Teaching Philosopy: How to Mark a Book by Mortimer Adler
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For a student to be successful in college English, they need to understand there is an intimate relationship between reading and writing. One skill reinforces the other. Competent readers make competent writers. The challenge is universal: How do we transition students from high school to college English? I would like to say I have the answer, but the answer changes with each class and every semester. There isn’t one set model, and I understand that my model will constantly evolve and reflect my student’s needs.
I create my own reader for students, and as I was creating my reader for an English Composition class, I found an article titled, “How to Mark a Book” by Mortimer Adler. In essence, what Adler discusses in his article is how to become an active reader, which he calls owning a book. This resonates with me because I encourage my students not to just read the text, but discover its hidden meanings, or actively read. Adler states, “Full ownership only comes when you have made it a part of yourself…by writing in it.” It sounds simple, but for many students this is not the case. I understand when students read, they will organically stop at a passage that stands out to them, but they don’t know what to do with the pause. I encourage them to highlight this section and answer the questions: “What stands out?” and “Why does it stand out?” I invite them to write the answers in the margin, and use the margins to ask additional questions. If a student doesn’t want to write in their books, I encourage them to use a reading journal. Why is this important? Adler states, and I agree, “First, it keeps you awake...in the second place, reading, if it is active, is thinking, and thinking tends to express itself in words, spoken or written....
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...class writing and essays. For example, a four-page argumentative based essay on how the United States of America would be different if there was no First Amendment. Throughout the semester, students are building a database in which they can synthesize their reading and writings with primary and secondary sources, along with opposing viewpoints, to generate their eight-page research essay.
This statement is part of my teaching philosophy today. I know as I gain more experience by attending workshops and seminars, my knowledge of academic discourse will evolve as will my teaching philosophy. I will not be a static instructor. I will always remain a student of academic discourse, and as I learn, I will adjust, and pass my knowledge to my students. After all, this was a key component as to why I left my family’s business to become an adjunct college English instructor.