© 2022 lenk
praxis: presence & positionality
the tiniest matryoshka doll / or the difference between ravens & grackles & the cleveland street
scandal / the ache in your jaw from clenching teeth / that hozier lyric about felling trees
& pyres of enemies
At the beginning of the term students describe themselves in “tag yourself” meme aesthetics, an exercise in close observation, discoursal context, audience awareness—a poetry-autoethnography. What seemingly disparate ideas can we arrange to represent our identity, and why?
I lead student-centered, culturally responsive and active learning spaces for first-year composition and creative writing, where innovation and self-world awareness supports students as they interrogate knowledge, then take ownership of it: their own, the systems by which it’s acquired, and as an ongoing, liberatory process.
Investigating academic rhetoric as a “code” means scaffolded re-thinking of language and literacy in various discourse communities—and their power dynamics. This is our compass for navigating rhetorical situations and investing in critical inquiry as students research self-chosen topics through reflective-reflexive projects, such as word historiographies, lyric essay autoethnographies, and annotated bibliography Story Maps. With a focus on producing over product, curriculum is not punctuated by long papers; instead, the term culminates in a holistic, metacognitive final portfolio where students present their work, their process, and positionality.
With a flipped structure, students encounter new concepts independently prior to class discussion and writing activities that explore innovative craft techniques across form and genre. These scaffold into weekly writing prompts for small group mini-workshops, which foster generative peer-learning networks. Author interviews, critical texts on reorganizing inherited literary craft, and accessible but canon-resistant readings prompt students to consider how writing acts on and is acted upon by readers. By emphasizing audience and intent, students unpack the choices of diverse contemporary writers—and their peers—leaving the course with a collection of work and a restocked toolbox for generating, analyzing, and revising.
assessment & workshop
I use a Complete/Incomplete assessment model dedicated to actionable feedback and reflection, removing the competitive nature and inequity inherent to point-based evaluation. Checkpoint conferences, Work Day one-on-ones, and Mental Health Days support individual HOC competencies and progress. Together this honors what other equity-driven assessment models risk neglecting: a respect for student responsibility. Rather than what they can, students do when they can, accounting for diverse learning styles, language proficiencies, and life situations. This switch has demonstrated increased student engagement, self-discipline skills, and comprehension, with final grades averaging a full letter grade higher at 94%, despite slightly higher rates of missing/late.
creative writing workshop
I am passionate about reforming workshop from fixed and prescriptive to flexible and revision-focused. Centering writer notes and reader response guides students from reductive feedback to “observations, questions, possibilities.” 50% of course evaluations named this workshop as an aspect that most contributed to learning, citing a supportive environment, exposure to new techniques and critical thinking needed for revision, and deepened relationships with their own craft.
I encourage the use of Google Docs in order to combat issues of time, distance, and writing anxieties. Using Docs creates a central, broadly accessible space for students to engage with content, peers, and myself via margin comments and document histories. Each class day has a corresponding, editable Doc for collaborative note-taking, in-class activities, and my own live “transcription” of lesson and discussion. Students can then revisit information as needed, or review and ask questions in the event of an absence. Completing assignments in Docs provides real-time grammar and proofreading tools, with which students across levels of English language preparedness can identify, address, and actively practice relevant LOCs.
mental health days
Student wellbeing is the pulse of student success. Every student starts the term with two Mental Health Days to waive any small assignment, no questions asked. These “free passes” reorient towards care: a student’s exhaustion after working two jobs, studying for a biochem midterm, sick children, a stolen SSN, emetophobia, sleeping through an alarm, just needing a day off—these things matter.
Online Instructor certified, I design comprehensive, easy to navigate Canvas courses with best practices and universal access in mind, maintaining quality of learning across instructional methods even in the face of sudden pivots. Through active reflective teaching, I regularly review and adjust curriculum in response to student needs and larger kairos, from shifting assignment modalities, rotating learning styles, addressing inefficiencies, to overhauling an entire unit for more immediate real-world application.
I am committed to working with students to overcome both familiar and new instructional barriers. Accommodating diverse learning styles, English language preparedness, levels of access, and available or unavailable resources, from devices and programs to ideal study environments, requires flexibility and innovative thought—and a dedication to equity and collaboration. All class material is available and student work accepted across a variety of digital and hard copy formats, and I strive to avoid limited and limiting access to textbooks or learning platforms.
A case study of my Autumn 2021 Beginning Short Story course describes my setting a precedent of “intentionality, respect, and creative freedom.” I want students to be active agents of their own learning, so I invite them into the pedagogical process through conversations around rationale and intentions. Breaking this “fourth wall” nurtures students’ confidence in their own insights and promotes a sense of belonging.
I believe my presence and positionality are key drivers for student retention and peer referrals. I am an instructor, yes—but the core of that is being a leader. I am a young, queer, low-income/first-generation college graduate playing faint lo-fi in the room and reciting Russian tongue-twisters for raised hands, walking through rhetorical analysis with BLM photojournalism or trans* workplace infographics, sending videos to show the relatives about decolonizing Thanksgiving (and sometimes requiring the tallest student’s help with the projector screen). I am an instructor who combats institutional power dynamics by openly acknowledging, affirming, and integrating my own intersectionality within a room never ahistorical or apolitical—an instructor with whom students can empathize, relate, and trust to do the same with theirs.