Michael A. Reyes invites students to "find, feel, and think against hierarchies and essentialism"

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Michael A. ReyesMichael A. ReyesMichael A. Reyes (recommended by Danielle Dyckhoff), Bedford New Scholar 2021, earned his MA in English with a concentration in Rhetoric and Composition at Cal State LA. He teaches in the First-Year Writing program at Cal State LA and Cal Lutheran, and leads creative writing workshops in LA public schools and organizations. His research interests are in critical affect theory, decolonial rhetorics and pedagogy, contemporary poetry and poetics, and anti-racist and formative assessments.


Is there an instructor or scholar that helped shape your career in rhet/comp? How?

On the first day of class, I review a document titled “Mr. Reyes’s Metaphors, Myths, and Muses,” which is a bullet point summary of what has shaped me and my teaching. I save the syllabus for later in the week, and instead introduce the class and myself in such a way. 

Students quickly notice that I draw from non-academic sources: the art of ordering at an In-N-Out drive-thru, Tik Tok trends, Bruce Lee, the art of spilling the “tea,” basketball, Simone Biles, Jerry Seinfeld, poetry, and so forth. I make the argument that we can benefit from pluriversal knowledge production.

However, I first arrived at this through my foundations in decolonial studies and critical affect studies: Walter D. Mignolo and Sara Ahmed. I’ve learned a lot from their scholarship. To see lessons in reading and writing in our most intimate and natural lives is more fascinating and long-lasting to me. So, I detached a bit from scholars as the only knowledge-holders. I invite students to hopefully find, feel, and think against hierarchies and essentialisms.


What is your greatest teaching challenge?

My challenges in teaching are what I value most. I’m in this profession because each semester I love to recalibrate everything I know to be true and working in my classes. I think this serves me and my students. I don’t want to be static, ever. This is my biggest challenge right now during this moment of chaos: to sustain a strategy of mindfulness and intrinsic motivation. I like myself best when I’m in this mindset. In other words, to live by what the poet Maya Angelou says, “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” 


What is it like to co-design or work with the editorial team at Bedford/St. Martin's?

Being part of the Bedford New Scholars Program, I’ve had the opportunity so far to review two critical reading and writing textbooks, and have a say in the direction of subsequent editions. Both were different processes, and I loved my role in each one. I was given an e-book and a survey. I was asked to note areas that could align more closely with diversity, equity, and inclusion, as well as areas that are most useful for my classes. Aside from reviewing, I loved that I was introduced to texts and praxis that I wouldn’t have considered if I weren’t in the program.


What projects or course materials from Bedford/St. Martin's most pique your interest, and why?

Achieve’s peer-feedback platform is fascinating to me. I was introduced to it during the Bedford New Scholars summer institute, and it answered some questions I’ve always had about peer-feedback. How can I visually represent the writing and revision process workflow? What peer-review platforms exist for the visual learner? 

The peer-feedback platform provides a real useful diagram that students work through. Along each checkpoint, students accomplish tasks that work towards completing the entire diagram. Students can visualize their growth and goals. I struggle with making peer-review dynamic and organized. This platform is on to something.



Michael's Assignment that Works:

During the Bedford New Scholars Summit, each member presented an assignment that had proven successful or innovative in their classroom. Below is a brief synopsis of Michael’s assignment. For the full activity, see Photo Essay.

As I developed my version of the Photo Essay, I had the following goals:

  • To segue into traditional academic discourse.
  • To use students’ more natural media reading experiences and visual rhetoric expertise.
  • To use the image/non-discursive to represent abstract concepts in traditional academic discourse.
  • To make the rhetoric of style a more prominent feature in the writing process.

With this in mind, I asked students to compose an essay that contained only photos. Students shot and arranged a minimum of 10 photos, using the photojournalism techniques of Rule of Thirds, Leading Lines, Symmetry and Pattern, POV, Depth, and Framing. Each photo needed to represent a specific part of a college essay (i.e., introduction paragraph; thesis statement; body paragraph topic sentence, context, quote, analysis, transition; or conclusion paragraph). The order of the photos was up to the student. Some considered that their argument was better served with a linear, delayed thesis statement structure to build suspense, and some with a more nonlinear structure that clarified the thesis statement in the first few photos to build deep reflective thought. I would ask students to later provide a rationale for their respective argumentative structure during a follow-up assignment.


About the Author
This is the shared account for the Bedford New Scholars TA Advisory Board.