks of writing before going out and trying to do actual building/writing. What Rose indicates is that the fallacy in their assumption is in what those building blocks consist of. To the Ohio program, it’s prescriptive grammar….for Rose, the building blocks are the four points above…teaching students to think, to analyze, to compare, to summarize and classify. It leaves me wondering if one has to choose sides in this…if there isn’t a way to integrate both into a basic writing curriculum. I see the advantages for students to learn both simultaneously, but perhaps it is too ambitious to hope to teach all of the above to basic writers of varying levels in one semester.

One thing I really connected with in this half of the book was Rose’s viewpoint on how educators view error. He talks on page 188 about how, naturally, as students start taking chances with their writing (arguably, this is a good thing because it shows confidence in their writing and a desire to stretch him or herself), the number of mechanical and grammatical errors will greatly increase, as well. Rose’s point is that we should “consider the possibility that many such linguistic bungles are signs of growth…we should welcome certain kinds of errors, make allowance for them in the curricula we develop, analyze rather than simply criticize them. Error marks the place where education begins” (188-189). When an instructor sees an increase in error, it would be natural to assume that the student is sliding backward instead of inching forward. If Rose is correct, an increase in errors can be a very good sign, and error itself needs to be judged on an individual basis.

All in all, I took from Rose that the basic writing student (as an individual) brings such a rich and diverse background of how he or she acquires knowledge, defines success, intends to utilize his or her education, and inevitably how he or she identifies education itself. It is impossible to generalize for all basic writers. Writing is an intensely personal act, and for the basic writer, this vulnerability and exposure of the self is compounded and complicated by a system that marginalizes and reduces him or her early on and creates a hierarchical system in which the basic writer always feels behind the proverbial eight-ball, deficient, and hesitant to take risks or offer his or her opinion. Additionally, I think Rose made a good point in his chapter in which he chronicled his time at the UCLA tutoring center—the basic writer in college is not always branded as such from the beginning of his or her education. The basic writer could have been the star of his high school academically or someone who would never have been identified as basic in high school. A multitude of factors (change in environment, loneliness, pressure, encountering different pedagogical needs and styles, etc.) can contribute to a formerly “good student” doing poorly in his first semester in college and therefore labeled “basic” by default.


Pre-Reading Andrea Montalvo

I hope the second half of the book continues to discuss who is a basic writer and who isn't. I think Rose gave many examples where he saved the day, but that can't be the case for every student, so I would hope to see some instances where he had to step out of his comfort zone to help a student. I would hate to say that there are students who can't be helped, but if Rose did have trouble I would like to read about it.

I also want to know more about Rose himself. Not everything, of course, but more than just his students' struggles. What was going on in his life? Did it affect his teaching? When did he decide to write about the struggles of basic writers? But, because I enjoyed the first part of the book, I'm expecting the remainder to be much like what we've already read and discussed.

Also, Rose mainly discusses his struggles with elementary students, and while it is interesting, it doesn't really help me understand how to help a college level student struggling with basic writing skills. But, I feel what he has discussed is important because he is giving his young pupils a solid foundation in writing, and I think it will definately bode well for them in the future. They will have more confidence and, hopefully, an appreciation for writing that will stick with them throughout their academic careers.



Ben Howard – Post Reading

The basic concept that I got out of this second half is that the students he is working with are unprepared for college learning. It doesn’t boil down so much to basic writing, as he’s focusing more on learning/counseling in an institution as a whole. A lot of this second half is more of the same stuff from the first half with different names (different theoretical students) but a lot of it also focuses on the student’s having trouble with applying ideas, and the whole idea that in college you work more with concepts than with individual texts. He discusses the student in chemistry being able to memorize the hell out of formulas, but having trouble with the practical application of these same theories, and this is kind of a common trend among college students. He also discusses, similarly, a student who instead of working with a text and analyzing it, just summarizes and can’t understand his C-.

The problem is that a lot of this stems from high-school learning. If children were brought up from the beginning playing with ideas, and actually getting their hands dirty, then they wouldn’t have to relearn the actual act of learning on arrival at college. This said, it’s about impossible to make sure that every teacher throughout the chain of every student’s life teaches them “correctly,” so we have to come up with methods of explaining it to them once they do arrive at college. I myself had this problem interpreting the difference between simply summarizing and analyzing, and it took me about half a semester to figure out the difference between getting a C and getting an A on a paper, and it’s frustrating because a student will paraphrase something, thinking that by simplifying and simply restating the question they are posing serious thought, or rhetorical questions.

The problem is, as he puts it, simply that there aren’t a lot of situations where students are given a chance to apply any kind of use of any of the tools that they’re being taught, it’s just a matter of rehashing the same points and arguments, doing the same experiments, and generally doing “what the assignment is.” As soon as a teacher says “okay, write a paper about whatever you want to, but make sure it achieves these goals,” the students wants to know “but what is my assigned topic?” The idea that they hold the power to choose is mind boggling and baffling, even more so if there isn’t an assigned deadline!

On top of this, the other main point (that feels like common sense) that Rose brings up is that every student has experienced life differently and so has a different way of looking at whatever is being shown to him. Some students will throw their own experiences into a reading, and some won’t and will just try to read it for what it is. He also discusses how cultural background can shape learning, which is an issue here on this campus with our increasing number of ethnic students and esl students. “How can I question what is written? If it’s written it must be a stated fact or it wouldn’t be printed.” The problem with all of this is simply that a teacher can’t take the time to account for every student being different, the student needs to find a way to learn. The professor/teacher can help them and show them new ways to look at things, but I don’t think it should necessarily be our job to go completely out of our way to help. I hate to sound harsh, but this is college, not grade school. There’s a reason it’s separate from standard schooling, and why it is called “higher education.” Sure, it’s harder for some students than others, but there always has to be some kind of separating factor in any society, as morally degenerating as that sounds.



James H, Pre-reading

I think I have the same knowledge base of what basic writing is as I started with because most of the first part of the book confirmed my suspicions that it is essentially how writers form basic concepts of how to write and what it means to be a writer.

I feel like I know this author much better, even on a personal level to some degree, and that is good. He has a tremendous voice in this book to be able to accomplish that in just 130-something pages. Someone mentioned that he must not have a life and that would make him a better teacher because he can devote that time to learning how to teach; I think there is a flip-side to that though because you actually learn a lot through having a life as well, and often some of the best ideas for a lesson may come to you while you are not in a classroom or reading a book. I guess I would say that maybe he ought to take a slightly more balanced approach to teaching and living, but I will not say that because whatever it is that he is doing obviously works for him, makes him happy, brings him and his students success, and has probably made him a good bit of money (icing on the cake).

I expect this reading assignment to finish up Rose's bio and tell about his further success as a teacher. I don't really know how the details will work out, but since this is already rather inspirational and has offered some solutions, I expect it to continue in that vein.


Pre Reading #2 J-Guerra

I am looking forward to diving into the text again. Having the background information on the author that I do now, I feel that this next section will, hopefully, open up a possible solution or his solution to this problem that he has been broadening throughout the text. I am under the impression, however, that given the direction that the first portion of the text took, the next portion will probably go deeper into a territory that is thick with problems and the solutions may be even more unfeasible. We Will See.

Post Reading #2 J-Guerra

How do the readings address some of these issues?

I am not going to bother addressing each of the issues as he was rather pointed in the last section with some of them. Instead I would like to focus on a one of them, which I think he expanded on and I felt incorporates many others that were key to the completion of the text.

Teaching and tutoring methods(Success vs Fail): I felt that he spent a great deal of time, whether ethnographic or spelling it out plainly, noting where teaching is failing and how teachers and tutors can help students succeed. He notes the need for less focus on error and allowing them to tackle even difficult material from wherever they currently are. He notes that even if a person is considered illiterate he or she can approach piece and critically look at it with the knowledge that they already have and their experiences. He notes that through the experience of writing, and improving on it, individuals can become more accomplished and better writers. He does promote guidance, but notes that the instructors that teach to errors and the “grammar goddess” and testing are “A linguistic version of burning the village to save it.”(Chapter 7 I lost the page) I did like the idea he put into play about finding the intelligence in the mistakes. I had never given it much thought, that some of the students who seem to fail so miserably at some things, who are trying so hard, are taking an intelligent approach to something, just misguided (I will try to keep that in mind later on).

What theories is the author building the discussion on?

Critical literacy: Several times the author brings up critical literacy. This is a concept I have recently been introduced to and I must admit many aspects of it are quite seductive and I like a lot of what I read, but what is tripping me up is the practical application. I think that the inclusion of critical literacy is important (so far anyway), but I do not think it is the end all to educational approaches. I think that critical literacy must be balanced, and I think this text lacks that at times.

How does this text/discussion connect to other readings we have engaged with?

NCTE article (All students can write)... I love the author's enthusiasm about his students. They are people and they are worth it. While I can't agree with everything in this text, and I do think some of it gets off track a bit, the idea of personal worth and everyone possessing their own intelligence is something I subscribe to. I do think it is important to note that everyone comes into this on their own terms. I don't think you can make someone do something they don't want to, no matter how good of a teacher you are. I do think that someday they may be ready, and hopefully an opportunity will present itself.

Where does your understanding of the text begin to break down/become confusing?

This idea of successful teaching begins to veer off course a bit as he tends to go into personal as well as professional realms to reach his goals. It is this that I begin to disagree with, not that a person should not be dedicated, and I agree that there is a problem and it is large, but I do not believe he presented an argument that led to practical solution or application that will adequately address the problem at hand. I do, however, continue to see validity in the reading, if for no other reason than to help keep us from climbing too high into the ivory tower, and remember that there is a gap and we need to keep pushing for a better way of reaching those that are being left behind.


Post-Reading Andrea Montalvo

I thought it was interesting how Rose discussed tutoring in the Veteran's Program. I felt it was a nice transition from his much younger students in the Teacher Corps to soldiers returning from Vietnam. It's not that I didn't think what he did with the children wasn't interesting or useful, but I'm not going to teach young children, so I felt it didn't really apply to me. Rose mentions that most of the veterans were "remedial level students" and had returned from Vietnam wanting to change their lives and "hold onto the American Dream: Education held the power to equalize things" (140, 137). I noticed a change in Rose in this section: he realized these men were in very different states of mind from his previous crop of students and therefore had trouble writing. These weren't the unconfident, unwilling elementary students from the first section, these were men that had witnessed horrible atrocities in war, and Rose soon realized that some men could openly discuss Vietnam and others couldn't bear to do it (137).

I noticed Rose, "for all the other teaching and counseling" he was doing, felt "the Veteran's program was still his home base" (163). However, at the end of this chapter, he mentions how his first boss in the program, Chip Anderson, would call and offer him other jobs, specifically one at UCLA. I was somewhat confused by this section because i felt Rose liked what he was doing since El Monte and the Veteran's program had taught him how to foster learning, and the veterans taught him to "think critically" (164). In other words, he seemed, in my opinion anyway, somewhat reluctant to leave what he was enjoying for the job in UCLA. However, I think it was mainly at Chip Anderson's urging, "these kids need what you got. Bring it here. Teach these tutors about all that you've learned" (165).

I thought Rose touched more on the politics of basic writing in this section of the book, specifically chapter 7 "The Politics of Remediation." One passeage that stuck out to me was on the bottom of page 171 when Rose is talking about a student, Suzette, and her writing struggles. After working with her to avoid repetition and fragments, he and the other tutors noticed her "fragments originated from a desire to reach beyond what she considered simple, beyond the high school way. She had an idea of how college writing should sound, and she was trying to approximate her assumptions." I thought this was very interesting because I wonder just how many first year students make the same assumption. I'm glad that he brought this matter to light and also included the sentences he and Suzette revised together, because I could see exactly what he was trying to do.

Later in the chapter, Rose refers back to his days in the Teacher Corps and notes he "saw daily the effects of background on schooling" (177). In the tutoring centing at UCLA, Rose notices that the center served low income whites, as well as middle income minorities because "the kind of students who make it to UCLA enter with a long history of success...and have removed superficial indicators their lineage" (177). While I do not disagree with his statement, I feel that people who make it to UCLA don't necessarily need tutoring because of their race or economic status. Perhaps they are the majority, but I think there are intelligent, diligent students of every color and economic background. I know Rose is speaking from his experience, but hte notion that race/class lead to success or failure in college irks me a bit.

These are the issues that stood out to me the most, let's see how the class discussion goes...


Sean Britt pre-reading

i enjoyed the style of the first half of this book and thoroughly appreciated the insightful way that Rose tied his own experiences into those of the other teachers he incorporated into the text. With that in mind, I anticipate a complex and meaningful summation to the book; one that elaborates further on Rose's particular ideas about how to address the issues he confronts in the first half. I think that his writing is exciting and purpose-driven, so it seems that a bold and provocative message will be delivered before it is concluded. Considering some of the problems we face in education today, it is assuredly a message that is just as relevant today as when this book was written.

Sean Britt post-reading

Reading this book to its conclusion, I kept coming back to "the intelligence of the author's mistake" that Rose brings into the conversation from the philosophy of Mina Shaughnessey (172). After our discussion last week, I have been mulling around in my mind the conclusions we seemed to have come to about the role of the teacher in basic writing instruction, and I think that this quote sums it up nicely. Nancy Sommers writes in her essay Responding to Student Writing about the "need to offer students revision tasks of a different order of complexity and sophistication from the ones that they themselves identify, ...back to the point where they are shaping and restructuring their meaning" (CCC, 154). When I read in Rose's text about the experiences of remedial students trying to conform to some abstract ideas of grammatical and structural correctness, I was immediately reminded of Sommer's call to offer, as teachers, ways for students to reexamine their own ideas without "a disproportionate sense of their [problems] at this stage in the writing process" (155). I think the way that these theories coincide is that they both ask us to look at student's writing as an attempt to express something complex while using basic tools, and through guided practice, those tools will eventually catch up with the complexity of the thought. Rose echoes this sentiment by encouraging us to not shy away from challanging assignments, but to see the results of these assignments for what they are, not for what we expect them to be. In doing this, we can develop a better sense of how the student is attempting to meet the challenge, rather than where the student fell short of expectations.

In his Afterword, Rose asks us to consider what our perception of scholarly work is in relation to the public good. I think that Rose's examples give us his answer to this question by showing how he perceives language and understanding as situationally constructed. The example of Lucia and her outside distractions from the scholarly text she was struggling with illustrate poignantly how misunderstanding can create schisms between academia and the general public from which its research and study can benefit. In the same context that Rose shows us how to see writing strategies as unique to the individual (and not always easy to interpret or understand), he shows us that language and learning themselves are tied to influences and backgrounds that are not always apparent right away. With that in mind, it seems to me that teaching writing and working with the multiplicity of people who wish to improve their writing relies heavily on the ability of the instructor to make deep and meaningful observations about the intention, motivation, and limitations of the writers that play into the construction of the writing itself. By doing so, indeed perhaps only by doing so, can we hope to succeed in closing the rift between basic writng and effective writing.


James H, Post-reading

Rose focuses hard on Bloom's taxonomy again and how students are able to master the first couple of tiers (knowledge and comprehension). Rose seems to feel that basic writing is not concerned as much with the lower levels of Bloom's taxonomy but with fostering the upper tiers in learners so that they can become not just better writers but better thinkers (actually, those two go hand in hand).

Students often arrive with sufficient basic knowledge and comprehension or at least the ability for it because that is how they have been taught for so long, that kind of canonical approach to learning that he talks about in one of the later chapters.

The gist of basic writing and college education ends up being a focus on the levels of Bloom's that are above this - the levels of application, analysis, synthesis, and, finally, evaluation. That is because being educated and becoming a scholar does not entail simple regurgitation of facts and/or opinions of others but also requires the ability to take that information and apply it to your own writing, synthesize it into something new, and assign it a value.

The role of teachers is largely to bridge the communication and cultural gaps between the polarities of the language of student culture and the language of scholastic culture. I think of last semester in Lit. Crit. when, after trying to read some article or another, half of us were in want/need of a translation that had something a bit more concrete and succinct than Derrida's page-after-page ramblings about the freeplay of sign. It's not that the stuff is hard to get, but it is written in such a foreign way for most of us that it seems like it tries to be exclusive (which I'm sure they did more back in the day than they do now, since the trend seems to be reversing if Rose's ideology on teaching and what constitutes richness of thought is indicative of how things might be going).

Rose is certainly building his argument from Bloom as I already mentioned. I am especially impressed by how he uses the example of the canon to show this. It is perfectly possible for anyone to memorize the canon and a set of interpretations for it; this is low-level learning according to Bloom. We do not aim for the bottom of the taxonomy though. It is the base so that the true challenges of learning can take place - application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. The idea then is to take what you read and use it to your own ends, not to simply regurgitate it as it has been fed to you. That is pointless and does not lead to anything new. There is no progress possible with just the first two levels of the taxonomy. If you stop there, you resign yourself to a stand still, a stagnation of thought. I've always thought the "Knowledge is power" quote to be a little silly. Knowledge is nothing in itself. It is knowing how to use it that makes a difference, and it is using knowledge to make something new with value that ensures the progress of the mind and of humanity.

This reading connects with what was being set up in the earlier chapters. It really came down to the notion that connections have to be made for students between the material and what they already know or have some vested interest in. They need that scaffolding in basic writing, basic math, basic whatever in order to build the higher learning on and in order to want to continue or at least see the need to continue. It also connects a lot with the ideas of the transactional model of learning because of the personal differences being taken into account between different students. There may be shared goals, but the paths to those goals will be as diverse as the students themselves are. This also connects on almost all counts with the NCTE piece we read.

I don't think my understanding of the text broke down, but I do have some thoughts as far as this working all of the time for every student. I think that, at the college-level, this is not so much a problem since, in general, most students want to succeed. He acknowledges several times that there are students in poor public schools that it would be a miracle if anyone could get through to them, so he seems to understand that there are those students that are so deep in poverty, violence, and a myriad of other socioeconomic, personal, psychological, etc. circumstances that they just do not care. I know he must know that there are those that cannot be reached without immense effort to address more basic needs. He speaks of self-actualization, so he must surely be familiar with Malow's Hierarchy of Needs. It goes, in order, physiological needs, safety needs, needs of love/affection/belonging, needs for esteem, and then the need for self-actualization. I can tell you that I have encountered more students that I wish I had to who do not get at least the first four sets of needs met at home. Then, all you have is one hour a day as a teacher to try and undo another sixteen plus any of the hours that they spend in the classes of teachers who may not even care. That's where it gets tricky and where you end up putting in all those extra hours and pennies. You can only try your best to save every student like that just like a doctor can only try his best to save every patient, but, sometimes, you fail, and it is a terrible feeling to have to deal with.

I guess that last paragraph was just mostly venting, but it's the truth of what teachers have to overcome in students that are so very reflective of the circumstances of their environment.



Liza's Post Reading #2

This second part of the book introduces a different set of basic writers – the non-traditional students. You can see that Rose really thinks about his students and considers his teaching methods when certain students populate his classes. (As is evident in his discussion about the veterans and their wanting to move forward with their education rather than reliving the past, the single mother struggling to juggle life and school, etc.) He also starts to place a great importance on critical thinking and analysis in the writing classroom. I suppose this idea is foreign to me because this is something that we already do. There would not be a difference if the student was traditional or non-traditional. I wonder now why I didn’t notice that these things were not mentioned in the first part of the book – or were they?

With these new basic writers come their labeled errors – the remedial markers – the grammar patrol. He seems to have the same problems that most teacher have when starting out. Do we listen to the assumptions or do we do what we feel to be right for our classes and our students at that given time? He foregoes the drills and constant bashing of grammar and mechanics and allows the teaching of these things to be integrated into the writing experience. (As we have already seen to be the case with Strickland and the NCTE article.)

The goals of a basic writing course and composition teacher should be to never become complacent because things are always going to be changing. We are going to have students with different needs because their culture is different or their strengths vary. I am still unsure how Rose finds the time to hang out with so many of his students but getting to know what makes them tick does seem to be very effective. We just re-read Beatrice Mendez Newman’s “Teaching Writing at Hispanic-Serving Institutions” and she really stresses the idea of getting to know students’ cultures in order to build the student-teacher trust relationship. That relationship then turns into the student being more willing to engage in the writing assignments, class discussions, etc. While in his new position at the Tutoring Center, Rose notices that the students are somewhat disconnected from the writing prompts they are given – it is not that they cannot write or do not know how to write for the topic but their cultures clash with the topic. It is through talk that Rose always seems to effectively guide these students towards finding a resolution. I’m trying to do that in my classes (but I am not always as successful as he is!) Although Rose takes on a non-teaching position at the Tutoring Center, he is clearly still a teacher. He is at an advantage with the students he tutors because of his prior teaching experiences – he has a different perspective and understanding.

From his stories, it seems that no one teaches basic writing the same way and everyone is going to have their criticisms of what others are doing. I’m still getting my feet wet and I know that I have made mistakes and I hope I am learning from them. I have read things in this book that I know I will never do (like the developmental writing class that writes one sentence) but there are other things that I am very open to trying. I am not going to pretend to know it all. It is my second semester (and second week) teaching. Maybe others can feel more confident and say that they are already going to prescribe to one way of engaging students for the rest of their careers but I think that it way too soon to make that type of commitment. Now is time to try things out and learn from the things we read and observe.


>>>>>>>


Garrett's Pre-Reading

Well, I enjoyed the first half of Rose's book, but a big complaint I had was simply...when's he going to get to the meat of the book? It seemed that a good deal of it was about his own life, which reminded me of Villanueva's "Bootstraps" in both style and subject, but I was still caught wondering where it would lead. It seems that he prefaces the book with the idea of giving voice to basic writers, with his discussion of Laura at the beginning, then seems to veer off into a autobiographically tangent. Here's hoping he incorporates those aspects soon.


Tammy G. Post-Read:

After finishing the book, I do feel that Rose knows, as he puts it “a lot about learning—how to foster it, what impedes it” and about “human cognitive potential.” But how do his methods mesh with our other readings? Are they practical, applicable, and successful? The first thing I noticed is that Rose’s techniques are very similar to the NCTE guidelines and the Strickland handout. NCTE states “As much as possible, instruction should be geared toward making sense in a life outside of school” (1). Strickland states, “Curriculum generated by teacher and students based on inquiry and need. Emphasis is on meaning-making and students’ schemas help to connect to new understandings.” This is pretty dead-on with what Rose does with his veterans. He tries to connect writing with the lives of his students in ways that make it interesting and meaningful for them. Although, as Rose points out on page 160-161, even those methods do not always work. However, these were methods he employed with the Veteran’s Program. He makes a clear distinction between the veterans and the students he tutors at UCLA. With the veterans, he states that there is a time to “be the critic” and a time to “let all that schooling slide” (163). In the areas of college-level assessment/evaluation, I connected the NCTE, and Strickland with Rose as well. Rose states, “error that crops up because a student is trying new things is a valuable kind of error, a sign of growth” (151). NCTE tells us that “Teachers of writing must also be able to recognize the developmental aspects of writing ability and devise appropriate lessons for students at all levels of expertise” (8). Strickland states, “Teachers are ‘kidwatchers,’ evaluating and assessing student progress based on observation, focusing on what students can do.” “Students are risk takers.” Rose describes this scenario with Suzette, the UCLA student. He explains that “What was interesting to me…about Suzette’s fragments was that they originated from a desire to reach beyond…” (171). He then goes on to mention Shaughnessy and “the intelligence of the student’s mistake” (172). I know that not all students are “risk takers;” most do not like to step out of their comfort zones. I find a connection to Rose when he discusses the student, James, who summarizes rather than critically analyzes his writing assignment. That was one of the main problems/errors I noticed when grading student essays last semester. Many of the students continually summarized the readings with lines like “In the book, first this happens, then that happens,” etc.; other students only discussed the easy, obvious topics provided by the prompts; only a few went beyond a “common-sense thesis.” Not a lot of risk-takers there. And I feel that is also tied to error and fear of error. Mistakes help us learn and grow, and where else but college can we take those risks and make those mistakes? That goes back to the NCTE article as well, “teachers must minimally understand…How to create a sense of personal safety in the classroom, so that students are willing to write freely and at length” (2). Safety in the classroom is certainly a good place to start. I now understand the reasoning behind it, but the area where Rose’s book began to get confusing for me is in the constant shifting from one group to another. He begins with the elementary kids, and then discusses the Veterans, then the EOP, the UCLA students, the developmental English students, etc. etc. He really runs the gamut of learners in this book. But that is not necessarily a bad thing because we all have a desire to teach in different areas. He covers much ground and it is up to us as teachers to then find and supplement our areas of interest. He juxtaposes the programs where teachers have more freedom and flexibility with the ones where they don’t have any say about the curriculum. A nicely layered look at his experiences with our educational system.


Post-Reading - Joanna Hodges

In this second half of the book, Rose's representation of "basic writers" encompasses a broader range of students, all of whom have some type of struggle academically when it comes to writing. In my pre-writing I said I'd like to see more of his struggles as a teacher, and I feel that I got some of that. When teaching in the Veteran's Program he mentions how "overwhelming" it was to "someone as young as [he] was" (135). When teaching adults, rather than kids, he has different concepts to deal with, especially when teaching the vets because they had experienced so much in their lives that had impacted them deeply. I found his development of curriculum for the veteran program interesting, with his focus on "summarizing, classifying, comparing, and analyzing" (139). I agree that these are set skills that undergraduates need to succeed, but I'm not so sure if I like the idea of structuring a course around them as he did..but that's beside the point because it does seem effective to introduce these ideas to basic writers.

As I mentioned with my posting about the first half of the book, and many others in the class have mentioned as well, Rose does not really support the focus on grammar as the main instruction for basic writers. He goes into detail about the experience in a basic writing classroom, describing a Developmental English class in a state college in Ohio (206). The class involved no real writing, but had the students do all the work out of workborks. I really liked his statement that "students who desperately need to improve their writing will not be writing anything longer than a sentence" (207); for me, this clarified the meaning behind introducing this scenario in the book--these are the students who need to be writing the most and, as the NCTE article says, it is through practicing writing that people learn to write.

Rose is absolutely 100% constructivist based on the Strickland and Strickland chart. He is the "kid-watcher" that focuses in on the individual's needs, seeing them each with the potential to grow and learn as a writer, as a student, and as a person. He denounces traditional methods, which in the field probably would be represented as the view that sees the students as mentally incapable and deficient for not having the necessary writing skills and would focus on forcing grammatical concepts down the students' throats.

I have to say, though, that I feel like I'm left hanging...and I also feel like some of the info in the book is, obviously, outdated. I know that's not a great revelation, but when I was reading I kept wanting to combat what Rose was saying, responding to his complaints. When he described the basic writing classroom that I mentioned earlier, it seemed nothing like the Basic Writing class I just observed. Ok, so the students still used some workbooks and focused on some grammar issues, but it was more engaging and related to the students lives through analogies and examples that I thought were excellent. I feel like I'm left hanging from the book, though, because it does not seem to give much of a solution. I felt like I read about his life, his experiences, but I still felt like I wanted more from the book somewhow. And I'm not really sure how.


Edith Delgado - Pre-Reading

Do I know anything about this topic?

After reading the first part of the book, it came to my attention that a lot of Rose’s findings are relevant to today’s basic writers in college. The topic, basic writers, entails a lot of issues in the way students learn about the writing process. I know that Rose’s experience in teaching, tutoring, as a student, gave me a great deal of insight to the real issues that students face when it comes to writing. I also know that every student is different and as Rose has mentioned, each student learns differently. So far, my knowledge about this topic has to do with the author’s experience and that of a Composition instructor are very similar; and the patterns seems too repetitious.

Do I know anything about this author?

So far the only I know about this author is that he is the person that has taken the time to teach, not only students, but instructors, among many others, the meaning of basic writer. He is dedicated to his job and has a lot of compassion. He enjoys working with all kinds of students from freshmen to veterans, to single mothers. Lastly, he seems to be the “godfather” of this topic (basic writing). He, it seems, enjoys sharing his teaching experiences to others, however, he does not share much of the end results or conclusions to any of his stories, well besides that one student he came across in some conference. What preconceived notions do I have about the reading? My preconceived notion of this book is that Rose will finally bring it all together, a wrap up, and give some advice on some of his bad scenario or that he will admit that he is gay. I just wrote that so whoever reads it will laugh. I think he will continue to write about the political aspect of working at UCLA and that he will also include how long he worked as a tutor or an instructor or something more about his life.

Edith Delgado - Post Reading

Good Writing/Good “language”/ Where does your understanding of the text begin to break down/become confusing?

I don’t think that Rose is completely clear on his purpose for writing this book. It’s interesting, except the book reminds me of the type of conversations that I hear within the Composition instructors and the writing center. I’m not saying all of them, but it does remind me of that sort of thing. I believe that his anecdotes are written for a purpose, but I didn’t quite grasp that by the time I finished reading the book. I like how he wrote about the different groups of students he worked with; however, it would have been more helpful if he would have added more about the outcome, the success, of the student as a writer.

Roles of Teachers

I think teachers at all levels play a major role in a student’s success. I do believe that often some students do need more help than others and that takes a lot of energy and time. There are many examples that Rose mentions about having to help a student one on one and the end result is that he/she improves. But there comes a point where the same student might get stuck in another course and if the teacher is not willing to help that student, then he is at risk of either quitting or failing all together. There is so much in a teacher’s job description, but often many miss the mark that they are there as public servants. Even though a teacher may have a big role in a student’s life, I don’t believe that it is completely up to them to take the blame if a student fails because the student should make every effort to succeed. He/she should meet the teacher half way.


Garrett Post-Reading

Well, thankfully Rose delivered on my pre-reading post: he actually got into the nitty-gritty of teaching Basic Writers. I particularly liked the section on his teaching in the Veteran’s Program. I thought his assertion that “the assumption is that error can be eradicated by zeroing in on the particulars of language...[and] seems to rest on the further assumption that grammatical error signals some fundamental mental barrier,” was important in that it included the realization that these were not dumb students (141). They engaged and discussed intelligently, but their writing was full of “misspellings, verbs that didn’t agree with subjects, sentences that strangled their own convolutions.” Coincidentally, Joanna and I got a chance to observe a Basic Writer teacher, Dr. Barbara Craig, at Del Mar today, and I saw many echoes of Rose’s classroom: the students were intelligent and inquisitive, but like the veterans class, were having difficulty with subject-verb agreements (or at least that was the lesson for today).

But Rose sees through all of that drilling, and knows that the only way to learn is through immersion. He even uses the metaphor of learning a different language, and references Mina Shaughnessy’s “appropriating the discourse” (especially in the case of Suzette and her sentence fragments on pg 171). The traditional instruction would only serve to further discourage these students, and the only way to reach them, as he seems to write throughout Lives on the Boundary, is to find something they can relate to. Using the dictum from the Jerome Bruner book, that “Any subject can be taught effectively in some intellectually honest form to any child at any stage of development,” he communicates difficult subjects with whatever he can find, transposing the “promise of that sentence” by using “accessible materials” like song lyrics, magazines, books, everything (142). The more and more I think about it, this is the best way to reach students, and it really does work: use what they know. And like Shaughnessy, they often come across these topics by means of an “intelligent mistake” (172). For those that were never labeled Basic Writing, even though we probably all have some of those qualities, we underestimate the sheer amount of “woodshedding” as young writers that it takes to get to this point, something that the veterans in Rose’s class were just encountering. You have to stumble around in the dark a helluva long time before you get anywhere. Oftentimes we take that for granted.

Ultimately, Rose concludes that education, as important as it is, is an attitude along with an institution, where “basic truths” lie at the base, waiting to be “tapped or sealed over or distorted, by others, by us.” It’s essentially about labels. In education, there is a promise of “community and equality,” but we are often “shaped by harsh forces to see difference and to base judgment on it.” (241). As with the story of Lilia in the end, if you’re told enough times that you’re dumb, you start to believe it, and it’s hard to shake that stigma. ____________________________________________________________________________

"Christine Cashion, Pre-Reading": ? '''

'''I have some knowledge on the topics for chapters 6 through 8. I am not certain what is meant by crossing boundaries before reading it but my guess is that it ties in with the book title. A boundary is a line delicate to cross as we ponder living our lives on the line, so to speak, with these students. Reclaiming the classroom indicates to me that the students will begin learning again. Why would any teacher or student need to reclaim a classroom other than for its intended meaning, which is to learn?

I am not so sure about the chapter on the politics of remediation. I have heard it said that remediation is a double edged sword. I have personally seen where a student has had to repeat a remedial course repeatedly. Also, I have seen students who come straight from high school and need the most basic remediation. In my opinion, something is wrong with these pictures.

I have strong feelings regarding the remediation process, as do I am sure, others in the classroom. It appears that there are several of us who have taught English. The author, I would venture to say, is going to have some elaborate stories as to how the remediation issues should be handled – can’t wait to see what he says. My guess is that Rose will rant endlessly about the system but not offer many formidable solutions, thereby creating a book in the format of a talk show. This is my preconceived notion – until I post my “after reading the chapters” portion.

"Christine Cashion, after reading?": A basic writer can be any age, ethnicity, or socio-economic status as evidenced by the veterans Rose taught. I think it is interesting how close he became to the men. He said the classes were mostly men, which being they were veterans, makes sense. However, in the grander scale, it seems mostly women enroll in English classes. I believe this is because there is a lot of analyzing in English. I believe there is also psychology in the field. At Del Mar, we have the departments of English and Philosophy together. Coincidence? I think not. This would actually be directly in line with Rose’s teaching of English and his related activities, such as working for the Suicide line. Talk about drama. Rose really seems to mix his social sciences and English.

I do appreciate that Rose was able to make so many personal connections with his students. Normally, I would say to be careful doing so but obviously this guy marches to the beat of his own drummer. In my opinion, he likes to push the envelope. Rose stated that he learned from his students and that he was able to build his own styles of teaching based on the type of learners he was teaching (in not so many words). I do respect that he kept in mind his audience. It seems that while the veterans and other remedial learners are dead stuck are the rules of grammar, syntax, etc., Rose made a conscious decision to look past this and instead focus on writing fluency. I saw that he mentioned journaling as one of the writing explorations outfits. Three cheers! How can you go wrong with journaling for students who get to throw grammar out the window and focus on flow of thoughts – stream of consciousness. Journaling is an excellent cathartic way to hash out your thoughts on paper – especially if no one will see it.

I do think that Rose considered the politics of basic writing with his students. He mentioned that his students struggled with the rules of English/writing but it did not mean that they were bad writers. He was trying not to shatter their chances at fluency and expressiveness. It they were too worried about the rules then they might not write what they mean. One has to learn to say what you mean, so to speak. Therein lays the good writing versus good language debate.

How we learn to write (how we learn) Rose stated that he wanted to take responsibility for making things work with his students (page 170). I think that learning needs to start with a motivation – behalf of both the teacher and student. Behind any behavior is a motivation. The desire to both learn and succeed needs to be present. Again, I think of Rose saying that he was able to learn from his students throughout the experiences and conversations he had with them. Learning is a two-way street. Rose obviously identified that he was working with a population of students who really needed help and he was able to modify his teaching styles in order to help them learn.

The part for me in the reading when I felt somewhat confused is when Rose said he was working for the suicide prevention center. Although I can see where counseling and teaching come together, I felt that working with suicidal persons is another level of challenge. In CCISD, a counselor must teach for at least 2 years before applying to be a counselor. There are connections because some say that when you are a teacher, you where many social system hats. I agree somewhat. It just seemed a little out of place to me that he would jump to the extreme, in dealing with this population.

What theories is the author building discussion on? I think that Rose uses psychology in his teaching philosophy. He recognized that there are students who cannot learn because they have a lot of stress in their lives. He understood that just teaching the rules of the language would not be enough to get some students to write. I commend someone who can look past the surface of what is on the agenda and muddle through issues that the average learner has to deal with – real life. There are also aspects of sociology in Rose’s teaching since he delved into the social dimension, as he called it (page 158). These multi-focused roles teachers have are strong considerations for upcoming professionals in the field.


Post-Class Discussion Andrea Montalvo

After listening to each group, I would say that I have a better understanding of what it means to be a basic writer. I thought the questions and ideas each group came up with were interesting and made me think critically about certain parts of the text. Also, I think it helps having high school teachers in the room because their input is from first hand experience with students who struggle with writing. I guess I would say that I enjoyed Rose's book, but I would have liked to know what happend to his students (like Jennifer G. mentioned). Where did they go? Did they retain all him taught them about writing and thinking critically? Or, were there certain factors in their lives that prevented them from graduating (i.e. work, children, family crisis)? I also liked the question about our favorite books and whether or not we like them now because it made me think of the canon. Why are certain books in there? Why isn't there a variety of ethnic authors?


Tammy Graham After class…

I thought more about Rose’s encounters with several diverse groups who all have one thing in common: for a number of reasons, they are all struggling with writing (literacy). The class discussion differed a lot on issues of the responsibility/accountability when students do fail. The schools, teachers, parents, and students themselves can be the reason. The veterans in Rose’s book just needed a second chance, the students at UCLA were trying to do the work but making mistakes, and some had other struggles. Our group touched on Sommers’s article, and I became even more aware of the issues involving assessment of errors. I now see more about how errors can be used as stepping stones for learning. There is a time to assess, but then what? I understand more now about how the way we evaluate those errors can be very important for understanding what is going on with the student and their level of learning. Some of the veteran’s had put up blocks which Rose helped them get past, some of the college students had made mistakes/errors which Rose understood and that made a difference for them. Because it has been a long time since I was in H.S., I do not remember which books we read. I wish I did, though. I think some of the college-level books should be read at the high school level, such as Frankenstein. I had never heard of Twilight.


Holly C. - After Class

The first thing that happened when I got out of class was that I remembered where I was going with my anecdote about the student that I am helping to reluctantly drag through high school. The point was this--I keep saying that I need to get the kid through high school, and the majority of society and even parts of the institution have already labeled him, pigeon-holed him, and written him off. Even if he gets his high school diploma, society will probably not treat this child well, because he has already suffered the damages of what years of labeling have done to him. Even I, as I write this, am labeling him, because I cannot help but feel like my intervention might not be enough. Once he leaves my classroom, I cannot be sure that he will have even the small measure of success he has began to achieve in my classroom. Don’t get me wrong--I’m not saying that I’m the only one that can intervene and fix this kid. So, that’s what I was trying to get at when my train of thought derailed. Like Amanda said--it had been a really long day by the time we got to our discussion.

As one of the other students said in class on Wednesday, she wanted to know what happened in the basic writers when they left Mike Rose’s tutoring sessions. I wondered that as well. It reminds me a bit of “Freedom Writers”. When Gruwell was trying to say that she wanted to move throughout the grade levels with her students, the “bitchy” (as Dr. M called her) department head said that the students, if they really had acquired skills in her classroom, should be able to demonstrate skills in the classroom of other teachers. This is true of Rose’s stories, as well. I would have liked to know whether the students were successful after he helped them. Did the girl having trouble with chemistry who crashed her car eventually succeed, or did she drop out? Did the single mother who had to have a number of things go right just to get to class ever graduate?

The class discussion also reinforced that notion that there is actually a limit to the ability of any writing teacher to intervene with a basic writer. When a student is not in your presence, when they’re at home and away, there are many other issues going on that are contributing to the basic writer. On the subject of ESL learners, I saw just such an example the other day. The student clearly needs ESL intervention, but the parents are in denial, so the student suffers.


Darcy Lewis

Post-Class:

I think that Liza, Jennifer, and Ben’s group made a really interesting and valid point in last night’s discussion about questioning how realistic it is that a teacher can implement the kind of one-on-one specialized attention to each basic writing student in the classroom that Rose talks about. The class discussion produced a myriad of different reasons why the “end result” of a student’s time in a basic writing class can be unsuccessful and/or why Rose’s attempts were so resoundingly successful. One thing that we didn’t mention (at least I don’t think we did…maybe I zoned out) was how much freedom and leeway Rose had with his curriculum throughout his career. When he was in the Teacher Corps, he was given free rein with his group of basic writers in elementary school. In the Veterans’ program, he was given total freedom to develop his curriculum as he saw fit. Even at UCLA with the strictures of a bureaucratic administration, he was still able to fly under the radar, so to speak, and use whatever tutoring methodology he found fit. Plus, when at UCLA, the very nature of tutoring (being one-on-one) lent itself to tailoring each individual session to the students’ needs….something impossible to do within the confines of a classroom of 20 or more students.

Anyway, throughout his career, Rose has had the flexibility of trying things out that could have fallen flat and not worked at all. For every one creative and successful idea he put to work in the classroom, how many more unsuccessful and unuseful practices did he try out along the way? Obviously, not every idea is going to be a winner, and not every idea is going to work to equal success for every student. Having the freedom to adjust along the way without someone breathing down your neck about it was an unusual way to perfect a pedagogy.

I have not taught yet, but from the stories I’ve heard from Holly and James and others who have taught in public schools, teachers are beholden to the administration’s policies and whims. While a teacher can have all the best intentions in the world, be willing to give up personal time to spend individual attention on each student, and have the most creative and successful pedagogical approach to teaching writing, sometimes it simply doesn’t matter if the administration isn’t willing to give the freedom necessary to do so. I’m not sure what the solution would be since there obviously has to be some accountability.


Post-Class Reading – John Lamerson

The very interesting part of this class was our discussion regarding the efficacy of Mike Rose’s curriculum. Specifically, several groups discussed whether Mike Rose’s teaching techniques were applicable to large classrooms – whether the individual attention he requires is possible, and whether it would require a teacher to ignore some students at the expense of others. I don’t pretend to know the answer myself. Jennifer, Ben, and Liza’s group made a fairly convincing argument that a teacher could not provide the TLC required of Rose’s techniques. A teacher today would perhaps not be allowed to bring children over to their house to learn, extra-school activities have been curtailed, and tests like the TAKS test might require a basic writing teacher to teach the test instead of teach the student.

Also, different groups brought up in class that Rose never provided a result of his teaching. We don’t know what happened to his students or whether his teaching methods helped or hurt (or neither) in the long run. It’s hard to conclude that his teaching methods are successful without success stories.

Another aspect of the reading that we briefly brought up in class, but might merit additional discussion, is the lack of hard data in Rose’s book. To borrow terms I learned a semester ago, this was qualitative, not quantitative data. What percentage of students are considered basic writers? What percentage of students labeled basic writers are below the poverty line? How many have physical learning disabilities versus how many have been classified merely as a result of standardized tests? By answering these questions, Rose could silence many of the questions that were raised regarding his methods.


Edith- After Class Discussion

The discussion in class seemed to break down Rose’s purpose for writing this book. I’m not sure what the intention was from the beginning, but since we were given this book to read, I, like many, assumed that it was supposed to have resources or answers on how to handle certain teaching situations. I heard many comment on how they were expecting to read the part where everything turns out okay for the student, a success story. It seemed like almost the entire class felt the same way about the book. From time to time, it seemed as though many thought the book didn’t have a purpose, but in the end, we found out that even though this might seem like the pedagogical bible, it is not.

The first group, Sean, Tammy, and Dre, made the class think critically about some of the issues Rose mentioned in the book, for instance, students who come from impoverished backgrounds. Sean brought up the fact that teachers/instructors/professors can help students connect to daily life; similarly, Rose suggests thinking about strategies on how to help each student differently, what they do in school and in real life. When the discussion was occurring, I thought about what Obama said earlier today and that is the fact that anyone in the education field is a public servant. The idea of holding a school accountable for English language learners seemed a bit touchy because there is so much to consider when that much responsibility is put on an educator or school.

Then the next group, Jennifer, Liza and Ben, also brought to perspective-family environment is missing, where are the students coming from, are they learning to read should be taken into consideration. They also found that communication is a factor. I believe it to be as well because I see communication is the key to understanding basically everything and anything, not just teaching. I’m in between Liza’s comment on holding the family accountable, but I do agree that they should have something to do with their child’s education, for college, it’s a different story though. However, like Ben said, what would happen if the family is accountable for the child’s education?

Amanda, Garrett, and Holly point was also a good one, which is that one should consider a generative language, use real life terms. And yes most things are labeled such as education, unfortunately. I still have to think, what if we didn’t label anything, then we’d probably be complaining that we should label things that way we can identify them. We will never be happy, but the world still turns.

As for Jennifer M., James, and Darcy, their findings on the defense mechanisms in Rose concluded with them using the Bloom’s taxonomy, which I thought was very helpful because I had never seen that before.

Finally, I like the final thoughts on this book: What is the point of this book? To teach others to be social, see students as people with their own values as intelligent individuals, and try to convince them that they are indeed intelligent.


Ben's post class thoughts (well, some of them)

My main regret about my groups class discussion is the fact that we made all of our points before we got up to talk to the class, interjecting them into the discussions of the other groups. This left us with pretty much nothing to actually say once we were put on the podium.

Honestly, though, I thought everybody’s points were pretty valid. I feel like we put ourselves into camps and argue a lot against what the other groups say, but overall it kind of feels like we all have a pretty general agreement, we just end up stating it different, confusing the other students, and then arguing the same points different ways, if that makes any sense at all.

Something that hadn’t occurred to me before class discussion was that all of the groups Rose seems to be dealing with our problem laden from the beginning. It’s not really so much that he’s dealing with people who happen to be basic writers, he’s dealing with groups of people with extenuating life circumstances, who also happen to be basic writers. What about the people who are basic writers that don’t have kids or Vietnam flashbacks plaguing them? What about rich or upper middle class students that are basic writers? Are we just to assume that all basic writers are either traumatized or come from broken poor households?

A lot was brought up about the standardized tests. Shouldn’t the point of the standardized tests be to see how the students are learning, as a tool for the school to adjust curriculum? If we don’t test, we’ll never know how students are improving, but if the sole purpose of teaching becomes passing a test, that seems to fail the whole point of using a test to evaluate an education. We always want to jump to conclusions and say “standardized testing is the problem, get rid of standardized testing,” but in all fairness, the point of standardized testing is (or is supposed to be, whether its succeeding at this is obviously VERY questionable) to make sure that students are getting a uniform education throughout the state or country, to make sure teachers are doing their jobs. If anything, we should fix the system so that the tests are effective without taking away from the students’ ability and privilege to learn. It just seems like there are a million factors in the poor education of students, from the family, grade school teachers, high school teachers, the students own want to learn, economic background, personal experiences... etc… but for some reason we make it OUR job to fix all of this, and all the blame should lie on us, as teachers of basic writing or freshman composition teachers. Why should we be so pompous to think that it’s entirely our job to make up for all of this? I’m not saying we shouldn’t try and do what we can, but I don’t think we should treat it like the burden falls completely on us, and it’s our job to save these students, which is the attitude I get from a lot of this.


James, Post-discussion

Two points brought up in discussion struck most. They were whether or not Rose's approach worked or not for the students in their futures and the idea of standardized testing playing a large role in how writing is actually taught.

I found it interesting that one group questioned whether or not Rose's students could perform in other classes with other teachers whose styles may not be as "giving" as his was. Not all teachers go the extra mile, so I wonder if they could manage without all of that teacher involvement. Would they self-motivate? Is one semester with one teacher enough to build something intrinsic in the way of the constant craving to be a better writer each time you go to write something? This is important because not all teachers are going to be able to throw away their personal lives and make education their sole reason for being alive.

The second thing I mentioned in the first paragraph, standardized testing, is obviously the big thing in Texas public schools now, and it shapes the mentalities of the students coming into college writing programs more than anything. My awareness of this was renewed during my observation/interview (which I did with a 7th grade language arts teacher from the junior high I worked at last year). Ben mentioned above that the idea of testing should be to gauge how students are learning in order to adjust the curriculum. The operating word there is "should," and the TEA seems like it could care less about what it should do (such as truly account for differences between districts in numbers of special-ed students for example) and more about having a one-size-fits-all method of measuring students, teachers, and school districts for what seems to be the sole purpose of keeping everything simple when it really isn't.

On the other hand, what could be done as an alternative? I certainly favor the idea of portfolio assignments which show student advancement as a means of measuring development and progress toward standards over the one-shot, pass/fail, high stakes, on-demand writing that the TAKS subjects kids to, but I wonder how that would go over with the state legislature and TEA who are still stuck in that old mindset of "It worked before, so it will work still." They refuse to accept that the world is globalizing and entering a time of acknowledgement, acceptance, and embracing of personal differences. I think our system of student assessment needs to reflect that as well.


Joanna Hodges - Post-Class

I really liked the thread of discussion in class about how possible or practical it is to do the one-on-one Rose method in a classroom full of students. It made me really think about the student/teacher interactions and consider how I personally try to build relatinoships with the students and the importance of working with them individually, inside and outside of the classroom.

I think we did some good work in discussing the definition of a basic writer and in trying to come to terms with what it entails. Although I still don't think we have a solid definition--in fact, after reading Rose and discussing the possibilities, I'm not sure if I would say there is a set definition--I feel like we developed as a class a deeper understanding of the context of basic writers and how to handle a classroom yet still maintain that important connection with the student.

As some of my classmates have mentioned, standardized testing is also an important factor in discussing this book and some of the implications. I'm still wondering, as some of them are, what alternatives exist. I know it was mentioned in class that we didn't used to have standardized testing and it was fine. I can't say, obviously, because I don't know how it was beofre the tests...but if everything was fine and dandy, why did they put these tests into place at all? Did they think it would improve the education of the students? What was the reasoning behind it, and why haven't they taken it away if it is so unsuccessful? I guess I feel, at this point, like I don't personally know enough about the history of implementing the standardized tests and why, in fact, they are so bad (besides the whole ignoring everybody's differences thing). I observed a class at Miller yesterday and they are pretty much teaching straight to the TAKS right now. Even so, it did seem like there was learning going on. I've heard how bad TAKS is from teachers, but I still don't fully get it...I remember taking my first standardized tests in elementary school and back then, it wasn't something that would hold you back if you did poorly on it (I think...). It was more just to see where you were at. Then in high school, we had the TAAS, which we did have to pass, yet I don't remember focusing on learning for the TAAS really. It just seemed sort of lingering in the background, yet it didn't seem too daunting when it approached. Now the TAKS dominates the system.

Anyway, the most important thing I took from Rose's book was to ensure some of that one-on-one interaction with the students, get to know them a bit, and work with them individually as much as possible to show them that you care.


Jennifer Guerra

Post class discussion:

Well after class I feel like I am looking at Rose a bit differently. I am still critical of some of the items in the text, BUT that is only within the context of the text being an instructional or critical work. Several members of the class pointed out that the text may serve another purpose, and that may be more of a recounting of Rose’s experiences and a way to deliver inspiration and guidance, than criticize and instruct. From that vantage point I could see that I was a bit hard on Rose. In class Dr. Murphy asked us what we think the bottom line or the point of the text is, I would have to not that I am not entirely sure. Before I would have noted that it was to bring about change and critique the current system, however, if one takes into consideration that it is simply an account of his experiences for us to take from what we can, then I suppose it would be for each of us to teach from the inside out, and bring what we know to the classroom, as well as allowing the student s to bring and utilize what they know. I would also think that it would be to look at how we do what we do and make sure it is fair and working, as much as possible given what the settings allow. I am still steadfast in that one of the keys is the students innate intelligence and humanity and not getting so caught up in our own knowledge that we forget that.