By Rachel Bloom-Pojar
Greetings from a socially-distant Milwaukee. Our city and lives have taken quite a different turn since our last post. By now we had hoped to welcome so many teachers, students, writers, and researchers to our wonderful city of Milwaukee for the 2020 Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC). We all have experienced a huge shift in our daily lives since the start of March, and we hope you are staying home, healthy, and safe amid these uncertain times. While everyone on our local arrangements’ team agreed that cancelling the conference was for the best, it still was quite a disappointment that we couldn’t see this experience come to fruition—one that we started preparing for last summer. For a few weeks now, I have wanted to write a post about all of the amazing local work that went into preparing for Cs because my students, colleagues, and our community partners did so much to make this conference one that would have been truly special. Today, I write to share a small snapshot of that local work along with a note for moving forward here at Writing & Rhetoric MKE.
A Note of Thanks and an Invitation
There are many people to thank for all of the work that went on behind the scenes locally for this great conference-that-never-was. I want to take a moment to thank some of those people and to invite you to spend time with the webpages and resources that were put together with a deep attention to access, inclusion, and local communities. I want to first thank my colleague and friend, Maria Novotny, for everything she did as the Local Arrangements Committee (LAC) chair to plan and coordinate an excellent conference that would have highlighted the diverse community organizations and initiatives happening around our city. I also want to thank my fellow LAC sub-committee chairs, Lilly Campbell, Margaret Fink, and Heidi Rosenberg, and all of their volunteers for putting in the time and effort to prepare for this conference. We are especially grateful to Margaret, the Accessibility Committee, and the members of the CCCC Committee on Disability Issues in College Composition for their fantastic accessibility guide. Please read through that if you haven’t already done so. It is full of great advice and details that, while specific to what 4C20 would have been in Milwaukee, anyone attending or planning for a conference should be familiar with to make their gatherings more accessible. It can also serve as a set of resources for navigating accessibility around downtown Milwaukee. I hope you have had the chance to browse all of the detailed content on our VisitingMKE pages that were put together thanks to the tireless time and efforts of Lilly’s Information, Hospitality, and Special Events/Services committee. Finally, I want to thank the CCCC American Indian Caucus, Andrea Riley Mukavetz, Margaret Noodin, and Chloe Smith for putting together our Land/Water Acknowledgement and best practices for utilizing that.
I also want to express my deepest gratitude to the editorial team for this blog: Danielle Koepke, Chloe Smith, and Madison Williams. The time and labor they poured into planning, designing, writing, and editing the 4C20 pages went above and beyond what was asked of them as LAC volunteers. Meeting on a weekly basis since summer 2019, coordinating with other LAC sub-committees to assemble content, and responding to requests from various stakeholders each week on top of the demands of their own graduate coursework and family lives leaves me incredibly proud and grateful for their dedication to this project.
Where do we go from here?
Right before our hiatus on blog posts, we had started rolling out a series of posts written by LAC members for CCCC visitors: a Newcomer’s Guide to CCCC, sober options for socializing around the city, vegan-friendly dining options, new features and events for 4C20, the Milwaukee Public Library and local bookstores, and brewery tours. The editorial team kicked off this series by sharing highlights from the resources and webpages they worked on with other local arrangements’ volunteers over the past year to help visitors navigate the city and conference. We had a few more blog posts on local dining, community spaces, and LGBTQ+ friendly establishments that we hope to post once we are on the other side of Wisconsin’s safer-at-home order and people are able to visit these businesses and organizations again. These web pages and blog posts were always one part of a larger project and blog: Writing & Rhetoric MKE. So, as we had planned to do after the conference, we now look forward to returning to the work of #writingmke.
What does a website dedicated to highlighting community spaces and practices do while we are in a time of a global pandemic and “social distancing?” We hope to highlight how community practices of writing, rhetoric, and care are still happening in this uncertain and challenging time. If you would like to submit a blog post about how you’re connecting with others across Milwaukee, how your organization is using writing and/or rhetoric to bring people together, and/or what challenges have surfaced for everyday writing, rhetoric, and literacy practices, please consider submitting a blog post. You can read more about submission details here. This includes a special call for UWM graduate teaching assistants to share stories of adjusting to remote instruction, homeschooling children, navigating “quarantine” and social distancing in the city, and more.
As we move forward with this blog amid an ever-changing landscape with Covid-19, we hope to highlight stories of people, places, and organizations that demonstrate what has defined Milwaukee for many years: resilience in challenging times. We have already seen multiple examples of peoples’ resilience and determination, from showing up to vote and voicing concerns for public health in our recent primary election to translating Coronavirus information and addressing food insecurity on the South Side with Ayuda Mutua MKE. We will continue to see how writing (social media, texts, news reports, and more) and rhetoric (i.e. demands to “reopen” the economy or persuading people to support local food banks) remain central to navigating daily life amid this pandemic. Whether local in Milwaukee or across the country, we will only get through this by recognizing our interdependence, making connections with others, and continuing to care for our communities.
Rachel Bloom-Pojar is an Assistant Professor with the Public Rhetorics and Community Engagement program at UW-Milwaukee. She is also the faculty advisor for Writing & Rhetoric MKE.
By Kris Purzycki
The crowds. The presentations. The schedules. The events. The city. The scholarship. The posters. The vendors. The swag...
Without a doubt, CCCC is a lot to take in. A conference which draws in thousands of attendees from across the globe challenges the newcomer to navigate a lot of emotions, responsibilities, and intense experiences. All of which can be exhausting when packed into a few short days. Fortunately, the CCCC community is a welcoming one, eager to ensure that a newcomer’s first conference experience is incredible. Before arriving in Milwaukee, here is a sketch of what the newcomer can expect and some general advice for anyone looking forward to their first “Cs.”
“To combat fatigue and expand the content I take away,” describes Megan Mize, “I like to create a Google Doc so that I can divide and conquer with willing colleagues; they get my notes from panels, I get theirs, all in one place. This way, I leave with more information and a diversity of topics since they may hit up panels I might not have thought to, but I don't burn out trying to make it to every single thing.” Twitter feeds can also be good when catching up after the conference itself.
There are a couple of events the newcomer should try and make time for. Be sure to attend the Opening Session and Chair’s address. “It sets the tone for the conference,” shares Lauren Woolbright, “and it often makes a good conversation starter.” Last year’s provocative address by Asao Inoue, for example, has become a touchstone for discussion ever since.
One of the great opportunities provided to the first-timer is also the Newcomer’s Breakfast. Typically held on Thursday morning, this event is a must for the first-time attendee. “Go get free food and coffee,” Woolbright suggests. “The breakfast highlights a number of things happening at the conference and key people.” It’s also where you can learn about Cs the Day.
You should also not feel guilty for taking breaks or otherwise not doing what you’re “supposed to do” at Cs. It’s a long conference. If you have to travel to make the Wednesday workshops and are committed to staying for the entire conference, you might be looking at five or six jam-packed days! Take a break. Explore the city! Once there, prioritize a gathering at one of the publisher parties or elsewhere. As busy as we are, it can be difficult to get to know those in our department. One of the surprisingly unspoken qualities of a conference is that it is a retreat away from those responsibilities that seem to wander past your office door. Plan a meetup then relish setting up that automated email response: “I will be out of town to attend a conference…”
Admittedly, this is so much easier to type and say than it is to actually do. If you wrestle with introductions and small talk, the networking experience can be a challenge of wills: Will I say something inane? Will there be coffee available? Will anyone attend my workshop? If there’s a way to soothe those inner voices, I haven’t found that salve. One way to get around this is to find established organizations and activities.
There are currently three dozen standing groups and caucuses, for example, where one can not only get involved with the CCCC community but also meet others with similar interests. Most of these organizations hold their annual meetings at the conference and are an excellent way to get involved with a group dedicated to the betterment of the field.
Scheduling and What to Attend
Like I hinted at above, people get pretty burnt out at Cs when trying to do too much. There’s this strange notion that we can check out all of our colleagues panels, prepare our own work, put in a few volunteer hours, check out an interesting standing group. Maybe it’s possible for some people but not all of us, myself included.
Prioritize two or three panels that look interesting followed by a couple friends’ panels. For the whole conference.
Chances are, there’ll be other newcomers there as well! After a few quests, you’ve earned yourself the coveted sparkle pony! Designed as a low-barrier way to get involved in the conference, Cs the Day is aimed at CCCC newcomers but has attracted a large crowd of players who regularly attend Cs. Many players become volunteers for the game as it’s become one of the better ways to meet others.
Whether you’re on a budget or not, the vendor room at CCCC cannot be denied. When packing for CCCC, you should make sure to leave plenty of empty space in your luggage for all the books, bags, and tchotchkes. Sarah McGinley suggests to, “bring an extra suitcase for the books you'll buy. Or that are free!” To be sure, unless you have impenetrable willpower, you’ll be going home with an additional 50 pounds of textbooks, collections, and works of fiction.
Most representatives are happy to talk about their offerings. Many will offer a free instructor copy of the book either at the conference or will mail it to you at a later date. A few things that they’ll likely want to know: what’s your position and involvement in making decisions on textbooks. Be honest, of course.
It’s also worth considering your own options for publishing. Several editors and contributors are likely to be in attendance so don’t pass up a chance to discuss potential projects.
Be Prepared to be Unprepared
There is only one way to really be prepared for the Cs: be prepared to be poorly prepared. While there is a certain measure of professionalization and ethos (be sure to prep your mental glossary of rhetorical concepts!) involved, there are many, many newcomers to be found. Find them! Others who have seen their share of Chair’s addresses, lanyards layered in ribbons down to their floor, and calmly tweaking their slides, will be happy to offer guidance in exchange for the opportunity to regale you with their own Cs wanderlusts.
Everyone’s expectations and anticipations for their first Cs is unique of course. Any other advice for the CCCC initiate? Share your experiences in the comments, or if you have additional #newcomer advice, tweet it @writingmke with #4C20 and #writingmke.
Kris Purzycki (UW-Milwaukee) is one of the founding members of the Council for Play and Game Studies at CCCC for which he currently serves as the Associate Chair. He is also currently working with the 2020 Hospitality and Social Media Committees.
By Chloe Smith, Madison Williams, and Danielle Koepke
Greetings from the editorial team!
As many of our fervent and devoted readers may have noticed, there has been a great deal of construction taking place on our blog over the past several months. This March, the 2020 Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) is being held here in Milwaukee, and Writing & Rhetoric MKE has been chosen to host the local landing page for the conference! Since being alerted of this exciting opportunity last year, we have been hard at work compiling content for the upcoming conference and making a space on our blog for this content. Volunteers through the local arrangements and website teams have collaborated to create the content that we’ve organized here for visitors to Milwaukee.
As the assembly of our CCCC pages comes together, we wanted to take a moment to highlight some of these new pages, and foreshadow what future CCCC content you can expect to view as we lead up to the conference.The newest main tab featured at the top of our blog, #4C20, is the landing page for the wealth of information waiting for you just beyond the horizon. This tab contains all things #4C20, both as static information and as links out to other useful resources.
Plunge into all the things #4C20 has to offer, including overarching categories such as accessibility, land/water acknowledgment, lodging and transportation, local CCCC events, and visitingMKE. Through these tabs, you can find information to help you prepare for the conference, give details about getting around the city, and find some great places for gathering with others during your time here in March.
Because of all the CCCC excitement, we’ll be taking a brief break from our usual content until the conference is over. Instead, we’ll be featuring posts on a range of CCCC related topics like advice for first-time attendees, the best spots for vegan and vegetarian diets, and some of the most offbeat attractions in the city. These posts still tie into our vision as an editorial team. Before, during, and after CCCC, we hope to highlight the opportunities conference attendees have to experience local community events, as well as the wide range of cuisine, culture, and attractions in our city.
If you’re presenting at the upcoming conference, we welcome you to go to our accessibility and land/water acknowledgement pages, where you can find some helpful resources to consider as you prepare your presentation and materials, such as the conference accessibility guide and suggested reflective actions to take in writing a land/water acknowledgement.
We’re so excited to share this content with you and welcome you to Milwaukee! Please keep in touch with us in the comments here on the blog, or on Twitter @writingmke and with #writingmke. Interested in writing a blog post of your own about something CCCC-related? We are looking for individuals to write reflective pieces post-conference about their experiences of CCCC and of Milwaukee.
We’re looking forward to seeing you in March! Here’s hoping it’s not snowing (But seriously, pack a winter jacket just in case).
Chloe, Madison, and Danielle
In English 812 this week, we created timelines of the major events and concepts in writing and English pedagogy that we’ve read about and discussed over the last few weeks. Interestingly, some of us brought larger social movements into our timelines, illustrating the effects of cultural context on pedagogical trends. These timelines helped us to track the ways in which the approaches to teaching English have evolved and fluctuated in tandem with these larger social movements.
We then shifted our focus to the book Language Diversity in the Classroom (2003), which was written in part as a response to surveys conducted by the CCCC and NCTE. These surveys revealed a disconcerting lack of teacher knowledge about language diversity. This book sought to fill in some of those gaps and provide a platform for discussion among scholars in the field.
On Erasure and Forgetting
Some of us raised the specific issue of teaching in the field of English as a Second Language (ESL) and questioned if the field has or has not changed in terms of approaching English as a “global language.” In Language Diversity in the Classroom, Victoria Cliett explains that English teachers should not focus on “a solely domestic concept of ‘standard English’” as to do so would put the field at a disadvantage in the global community (67). Cliett goes on to discuss the Honolulu conference which, in 1978, “produced a formal statement…that affirmed the need to continue inquiry into the development of English as an international language,” essentially calling into question the primacy of Standard American English (68).
To this end, a group of student teachers were studied to determine what effect knowledge of World Englishes would have on their attitudes and pedagogies. These TESOL masters students were provided varying levels of instruction on World Englishes and language diversity; the results, not surprisingly, demonstrated that teachers who had exposure to more, and more complex, instruction on language diversity had indeed developed more nuanced perceptions of students and their varying languages.
All of this 1970’s studying of and pushing for an increase in language diversity training for student teachers raised the question of why this largely doesn’t seem to be happening even now in 2018. It is concerning that so much work and thought has been put in on this subject, yet the average English educator in America may still not be receiving training on language diversity. The work of decades passed seems to go largely unrecognized, and sometimes erased, in the larger field.
That said, more small change may be occurring than we realize. For example, there is at least one course – titled Language Acquisition for Children of Diverse Backgrounds – that is focused on linguistic diversity as part of UWM’s teacher training program.
The concept of work erasure was once again raised with the discussion of the CCCC committee’s compiled materials for teachers, a project the team worked on for four years in the 1980s, but then decided not to publish. The ultimate choice not to go forward with the work was in response to the diminishing conversation about language diversity in the classroom at the time.
Another 1980s event that is discussed in Language Diversity in the Classroom is California’s passing of the English Only law. California was the first state in the nation to pass such a law in modern times and it is explained that the state was targeted for this action as a result of its very diversity. We discussed the ways in which this targeting can be read as a form of racism and an attempt to silence home and family languages and diminish cultures.
Thinking in New Ways: Think Tank session
To delve into the subject of tangible classroom changes, we held our own think tank session to begin breaking open our own perceptions of teaching and learning. To do this, we thought about classroom spaces, where learning occurs, activities for learning, assignments, means of giving feedback, and what we perceive as positives experiences of language and culture. We placed these concepts alongside the goals of dialect equality, awareness of language diversity, contextually-responsive pedagogies, and rhetorical effectiveness.
Some of the key points from our think tank included:
There are many additional books on the value and intentional use of varied dialects. Code Switching: Teaching Standard English in Urban Classrooms by Rebecca S. Wheeler & Rachel Swords and Code-Meshing as World English (Vershawn Ashanti Young & Aja Y. Martinez) are two such works for further reading.