Social Class Reproduction

Four Rules for Teaching Writing:
Image result for image: joy of writing
Always give writing assignments that

1. you will enjoy reading;
2. students will enjoy writing;
3. students will enjoy reading what others in the class have written
4. you will enjoy writing.

If any one of these conditions were not true, then it probably wasn't a very good assignment.

Advice I give to my students: When your words surprise you, you know you are writing.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

From Trump to Junk

I am still recovering from the Presidential election, devoting time to oppositional activities (see the t-shirt I designed on the left); thus my inactivity on this blog.  Because I am no longer teaching, my eyes have focused on America's political soap opera dominated by a hippopotamus who imagines himself a gazelle.

But I had an experience yesterday that I want to record (and perhaps think about) here.

I have unwillingly approached the age of metal joints. I am recovering now from a reverse shoulder replacement. If you don't know what a reverse shoulder replacement is, you are among the blessed.

Yesterday, I was at my weekly physical therapy appointment. I met a young woman, whom I shall call Anna, in honor of a good friend. Anna was an attractive, black-haired woman with alert eyes and an open face, slightly olive complexioned. Anna was an intern physical therapist. She had recently finished undergraduate school and was applying for PT graduate school. Her job as an intern was to keep me from damaging myself, an activity to which I am prone--thus, my operation.

Instead of closing my eyes and sailing into my emotional equivalent of cyberspace, I struck up a conversation. Ok--she was attractive, which had something to do with my chatty mood, in spite of the 85 years between us. Unsurprisingly, I started talking about the pleasure of writing.

Writing teachers like me have had this conversation countless times. I volunteered that I was a writing teacher, and she told me how she wanted to write, how she wished she could, but writing is so hard for her now.  She wondered what happened--she remembered when she loved to write.

No, I'm not making this up to prove the point that I'm endlessly making. This was our conversation. I encouraged her to start a diary and a blog. (I encourage all my students to do this).

She was listening to me. I think Anna might actually start one or the other, and she might rescue her pleasure in writing. She was clearly intelligent--there was no reason (well, one) why she shouldn't be writing.

I left, as readers of this blog would suspect, angry. Writing teachers are not solely at fault for the disservice they do to students, scaring their students away from writing when they would really want to be helping their students.

Many teachers feel trapped within the teaching situation--most teachers recognize this trap. They know their students are not enjoying the writing assignments they, the teachers, feel forced to make their students complete. Somewhere in their cerebral cortex or perhaps in their dreams, these teachers know they are betraying the larger cause, encouraging their students to take writing with them through their lives.

I am very sorry that Anna no longer likes to write. She wants to, but we took away her voice, maybe because we have lost ours. And we write that junk instead.

1 comment:

  1. Many of my students are like Anna, so I encourage them to write about what they like or at least curious about. They seem to enjoy narrative assignments the best, but unfortunately much of academia doesn't think they belong FYC (except maybe the literacy narrative).

    I gave a "Lightning Talk" about this in February. It centered on reading about writers (Anne Lamott, Peter Elbow, Russel Bakers, Eudora Welty, etc) as an alternative to writing about writing. My students like it, and my contemporaries did, too, and for the same reason: It shows the struggle (of writing) is real, and it's necessary.