Tiny Teaching Stories: Blaming Binaries

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Today's Tiny Teaching Story is by Dr. Leslie Werden, a Professor of English & Rhetoric and Department Head of Humanities at Morningside University in Sioux City, Iowa. She teaches Persuasive Writing, Small Group Communication, Literary Theory & Analysis, British Literature, Page to Stage, and more. 


Blaming Binaries

The large post-it note, halved with a line down the middle separating a list of binaries, was left behind in the classroom. On one side: white, power, strength, leader, good. On the other: black, no control, weakness, follower, bad. The lone black student arrived in the classroom and cocked her head, glaring at the list, brows furrowed, lips tightly pressed together. “What. Is. This?” she asked her professor. A discussion about three different stories from the class before. “Thank God,” the student said. The binaries left behind, assume too much and remain misunderstood.


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About the Author
Nancy Sommers, who has taught composition and directed writing programs for more than thirty years, now teaches in Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. A two-time Braddock Award winner, Sommers is well known for her research and publications on student writing. Her articles “Revision Strategies of Student and Experienced Writers” and “Responding to Student Writing” are two of the most widely read and anthologized articles in the field of composition. She has also created three films—Shaped by Writing, Across the Drafts, and Beyond the Red Ink—to bring the voices of student writers into a larger discussion about writing instruction. Nancy Sommers is currently the coauthor of Diana Hacker’s best-selling handbooks: The Bedford Handbook, A Writer’s Reference, Rules for Writers, A Pocket Style Manual, and Writer’s Help (see hackerhandbooks.com). Her newest instructor resource, Responding to Student Writers, offers a model for thinking about response as a dialogue between students and teachers.