Monday, January 2, 2012

Writing Assumptions and Voice

I've been spent some time over break writing and revising my artist statement, teaching philosophy and other writing. The process of revising writing causes me to fluctuate between feelings of accomplishment and frustration. Revising with family nearby makes it easier for me because I can read it out loud and get an immediate second opinion from someone in person (instead of over e-mail or phone). Sometimes reading it out loud to someone just causes me to recognize errors I've made.

Revising my own previous writing also causes me to realize that the sorts of regular errors I make are pretty similar to the regular errors I expect to see in students' writing. Its funny, since I have been writing artist statements and artist philosophies for a while and I assumed I was pretty good at it.

At the end of the quarter I meet with Art Appreciation students who are writing reports on an artist. One of the things I most often tell them about their writing is that they need to write how they say it. I ask them to explain what they are trying to say. They are often perfectly able to explain clearly to me, but when they write, their speaking voice is lost.

The other day, I read someone else's teaching philosophy (Jason Briggs, I linked to his website in a previous post but didn't take too much time to actually look around then) and was impressed by his conversational tone. He was saying many things that I say, but his writing sounded less formal.

It wasn't until I read this other statement that I realized that my own tone in a similar teaching statement is not particularly conversational. I read it out loud, I have people read it over to give me a second opinion, but still it was hard to recognize how it would sound compared to other similar writing.

I was also interested to discover that Jason Briggs' statement, though it didn't say so, clearly assumed he was teaching art students in a 4-year instituion, whereas there are elements in my teaching philosophy or other writing about teaching work that assumes that I am teaching students who don't intent do continue in art and who, often, are only going to take one art or one clay class.

In both cases, these assumptions make sense, but I wasn't able to see my own assumptions until I read his statement and recognized his assumptions. In my case, I think I tend to argue for the value of art in a general education degree because I have spent most of my career at YVCC arguing for the value of art in a transfer degree. Most of my regular students don't intend to pursue art as a career. I don't spend most of my day-to-day or quarter-to-quarter efforts concerned with art majors. I know and have experience with art majors in various institutions, but my current position is different.

I believe in what I do now. In considering whether I want to be at YVCC or at a similar institution long term, I start to wonder about these assumptions and habits of working and thinking. My values are unlikely to go through major shifts based on where I am, but the assumptions of students and other faculty around me may be different. I may be "fighting different battles" in another context.

Though I would like to give this post more thought, perhaps read it out loud to check if the voice is appropriate, my efforts are currently required to color a house with my daughter.

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