Multimodality enables investigations of teaching in relation to identity, performance, and embodiment that position teaching as
flux. We are always learning on our feet in classrooms, and there is great value in dramatizing this learning through projects that
invite teachers to linger over the extra-textual aspects of being in the classroom. What’s learned may very well provide insight into
nuts-and-bolts issues like strategies for leading discussion, facilitating peer group sessions, and responding to challenges to one’s
authority. That is, as Hannah and Liv suggest, studying teaching performance can function as a gateway to grasping both profound and
mundane implications of teacherly presence.
This point really hits home when we showcase our work on the last day of class. For example, when one student shared her slideware
project on the importance of loving our students, inspired by Peter Elbow’s work on liking student writing, the class discussed small
gestures like not interrupting students during discussion as demonstration of care and empathy (see figure 6). Another student used
the multimodal assignment as an opportunity to combine real questions and exaggerated frustrations related to teaching writing with
the unlikely genre of the celebrity interview. This piece taps into performance aspects of teaching by virtue of the genre undertaken
and the choice of Tom Cruise as an interview subject, one who rarely seems to take a break from the self-conscious, hyperbolic
experience of playing a role (see figure 7).
figure 6, figure 7 (03:45)
As we close this essay, we’d like to emphasize three points that we believe should inform approaches to teacher training:
Multimodality is an invaluable method for teacher reflection and inquiry.
Multimodality can help us access, document, and reflect on the minutiae, the slips, the classroom moments, large and small,
that affect teacher identity and ethos. In addition, a multimodal approach to studying teaching-in-action can make apparent
the roles and rituals we engage in as teachers as well as suggest alternative subject positions available to us.
Learning how to teach writing involves, among other things, learning how to embody the category of writing teacher.
Not everything we need to know about teaching can be learned through reading and writing about history, theory, and practice.
Writing is not the exclusive medium through which teachers engage with pedagogical matters. Because teaching is an embodied
role, novice teachers need a lens for attending to their bodies in motion; teaching-as-performance provides just such a lens.
Embodiment is “subject to individual enactments, and therefore always to some extent improvisational” (Hayles 197).
There is nothing inevitable or final about being the teacher. Again, using performance as a lens for studying teaching
emphasizes that we can learn (and, frankly, recover) from enactments that may deauthorize us, create confusion among students,
or inadvertently deliver messages that contradict our own principles. To borrow from Judith Butler, teachers represent a
“legacy of sedimented acts rather than a predetermined or foreclosed structure” (“Performative” 274). Thought of this way,
teacher embodiments have progenitors and, like sediment, potentiality for transformation.
There is an aliveness, an on-your-feet quality to teaching that doesn’t always come through or isn’t representable in traditional
print mediums. With a more inclusive range of mediums comes the potential for new insights, discoveries, and questions—a potentiality
that we believe is crucial for teacher-training courses.
We are indebted to Brian Ringley for the creation and patient revision of this website. We couldn’t have done this project without
him. Thanks also to Computers and Composition reviewers who offered very useful suggestions for revision, and to our colleagues who
shared their ideas, words, and projects with us and allowed us to share them with you.