Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Call Me Brophy

For the past several years, I've been inviting students to call me "Matthew," but rarely do they take me up on this offer. They do, however, often become comfortable enough around me to refer to me, in my presence, the same way they do when talking among themselves--simply as "Brophy." So this semester, I'm starting off on that foot: Call me Brophy.

My plan to make this reciprocal is to address students also by their last names (unless they object--I have no problem calling students by whatever name they like. One year, I called a student "Yoshi" all semester, at his request.)

So what else might you like to know about me? This past year, I moved to Reading, PA with my wife, Yuriko, who works at Albright College. I also ran the Marine Corps Marathon in 3:56 (not particularly fast--but very good for me). I've been married since 2013, which is also the year my wife and I adopted our dog, Kima. Here's a nice pic of Y&K, napping together:

I've been teaching at DCCC since 2010, and along the way, I've reinvented how I teach ENG 100 several times. While I'm sure I'll continue to experiment with it, I've settled upon a few principles, which I think work well:
  1. Writing is an art. And the way you get better at any art is to practice it. The more you do it, the better you'll get at it. But you have to find the energy and the motivation to keep writing.
  2. Feedback is more meaningful than a grade. To slap a grade on an in-progress work of art seems wrong to me. Receiving a grade for a writing assignment can be more discouraging than helpful. Therefore, I don't give grades for individual assignments. Instead, I give lots of detailed feedback--much of which is positive. Even when I offer suggestions for edits and revisions, I try to keep the tone positive. I believe students need encouragement, not harsh judgment, to improve their writing.
  3. Anxiety makes learning harder. Writing is already a difficult, complex skill; trying to produce good writing when you're anxious about how you will be judged can seem impossible. That's why I offer a "Guaranteed B" for students who abide by all the terms of the syllabus. This should take your mind off grades, so you are free to take risks, experiment, and be creative in your writing.
  4. Writers need freedom. Both in writing and in school more broadly, students can lose motivation when they don't have the freedom to follow their curiosity. I try to provide writing prompts that are open-ended enough so that you can choose topics to write about that you are personally invested in. You are also free to come up with your own writing prompts. When you write about what you care about, the experience (and the writing) is way better.
  5. Writing can feel good. Life is often full of distractions, stress, and chaos. Sitting down to write can be a great way to hit "pause" on life--to stop for a moment and reflect on the many things that have been running through your mind. Writing can help you gain some control and some perspective on your own thoughts. The result can be a calmer, more thoughtful and balanced life. 
Looking forward to getting to know all of you over the next few months, and I especially look forward to seeing the imaginative things you can do with your writing!