When the First Voice You Hear is Not Your Own - READ THIS NOW
August 1, 2016
Royster's piece (read it here) is one I need to go back to in times when I am discouraged about being a cog in the composition machine--like today, as I put together the requirements for this online portfolio, deadlines looming over my head. And, perhaps too, I should return to the response I wrote. (I sadly lost the annotated print version. Here is the text.)
This may be the most important piece that I have read yet in these two classes this summer. As I enter an institution with considerable power and take a position that comes with power as well, I must be vigilant to ensure that the discourse in which I am engaged is “invigorated with multiple perspectives.” It is imperative that the classroom is a place in which voices can be heard and not spoken for or in place of. Even well-meaning explanations can have the effect of silencing students—a type of academic violence. I must let those closest to the situation speak and remember that “what we think we see in places that we do not really know very well may not actually be what is there at all.” Like Royster, I feel that I straddle boundaries, though mine are quite different and come with inherent privilege and power. I can’t let this position of being “in the veil” silence the “Other.” It is also important to remember that my students are not generic human beings and that they have multiplicities of identity—that they can speak in more than one authentic voice. Talking with them and not for them or at them is important. Listening is vital. It’s not my job to make students feel as if they know nothing, though often that seems to be the tone in discourse about incoming students in the composition class. I need to use my position to guide them toward more discovery, curiosity, not to deflate them or squelch their voices. This article reminds me of the power that teachers hold. More and more students/scholars are entering the academic system that share the “hybridity” of which Royster speaks and she is right to say that we “do not have a paradigm that really allows for what scholars in cultural and postcolonial studies have called hybrid people—people who either have the capacity by right of history and development, [… ]to move with dexterity across cultural boundaries.” But that paradigm is being built by myself and my colleagues.