Throughout the semester, this course has demonstrated several points of focus that the English Department seems to be increasingly concerned with as of late: encouraging reflective writing, and establishing clear connections with Geneseo’s established Learning Outcomes.
We have worked with reflective writing in this course through our reading of the little green Reflective Writing book (that has been its official title in my head all semester), as well as through our blog posts as many of us engage in reflective practices through these compositions. Our final paper, too, is clearly an assignment that evokes reflection.
In terms of connections to Geneseo’s Learning Outcomes, the class time that we had devoted to looking at and discussing GLOBE has been memorable for me as I’d never experienced a professor making such explicit and transparent references to our institution’s officially documented claims about its academics… which, upon reflection, seems a little strange, doesn’t it?
The other English course I’m taking this semester is titled “Theory and Practice of Reparative Reading,” and Dr. Fenn has encouraged both reflection and student-generated establishment of connections to Geneseo’s Learning Outcomes in this course as well. In fact, several of our reflective writing prompts for this course directly echoed the language used in Geneseo’s GLOBE and Mission Statement. These prompts immediately struck me as being connected with Geneseo’s official documentation, as we had previously discussed GLOBE in our “Metropolis” course; I found it intriguing that two of my English courses were prompting students to make these explicit connections that I’d never been asked to make before. Here are a few examples of the writing prompts from Dr. Fenn’s course, to give you an idea of the kind of reflective thinking we’ve been doing in that class:
“As a public liberal arts college, Geneseo seeks to embrace high expectations for intellectual inquiry, scholarly achievement, and personal growth. Where have you seen these values come into play during your college career as a reader?”
“Geneseo also seeks to affirm the values of inclusivity (fostering a campus community marked by mutual respect for the unique talents and contributions of each individual) and civic responsibility (promoting ethical local and global citizenship). In your career as a reader, where have these values impacted you in challenging or transformational ways?”
As you can see, Dr. Fenn’s questions incorporated Geneseo’s official statements of its values and prompted students’ reflection about how these values fit in with the way we’ve been thinking about reading throughout the semester. When I began to think about how to actually respond to these questions, my mind quickly turned to our readings in this “Metropolis” course. The texts we have engaged with throughout the semester have been both challenging and transformational, and I’d certainly say our readings have embraced opportunities for “intellectual inquiry” and “personal growth”. When a text makes you question the way you understand the world and your place in it, it can be both difficult and enlightening, and these readings had both of these effects on me. As we have been examining Hurricane Katrina and other disasters from different angles, our readings have both challenged preconceived notions I had about this event and also transformed how I view these tragedies. For instance, I had never been able to fathom why anyone would choose to live in a place that lies below sea level and is inevitably prone to hurricanes, but the course has challenged my confusion and transformed it into compassion and understanding of New Orleans’ rich culture and deeply rooted traditions, which make it far more comprehensible that people would want to stay where they were born and raised despite possible disaster.
Clearly, then, this course has also worked to affirm Geneseo’s “values of inclusivity” and “civic responsibility,” as our reading and thinking (and posting, and discussing…) has opened doors for meaningful consideration of our work not only as it relates to academia, but also in terms of the far-reaching implications of the topics we’ve been exploring. Not only do I feel that I’ve grown intellectually during this course, but I also feel that I’ve grown personally, particularly in the realms of compassion and respect (especially for that which I cannot understand; that which is, you might say, unfathomable).
To zoom out and return to the connections I’m seeing across my English courses this semester: these courses have placed some amount of focus on reflection and on making connections with Geneseo’s Learning Outcomes, and I’ve found this to be both engaging and productive. To consider how our coursework fits in with Geneseo’s official statements about its academics adds a practical element to our thinking, and this fits in quite nicely with the English Department’s increasing incorporation of reflective writing, as the task of making connections between statements like GLOBE and specific coursework inherently promotes student reflection.
Also, speaking of reflection, could our course have ended with a text more suitable than Shakespeare’s epilogue to The Tempest? As Prospero reflects on his circumstances at the end of his performance, Shakespeare writes reflectively about his own situation at the time of the play’s composition–and here we are, reading this text at the semester’s end as we reflect on our own individual and collaborative thinking throughout this course! What a wonderfully layered experience of metacognition that was. I suppose this reflective post might be my own little epilogue, as it’s my last blog post of the semester… but don’t worry, I won’t pull a Shakespeare and ask you to shower me with applause as I leave the webpage.