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Elliott Neal

B.A. in English Literature Belmont University


M.A. in Anglophone Literatures Marquette University
Ph.D. in Imagination Imaginary University

As an instructor and a student, I expect the classroom to be a setting for creativity,


agency, exposure, and most of all, the locus for personal empowerment and discovery. These
classroom expectations are not merely guidelines, they are my moral responsibility as an
instructor of writing.
Students rarely understand the latent power within their own writing. When deeply buried
by paralyzing anxieties of genre, such as writing for the teacher or writing for the grade, students
tend to remove themselves from the equation of their own creative discourses. When asked by
students, what are you wanting to see from us in this essay, I usually answer with: well, what
do you want your readers to see from this essay? This response may initially confuse students,
but after some consideration, they will come to implicitly understand the power of self-
expression and ownership through language, while reflecting on the communal act of writing. By
stressing peer review and group writing projects in my classroom, I try to help my students
reconceptualize writing as a balanced authorship between a community and an individual. More
than anything, I want my students to look at their roughest of rough drafts and their near-
impeccable final drafts and think to themselves: this is the labor of myself and peers.
I constantly remind students of the artifice of the teacher-oriented classroom, reminding
them that guidance and assessment are responsibilities we both share. In order to actualize these
shared responsibilities, I use surveys throughout the semester to give students the voice to gauge
my role as an instructor. One question that I consistently ask is: what could I try to incorporate
into our discussions that would help you with this curriculum? Under most circumstances, I am
willing to accommodate student requests by radically altering my teaching style and lesson plans,
such as reworking lecture based lesson plans into lesson plans rooted in praxis. My decision to
allow students to assess me in the classroom emanates from my educational philosophy of
personal empowerment. If you give students the chance to express their voice and expectations
from the course, the classroom starts to look less like a dialogue and more like a nexus of
articulate and personal discourses. As one of the most influential educators in my life once told
me, teaching is learning to stop being the sage on the stage and to learn how to be the guide on
the side. This aphorism has stayed with me for a long time, and I carry into every classroom I
enter.
My ultimate goals as an educator are to offer a space where students can use writing as
the means for recreating their selfhood. Walking out of the classroom without the means to
reimagine and reinvent yourself, education has missed its mark. John Dewey famously writes
that, education is not preparing for life; education is life itself. This reimagination of education
creates the impetus behind my yearning for the classroom. I want students to claim control over
language. I want students to understand the existential force that is our creativity in writing. Too
many college graduates leave the university unconscious of the latent power within them and
their ability to create meaning. In my classroom, I want every student to no longer see writing
merely as a requirement for professional development but, rather, a means to reconstruct a sense
of self in the face of difficulty and hardship.