A First Look at Lore and Bits

Part of what I’ve been doing in this blog is noodling around the questions of how adjunct writers’ circumstances affect their writing (and writing teaching), and, by implication, to what extend adjuncts are working in special circumstances.
Well, here’s one answer to that last question: Bedford /St. Martin’s thinks that adjuncts work in different circumstances. At least, that’s the implication in their online publication Lore. Interestingly, Lore is “a journal for adjunct and graduate student teachers of writing” but it is “edited by TAs, adjuncts, and assistant professors.” I’m tempted to hare off down the “What, no senior faculty need help teaching writing?” trail, but truth be told, comparatively few of them teach writing courses that this is probably simple realism on Bedford St. Martin’s part. So, start with what this dedication implies: graduate students and adjuncts are classed together. It suggests they may also need the most help, and perhaps that they’re the ones doing the composition instruction. (It’s certainly the case at all schools I’ve been associated with.)
What, then, is Lore, why does it exist, and what does it do? The history of Lore can be found in A Journal Built Around Lore” by Nick Carbone. There Carbone reviewed Lore’s initial history in 2001-2004, as well as a 2009 special issue. Since then, Lorehas become part of Bedford St. Martin’s Bits, a multi-author blog providing advice on teaching composition. (That this new blog still acknowledges the role of the adjunct in composition can be seen in the fact that the blog includes Adjunct Advice from Gregory Zobel.)
The idea behind Lore—creating a “journal built around lore”— is an intriguing one. On one hand, it represents a kind of theoretical and perhaps political breakthrough: scholarship focusing on pedagogy is undervalued, and so emphasizing it challenges that. The day-to-day elements of teaching that show up in lore is highly situated, and valorized personal experience: both of these depend on relatively recent theoretical structures to be considered worthy of academic writing. On the other hand, my cynical side suggests that Lore may simply have not been necessary until now—that it is a product of the fragmenting academic workplace. (It is definitely a sign of a changing academic workplace, both in the fact it is electronic and in being associated with a publisher.)
My speculations aside, Lore is highly useful. Victoria Sandbrook, who is blog manager at Bedford St. Martin’s, indicated that the site’s getting a lot of traffic, and that folks are staying long enough to indicate that they’re reading, not just bouncing in and away. The publication’s being cited, and people are linking/referring to it.
I’m going to take a simpler approach and claim that Lore and Bitsare both useful as personal testimony. I set out to simply sample the various blogs of Bits—and found myself taking notes for assignments and handouts. Some of the blogs won’t be useful for me, but others, including those I initially dismissed, will be. The best example is Barclay Barrios and his tips on teaching composition. I’ve been teaching writing for around 20 years now, and was highly skeptical that I’d learn anything.
I was very wrong. The post from 11/6, on guiding students through paragraph organization through a formula, was immediately useful. I’ll tinker with it, but I’ll be applying it…within the week. What’s more, the idea behind the tip led me to consider if I could create similar heuristics for any other areas where students regularly face challenges.
Some of the tips are pretty pedestrian, but they’d all be useful for the graduate student portion of the audience: new teachers need tips on even the basics. As to what might make this applicable to adjunct instructors primarily, or especially, it would have to be the brief tip format. These pedagogical nuggets can be read in a few minutes and applied immediately, anywhere in any course. You don’t have to have a lot of time to introduce a theoretical frame—you don’t even have to have control of your own course design. In that, Bitsis even more useful than Lore itself. Lore’sarticles and forums provide considerable useful perspective on being an adjunct, but they aren’t as immediately applicable as Bits. Taken together, though, very useful. Thanks, Bedford St. Martin’s.

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