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Providing students opportunities to explore their own agency is the most important aim of Bedford New Scholar Salena Parker's writing classroom

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Salena ParkerSalena Parker (recommended by Katie McWain) is pursuing her PhD in Rhetoric with a concentration in World Literature at Texas Woman's University. She expects to finish in December 2021. She teaches Composition I and II and serves as an English Professor at Collin College in McKinney, TX. She has also taught College Readiness Writing, Introduction to Humanities, and ESL abroad. Her research interests include post-modern literature, rhetorical agency, contemporary global literature, memoirs, rhetoric & composition, photography, and feminist literature. 

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

Although my time with her was short, Dr. Katie McWain shaped my entire outlook of rhet/comp. With her teaching and advice, I’m able to see rhet/comp as a more fluid, yet intricate area of research that I can mold with my many, many interests. 

Katie was the epitome of professionalism, adaptability, and grace; she instigated and worked with us to contribute to meaningful conversations about the gaps in research that exist in rhet/comp, as well as how we can integrate aspects like multimodality, transfer, and embodiment in our research/classrooms. Katie went beyond knowledge and skills and really listened to our questions and problems and did her best to help us in every way she could. When we had Focus Fridays (Professional Development opportunities), Katie put her all into giving us tips, advice, and information that we can adapt and use inside and outside the classroom. Her hard-working mentality kept me motivated and eager to do more.

I’m humbled that she chose me for this program, and to have worked with her as a GTA. Though she’s gone, I will strive to keep Katie’s light and enthusiasm with me as I teach my scholars and encourage others to do their best. 

What is the most important skill you aim to develop in your students? 

I’d have to say agency, for sure. Free will is a privilege, and as adults we should all have a form of agency in education and the working world. However, I don’t know if I provide agency for students; I’m thinking that I instead provide the opportunity for scholars to investigate—and sometimes wrestle with—their own sense(s) of agency. There were a few moments in my undergrad career where I was able to sit down and really think about how I handle different academic situations, especially stressful ones. My goal is to give those kinds of introspective opportunities to my scholars; identifying one’s sense of agency is hard, and using agency is even harder. Yet, I think we all need to be aware of how agency functions in academic environments and communities. Having that “a-ha moment” where a scholar finds their agency and how they want to use it—that’s what I’m hoping and looking for each semester. Sometimes, those moments happen, and other times they don’t. Either way, I’m going to keep working to give scholars opportunities to search for and wrestle with their self-awareness of agency. 

What’s it like to be a part of the Bedford New Scholars program? 

The Bedford New Scholars program is all about learning, sharing, and growing as emerging scholars of our fields. Each member of the program has stories and experience(s) to share and learn from—our collective Assignments that Work are testament to this fact. We’re given opportunities throughout the year to lend our voices and ideas to projects that will directly affect student learning, adjunct/instructor/professor workload, and best of all, we can share this knowledge with our respective communities across the nation. 

At the Bedford Scholars Summit in Boston, we were able to interact with members of the Marketing, Editorial, and Media departments and get insight into the teaching and academic support instructors receive from outside the college/university. We collaborated with one another on current problems/lacks of research in our field(s) as well as how we can grow to be more inclusive, more diverse, and more engaged inside the classroom. There were fun times to be had, too—touring the Boston Public Library and traversing bustling Boston streets gave all the Scholars the chance to increase the strength of our friendship and shared mission to be the best scholars and teachers we can be. 

What do you think instructors don’t know about educational publishing but should? 

I think instructors should know that there is a lot of adaptability to be found in educational publishing. Instructors can contribute to student success in academe by using educational publishing as an opportunity to hone skills used in college/university teaching; interpersonal communication, content development, multimodal inquiry, and hands-on experience are just a few skills that can be explored. Using Bedford/St. Martin’s as an example, instructors can also have numerous (possibly more) opportunities to expand network communities in places that they might not have thought of before, like content marketing, publishing operations, and application management. There are innovative, different ways to build on content expertise and educational practices besides instructing in a classroom; educational publishing is one of the options instructors can take to diversify themselves and their pedagogies. 

Salena’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 Salena's assignment. You can view the full details here: Research Project Paper 

The main goal of my Research Paper assignment is to assist scholars with balancing their writing processes with rigor, patience, and enthusiasm via a research-based assignment. The assignment centers on a process of invention, investigation, editing/revision, and—most importantly—communication. Each scholar is allowed to research a topic they find to be impactful to their livelihoods or education and show their audiences why their topics and research matter inside and outside the college classroom. The Research Papers are created through brainstorming activities, writing days, and Workshop Days, with Workshop Days being the most important part of this assignment. Everyone comes to class on that day with copies of their work and pre-made questions to discuss as they communicate with one another about what works, what doesn’t work, and what can be improved upon in their respective papers. Most of my scholars appreciate Workshop days the most because it’s communication and research in action; they can share their frustrations, preferences, and “lightbulb moments” with one another in a productive, generative space. After they turn in their Research Papers, they have the opportunity to reflect on the process, if they wish, and tell me what worked and ways I can improve the assignment for future courses. 

Learn more about the Bedford New Scholars advisory board on the Bedford New Scholars Community page.

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