My New Book!

My New Book!
My New Book!

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

December 13, 2022: Fall Semester Moments: J. Cole and Me

[This semester went fast, felt slightly more familiar than the very strange last couple years, and featured some wonderful individual moments that exemplified why I do what I do. So this week I’ll highlight one such moment from each class—share your own Fall moments in comments, please!]

On the lifelong learning that happens at the front of the room as well.

First-Year Writing I was one of the classes I taught in my very first semester at Fitchburg State, back in Fall 2005 (two sections of it that semester, in fact!), and I’ve taught at least one section of it every year since. A great deal of the syllabus has of course changed and evolved over those years and sections, but one thing that has stayed the same across them all is the 4th paper, an assignment I stole (like all good teachers do) from a favorite teacher of mine, my 8th grade English teacher Mr. Hickerson: close reading the lyrics to a song of their choice to practice that literary and textual analysis skill. But even those aspects of my classes and teaching that have remained more constant throughout my career have nonetheless greatly changed over time, thanks to how much I continue learning not only from the experiences themselves, but also and especially from my students and their perspectives, voices, ideas, and work.

I had a wonderful moment of such professorial learning as we moved into that Paper 4 work in one of my Writing I sections this semester. I start by sharing three sample songs of mine so we can practice the paper’s skills together; the first has always been the same song I worked with for Mr. Hickerson, Bruce’s “The River,” but the second and third have shifted over time. For the last few years the third sample song has been J. Cole’s “A Tale of 2 Citiez,” and one of the areas we’ve discussed in every section are the striking shifts in that song’s final verse. As part of those discussions I’ve always said what I believed to be the case, that that final verse was sung by a different performer, a youthful singer; but this semester, two thoughtful students (and, I believe, longtime J. Cole fans) remarked that they believe the change is one of production rather than performer, that the singer is still Cole but with his voice changed to sound more like his younger self. The more I’ve thought about it the more I’m convinced by their analysis, and that idea has significantly shifted my perspective on that last verse and thus on the song as a whole (which, again, I had discussed and analyzed with at least 6-7 prior sections by this point). Lifelong learning for the win!

Next semester moment tomorrow,


PS. Fall moments you’d share?

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