Ultimately, what I’m working on/towards is becoming the most effective teacher of writing that I can be.
When I was in the fifth grade, I decided I wanted a PhD in some English-related field. As a first-generation college student in the making, receiving all the degrees sounded mythical, magical, prestigious, and nearly impossible. Receiving a PhD continued to be my plan as I progressed through middle and high school as well as college. However, just before starting my MA in August of 2014, I realized that going into a PhD program right after receiving my MA was not the right decision for me, and that I’m more interested in teaching high school here in Louisville.
Through a series of education-related community-service projects, I realized that what I really want to do is teach writing in the Portland-Shawnee area of Louisville, where I grew up. (This area is sometimes termed “West Louisville,” though these communities hate it). And not only do I want to teach writing, but I want to be a part of creating more accessible, inclusive, and compassionate learning environments. In searching for people writing about these kinds of classroom and writing-center environments during my first semester as an MA student, I encountered the field of disability studies.
Writing-center scholarship became a place for me to begin exploring the intersections of disability studies and tutoring/teaching writing. Out of this research was born my culminating project, titled “Inclusivity in the Writing Center: (Re)Examining the Role of Foundational Writing-Center Scholarship.” In this project, I look to Tobin Sieber’s concept of “the ideology of ability” and Jay Dolmage’s definition of “retrofitting” to argue that many writing-center handbooks and sourcebooks create a “normalized” conception of a writing consultation, thus imagining and anticipating a particularly “abled” writer in the writing center. The paper concludes by considering what a disability theory of writing-center practice might look like, specifically using Margaret’s Price’s discussion of “kairotic spaces.”
For me, this project is only the beginning. Researching and writing about the intersections of disability and writing-center studies has been a wonderful way into learning/thinking about what we even talk about when we talk about writing students and teaching writing to students. I’ve had a chance to start thinking through some of the complex ways in which learning spaces, institutions, and even teachers themselves become barriers for students, yet students become the one’s marked as un/less/dis/abled learners. Although the future is a little unclear at this point as I begin job-searching, I’m excited to keep growing, learning, and adapting as a teacher to better serve current and future students here in Louisville.
Lewiecki-Wilson, Cynthia, Brenda J. Brueggemann, and Jay Dolmage, eds. Disability and the Teaching of Writing: A Critical Sourcebook. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2008. Print.
Price, Margaret. Mad at School: Rhetorics of Mental Disability and Academic Life. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2011. Print
Siebers, Tobin. Disability Theory. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2008. Print.
Taylor Gathof is a 2nd-year MA student.