We had a wonderful joint #engchat/#FYCchat. We asked high school teachers what they do, they asked us in higher education what we do and are looking for in students coming into our Freshman Writing class. Or rather, for the first part of the chat, I was speaking on behalf of Freshman Composition in college.
All I could hear was all of the judgmental comments I have received here and elsewhere about being a PhD in Comparative Literature teaching composition. Now, I understand that we are busy in academia and that 7pm eastern might not have been a great time for anyone, but then one of the participants tweeted:
“Imagine 12th grade teachers not knowing about 11th grade curriculum. It’s crazy. That’s why college instructors need #engchat crowd!”
Isn't that exactly the situation we've set up in just about all subjects going from 12th grade to Freshman year? Why is that? Why don’t more college professors and instructors (outside of the education faculty) participate in chats such as #engchat or #sschat or #mathchat? Why aren’t we reaching out to our colleagues (yes, our colleagues) in the high schools to talk about what they teach, what we teach, and what we’re all trying to do with our students?
I’ve written about this before (in fact, it’s one of the top pieces on my old site), but what we “count” in higher education isn’t doing anyone any favors when it comes to our broken education system, top to bottom. Participating in these kinds of outreach activities doesn't count. Before you write in the comments that you do a great deal of outreach activities, ask yourself, does it count? Is it valued in terms of your tenure and promotion? Or are you doing it because it’s the right thing to do? Why can’t it be both?
We don’t have time to do these kinds of outreach activities, electronic or otherwise, largely because we concentrate our efforts on those activities that will be rewarded: conference presentations, journal articles, academic monographs. I got to discuss issues in writing with a significant number of enthusiastic high school teachers who are passionate about being great teachers and genuinely interested in helping their students succeed beyond test scores. How many of can say that we’ve had that kind of impact with our articles and conference presentations?
If we want to have a positive influence on education reform, then we need to start reaching out in our communities, physical and virtual, to help teachers create more meaningful curriculum that prepares students for higher education. And not just in writing, but in all subjects. I hope to see more of you online, participating, reaching out, whether it counts or not.