Brooke has brought up a fascinating topic in “Underlife & Writing Instruction”. “Identities which may be developing for students in writing classrooms are more powerful for real academic success than the traditional identity of the successful student.” At some points I found myself nodding my head, while on other points I shook my head.
Identity as Social Interaction: I’m not sure that this point has as much relevance today as it had in 1987. Is it so easy to stereotype people on their appearance? Perhaps I’ve lived in Qatar for too long, where most Qatari gents wear long white shirt-dresses and Qatari ladies wear long black cloaks on a daily basis. The spectacle is the norm here, and no matter what turmoil is brewing underneath the surface, more often than the not, their appearance is immaculate. That having been said, I don’t think it’s so easy to spot the frat boy / athlete / nerd / etc. in the USofA in 2011. When I was a frat boy (yes, I know…), I took pride in altering my appearance so that people didn’t suspect that I was.
Information Games: I definitely agree that the identity we assign others is determined by the information provided to us. I rely on this to find a commonality with each student. Aysha loves TGIF and all things American, Nabil is obsessed with football / soccer, and Georges loves Katy Perry. Pre- or post-classroom banter can safely pull up these topics so that we can individualize students, make them feel like they’re the fabulous unique individuals they are, but not pry too deep to make them feel vulnerable or uncomfortable.
Organizational Roles: I wholly agree with Brooke and Goffman – that students in SGA will act a little more responsibly, tutors from the writing center will take their assignments more seriously, and well, foreign exchange students from the main campus will be lazy as hell (they wanted a semester BREAK!) but do their best to hide it.
I found the discussion of disruptive and contained forms of underlife to be quite thought-provoking. Those students who are placed in remedial English and don’t want to be associated with it will do their best to show how they don’t belong to this group. The vast majority is the latter: Yes, I’m an English instructor, but I’m also a yoga-practicing catholic academic who also bakes, reads, travels, and listens to mindless pop music.
As I perused Brooke’s four types of underlife in the writing class, I smirked. For each type of underlife, I immediately thought of students who would fit each classic type – the one who completely alters classroom materials; the one who comments on classroom roles; the one who evaluates classroom events; and the one who divides time between classroom activity and something else. I find it interesting that oftentimes students who clearly love my class will do their best not to show it in front of their peers. That would be so uncool to divulge, no?