Dwelling in a Pedagogy of In-Between: A Phenomenological Study of Teachers of Writing
De La Ysla, Linda S
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This phenomenological study explores "in-between" as a pedagogic site in the teaching of writing at two large public universities. The writings of Ted Aoki, Edward Casey, Elizabeth Ellsworth, Hans Georg Gadamer, Martin Heidegger, and Max van Manen orient the study philosophically and methodologically. The notion of in-between is grounded in the author's life experiences, and is metaphorically suggested by her knowledge of scuba diving. Six teachers of writing, who are also writers, are engaged in individual and group conversations to bring forward the lived dimensions of their pedagogy as teachers of writing. The rendering of audio taped conversations suggests themes of a paradoxical nature that might yield insights into the teaching of writing: knowing and not knowing whether one's teaching makes a difference for student writers; comfortable to be uncomfortable as it relates to the creation of a classroom atmosphere where writers are willing to take risks; as teachers, taking attendance and being in attendance of student rosters, both seen and unseen; process under pressure as a pedagogical dimension where writing detours and bewilderment coexist with personal and institutional resistance; the sustenance of response, including a revisioning of judgment and the virtue of failing together; successful risk and other blessings for writing teachers who are at once avenging angels and sympathetic souls; and the pleasures of paradox: dwelling in the I-You relationship, nurturing the presence of the absence, and loving one's work in all its imbalances. Dwelling in the tensions suggested by these themes has the possibility of moving teachers of writing toward acceptance and exploration of their pedagogic identity. Furthermore, writing teachers who articulate and value the centering power of both/and are more attuned to coach students in becoming stronger, and more courageous, writers. A pedagogy of "equilibrium in motion" has the potential to re-vision teacher preparation--as well as curriculum in university writing classrooms.