Victoria Ruiz: Navigating identities, culture, and performing rhetoric via English 106
Victoria Ruiz started her graduate school two and half years ago at Purdue and since then she has been teaching First Year Composition. She recently completed teaching her fifth batch of her English 106 class. Her sections are themed around identity as being a negotiation of time and space. In her own words, she designs her classes in such a way that students learn about identities, culture, explore, critique, and perform rhetoric in various cultural scopes across different genres.
In addition to teaching identity themed English 106, Ruiz is also the leader of the Syllabus Approach UR@. UR@ is one of the six different syllabus approaches that instructors of ICaP choose to teach their English 106 class. During their first year, instructors follow their mentor’s syllabus approach for a year. After a year of taking the Teaching Practicum Course with their mentor, instructors can choose different syllabus approaches to teach their classroom, and based on their preferences, they also introduce various assignments that meet ICaP’s six major outcomes.
According to Ruiz, she has made significant changes to her English 106 course as she now structures her course around her own research that is on identity, culture.
“I feel teaching and learning is a both-way process. As much as my students learn from me, I do learn from them as well. Additionally, the UR@ syllabus approach is flexible enough to support changes in the syllabus as per the student needs, and the students really seem to enjoy it,” Ruiz said.
Ruiz’s class is based on identity and through her assignments the students are asked to look at the way identity is constructed and performed through communication and writing for varied audiences, in various genres, and with specific purposes.
She said, “Over the past two years, I’ve curated a selection of additional reading assignments that allows students to know more about writing process, instruction & application, and identity. My students discuss about issues like race, class, ability, privilege, and so on throughout the semester. I have seen their identities change throughout the semester and it is really cool how students get well informed about the real world.”
Every English 106 course is divided into three types of class. Students meet twice a week in a traditional classroom, once in an one-on-one conference, and once in a computer classroom. These varied spaces also help instructors to implement their pedagogy by taking various pedagogical approaches. Most importantly, students and instructors work very closely to meet the goals of the class as set by ICaP.
“Over the past two years, I’ve found that it’s all the little things that we do as instructors that add up and impact our students’ lives. Each of my projects helps frame identity in different ways, and by the end of the semester the students are able to reflect on just how far they’ve come, all the work that they’ve completed, and everything they’ve learned… all of this helps them become better writers,” Ruiz shared.
Victoria’s Crucial Assignment: Personal Portfolio/Auto-Ethnography
The assignment that she is currently teaching “is probably her students’ favorite” – it is a hybridized personal portfolio/auto-ethnography. Ruiz tries to place a lot of emphasis on the personal portfolio aspect of it so that students feel as though something is at stake and they take a vested interest in finishing out the semester with enthusiasm. This project asks students to compose materials that highlight the transferable skills that they might put to use outside the 106 classroom. In effect, when her students finish the semester – they then have something that they can continue adding to over the course of their collegiate career. This project is also one that they might offer to show potential employers during a job interview, etc. It is their chance to showcase their best work and what makes them most marketable.
Ruiz says she also really loves this assignment because it is structured in such a way that she is able to gauge what the students have learned and how they’ve grown throughout the semester. The reflection portion of the project puts the students and their work in the spotlight, so to speak.