At times, teaching makes us feel like masterful illusionists holding the entire class in thrall. At others, it seems that the students can see straight through the smoke and mirrors of our lesson plans and group activities. Sometimes, tracking what works (and what doesn’t) feels as unpredictable as magic itself. The theme of this year’s conference is a reminder that what we do has a kind of magic to it: when you realize that you have managed to engage the entire room in conversation, when a student walks out of your class at the end of Week 10 feeling like she’s learned something about writing. Those moments are magic.
Our conference this year aims to survey the evolving terrain of the Composition Program. To this end the conference program is mapped to the stages of the essay cycle. Many locations on our map will seem familiar: to veteran teachers who have traversed the composition classrooms for some time as well as to our newest teachers who have spent the last few terms packing in knowledge for the journey. Yet this terrain, familiar as it is, has new landmarks and new routes waiting to be explored. Here you will encounter policies and procedures for preparing for your adventure in teaching as well as innovative tools that can help you along your way. We will begin a little “off the grid” with policies on grading and then head into panels aout reading and discussion, thesis generation, elements of an essay’s body, and then revision. We will also hear presentations about teaching Writing 123, English Language Learners, and “dos and don’ts.” We will conclude by turning our attention toward new terrain and thinking about how, if “Maps are always changing,” composition is a continually changing entity, too.
For this year’s composition conference, we want to honor the recipes that our teachers have honed over the years, as well as offer opportunities for instructors to try out new ingredients or share their developing ideas about how to prepare fulfilling classrooms. Indeed, we shall belabor the metaphor (likely ad nauseam) in the effort to consider and present the process of perfecting recipes—the best practices that create truly edifying classrooms—as well as emphasize the inevitability and opportunity possible in a class that initially leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Our hope is that these presentations and discussions will provide helpful, concrete ideas for your own test kitchens and accentuate the fact that the best composition cooks create, not “perfect” recipes, but rather, through practice and failure and collaboration, “recipes that work.”