Chapter 1: Introductions
I am Melanie Gagich and I created this text in part to help prepare you (my ENG 100/101 students) for some of the trickier aspects of writing in college. I would like to begin by introducing myself because as the semester unfolds I will hopefully get to know each of you through your formal and informal writing, so I think it is important for you to know a little about myself, too.
I am married to Chad who is currently an American Government high school teacher and who earned his Master’s degree at Cleveland State. We own a dog, Ramona, and two cats, Rea and Frankenstein, and live in a 1920s house in Cleveland Heights. When my husband and I moved to Cleveland, we were so excited to be within walking distance of restaurants, movie theaters, etc. We love trying new restaurants and places, so recommendations are always welcome. I really enjoy reading and watching movies. Historical fiction and non-fiction are some of my favorite genres to read and I love to watch horror movies, new-age comedies, and depressing documentaries. Quentin Tarantino is one of my favorite directors and I really enjoy most of his movies. Other hobbies include walking my dog, traveling, and continuously renovating our house. When I am not binge-watching television shows, you can often find me doing one of those activities.
As for family, both of my parents created and own two different businesses. My mom owns and directs a daycare and my father owns a metal sheet roofing company. I have worked many summers for both of my parents and learned to love working on a roof, but never really enjoyed working at the daycare. My husband has also worked for my father and his father and we both gained a lot of experiences from working odd jobs, both indoor and outdoor.
Fo us, what became clear as we worked these odd jobs, was that it is very important to choose a career that one is passionate about. With this in mind, Chad decided to go back to school at CSU to earn his educator’s license while I decided to go back to school for my doctoral degree. I am currently working towards earning my PhD in Composition and TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) during the summer.
I am originally from Avella, Pennsylvania, which is about 45 minutes south of Pittsburgh. Avella is very rural and I graduated from high school with approximately 50 other students. My high school experiences included taking part in “take your tractor to school day”, attending the rodeo held on our football field each year, and enjoying a day off from school every year for the first day of doe season. Throughout high school I had a love/hate relationship with writing based mostly on how my instructors approached it–teachers who allowed me the freedom to be creative made me love it, while the teacher who corrected every grammar mistake I made caused me to shudder at the thought of English class. Although I eventually outgrew my dislike of English, I still experience anxiety when it comes to grammar and punctuation.
Although the English dialect used in the region where I am from is categorized as a Western Pennsylvania dialect, it is more specifically associated with “Pittsburghese.” This means means I might use some words you’ve never heard like “yinz” (plural for “you”) or “gumband” (either a hair tie or rubber band) .I grew up speaking this variation of English as my first (or home) language and although I have never been able to master another language, I very much recognize the value in mastering different languages and variations of language. One of the reasons for this recognition relates to my initial college experiences. When I arrived at my first undergraduate class, I remember I felt out of place because other students seemed to be able to “talk the talk” and participate in the college setting. For me, I often sat quietly in the back because I was usually too nervous to talk. I thought I sounded funny or didn’t have anything “smart” to say. But, as the years went on, I realized that speaking academically is also a type of language and that doing and speaking college are skills and with practice, I could do both, too.
You might be wondering why I am telling you all of this. Well, I think it important for new college students to know that everyone (including his or her professors) has had to go through what you’re going through at some point. Language(s) we learned, dialects we grew up hearing, prior life experiences, family history, etc. all affect the ways we write and communicate. Reflecting on how these factors influence our writing, recognizing that there are various types of “languages” used in college, and that a person can learn to “do college” can be an illuminating process. So, in this class, we will begin by discussing these concepts and hopefully it will help you transition from your prior writing environment and experience, into the new ones.
Briefly answer the following questions and bring your answers to class:
- Where did you grow up? How might that affect the ways you “do college”?
- What sort of experiences have you had with writing? Do you like or dislike it? What factors might have influenced your opinion?
- What language(s) do you speak? Do you use slang/dialects that maybe not everyone knows? How might your language affect the way you write?
As a Teacher of First-Year Writing
Now that I’ve introduced myself on a personal level, I feel like I should briefly review my credentials and introduce myself as an instructor. I have a Bachelor’s of Science in Secondary Education English from Slippery Rock University, a Master’s of Arts in American Literature from Kent State University, and a Teaching English as a Foreign Language Certification (TEFL) from Via Lingua in Florence, Italy. Currently, I am in a summer residency Composition and TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) doctoral program at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and I hope to earn my PhD by 2020. I want to study the effects and perceptions of technology and multimodal assignments in introductory Composition classrooms (like ours) as the topic for my eventual dissertation.
I began teaching College Writing Courses in 2007 at Kent State and have taught over 100 courses up until now. I have taught at Kent State, University of Akron, Stark State College of Technology, and at a community college in Pittsburgh, Pa. I was hired as full-time college lecturer at CSU in 2012 and I love working here. And I am not just saying that; I truly enjoy collaborating with my colleagues, working with my department, and teaching the students of Cleveland State.
As an instructor, I have a few bad habits:
- I talk fast and move quickly; however, I always provide handouts (probably too many!) and all handouts can be found on Blackboard
- I swear from time to time–nothing too shocking but if it is a problem, please just talk to me after class to discuss it
- I pace or move around a lot–again, if this is too distracting just see me after class and I will try to settle my pacing.
As an instructor, I also have what I perceive as good habits:
- I answer relevant emails fairly quickly (usually within 24 hours)
- I believe in a negotiation and transparency in the classroom. Meaning, I don’t want to assign points, projects, due dates, without explaining my rationale to you–I try to facilitate dialogue between instructor and students and students to students in my classrooms
- I promote a safe space in my classroom and I expect each and every student to treat others with respect. Although class discussions will likely involve topics surrounding power, race, gender, class, and language in the US, hateful speech and/or actions will not be tolerated.
- That said, I am here to support you! I want to support your exploration of diverse topics, introduce you to various writing genres, and help you navigate the sometimes murky world of higher education. I know what it is like to be confused or lost, so feel free to come talk to me.
In terms of pedagogy (or how I choose to teach writing), I approach writing as a process and my classroom is student-centered. What this means is that your grade for each project will not only reflect a “one and done” method; instead, your process work will also make up a significant portion of your overall project grade. Students-centered means that my classes are not lecture classes, in fact, I do not enjoy lecturing at all. I believe that as an instructor of writing I am not a topical content expert but instead a guide who is helping you become a prepared college writer who facilitates your exploration of various topics through the reading of texts.
You will write a lot in my class. Some of it will be done as drafting workshops in class because I want to give you as many opportunities as possible to get your work done at school, but some work will be done as homework. However, I want you to know that I am here to help you and not to make you feel bad about your writing. I am a tough grader (and some say a tough instructor) but I work to make class fun, meaningful and allow you make connections between ENG 100/101 and your other courses.
Briefly answer the following questions and bring your answers to class:
- What are your expectations for a college writing class? Why do you think you have those expectations?
- What are your expectations for your instructor? Provide a short rationale, or reason for, those expectations.
- What are your expectations for yourself? Provide a short rationale for those expectations.