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Michael S. Garcia (recommended by Kimberly Harrison) is pursuing his MFA in Creative Writing at Florida International University. He expects to finish in April 2021. At FIU, he has taught Writing and Rhetoric, Writing in Action, Essay Writing, and Creative Writing: Forms and Practices. He has also taught 11th and 12th grade English at a Title I high school. As a writer, he has published short stories, essays, web articles, and poetry.
What is the most important skill you aim to provide your students?
We are currently living in an important social and political moment—a time rife with conflict, strife, and disinformation. Never before has there been so much (mis)information coming at us from all sides, all the time. I believe my most important role as a writing and rhetoric teacher is two-fold: I must teach students how to evaluate information through a critical lens, so they can filter out the noise and arrive at well-informed opinions; simultaneously, I must empower my students with the skills, knowledge, and confidence to express themselves in an accurate, thoughtful, and ethical way.
How will online or remote learning affect your teaching?
While teaching remotely is not ideal, I have chosen to view it as a learning opportunity, a chance to grow into a more effective teacher. Keeping students active and engaged can be a challenge in the very best of times, but now, with all our teaching happening through digital tools, it is more crucial than ever to focus on student engagement. In my in-person classes, I really focus on trying my best to implement lessons and activities that engage students and keep them interested, but it is so easy to become distracted or fatigued when meeting through digital platforms like Zoom, so this aspect of my teaching will be even more important now than ever.
Also, while I already make use of digital tools and platforms in my usual in-person teaching, I will rely on them now more than ever before. I suspect that I will become more adept at using a variety of digital tools as part of the teaching process.
I anticipate that what I learn from remote teaching—not just in terms of student engagement and technology, but perhaps in other areas I haven’t considered yet—will turn this challenging time into a net-positive for my development as an educator, increasing my effectiveness as a teacher in the long term.
What is it like to be a part of the Bedford New Scholars program?
The Bedford New Scholars program has turned out to be an invaluable experience for my personal and professional development. I have learned about the process behind creating and publishing educational materials, something I had very little idea about beforehand. The program also gave me the opportunity to collaborate with a great group of accomplished scholars from around the country that I may not have met otherwise.
Additionally, the opportunity to preview and give feedback on upcoming Bedford/St. Martin’s texts and tools that are currently being worked-on is a really cool experience. It’s great to see the thought and care that the people at Bedford/St. Martin’s put into their projects, and how important it is to them to collaborate with a varied and diverse group of educators—I think this collaborative approach helps ensure Bedford/St. Martin’s texts and tools are effective and relevant to both teachers and students.
What projects or course materials from Bedford/St. Martin's most pique your interest, and why?
I was very impressed by the wide array of texts Bedford/St. Martin’s offered in my subject area; it seemed there was a text for every approach, something I wasn’t aware of before the Bedford New Scholars project.
The project I was most interested in was the Achieve learning platform. I think it’s great how the platform empowers instructors to create effective, multimodal assignments, while also encouraging and enabling collaboration—not only between the student and their instructor, but among students and their peers. It is intuitive and easy-to-use while also having depth in what it is capable of. I’m excited by the opportunities and possibilities that Achieve presents, not only in the composition classroom, but in teaching the subject of English overall.
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 Discourse Community Profile.
My “Assignment That Works” is the Discourse Community Profile, the first major assignment I assign as part of the first of FIU’s two-course introductory writing sequence. For this assignment, students are asked to write a profile on a discourse community of their choice; this involves describing the discourse community, citing specific examples of discourse from this community and where it occurs, and examining what can be gleaned about this community from analyzing its use of language. Students are asked to conclude the profile with a reflection on their relationship to this discourse community, why they chose to write about it, and what they learned in the process.
The assignment sheet is designed with question-and-answer format to make the assignment prompt as clear and concise as possible. We spend the first unit of the course scaffolding up to this assignment with foundational lessons about rhetorical awareness, rhetorical strategies, how to choose the appropriate genre (this is where they learn what a “profile” is), and code-switching. Students are asked to submit a “first steps” topic proposal to ensure they understand what is being asked of them. They submit a low-stakes first draft for instructor comments and peer review, giving them time to polish their work before the final draft is due.
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