Okay, that title is meant to be a little obfuscatory: I’m not really talking about model teaching in the idiomatic sense of ideal teaching (or best practices).

I agree with and try to practice the idea that students often need a model to follow before they go off on their own doing something. It has been painfully obvious to me that the autoethnography assignment that I gave to my seniors is definitely one of those things, since these students are new to the term and have probably never read an autoethnography (or if they have, they probably didn’t know that it was called autoethnography).

The problem: there aren’t really any models of autoethnography out there that are readily available. Certainly, I don’t have any writing resources for this assignment, having cobbled together an assignment from information available online from Susan Bennett (which was actually provided to me last fall by a professor at my alma mater who has, unfortunately, not returned my E-mail asking for assistance in finding a model).

So what’s a teacher to do when there is no readily available model? You make one.

Now, I have to make a confession: I do not have a great deal of experience with autoethnography, either writing or reading it. But I knew what I would be asking my students to do (which I think at least approaches the idea of autoethnography), and so I set myself at the task of looking at my own cultures through the lens of my own experiences.

I just finished my first draft, which I will try to revise along with my students next week. 4 pages, double-spaced, which is probably even a little more than I might expect my students to do. I think it works well enough to work with.

It’s been an interesting exercise. I think that writing teachers often forget that some of our assignments might be difficult for students to approach, and sometimes it’s a good move to try doing the assignments along with the students or in preparation for teaching the assignment. I don’t think it’s always realistic – what English instructor has the time to write papers in addition to preparing instruction, putting together assignments, and grading the papers themselves? – but it gives some perspective.

I can only hope now that this model will help students and that it won’t raise more questions than it answers.

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