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.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Being Retired

Recently, someone in my former field interviewed me about being retired. I told her I preferred to think of myself as unemployed. After I quit my last academic position as a consequence of a contract dispute (message: read your contracts carefully), I tried for a few others, but no one wanted to hire me. 
That wasn’t a whine, just a statement that none of the four or five universities to which I applied made me an offer—although I got close with one. Admittedly, I was seriously circumscribing my possibilities by applying only for positions near either my son in Kansas City or daughter in Harrisonburg, VA. I have not been searching for a position because I need a job. I was looking because I like to teach and direct writing programs.
The field is competitive. There are all sorts of reasons why most universities would not want to hire me: I’m a bit of a contrarian. I think grades are idiotic; argument as a genre, overrated; and personal writing, underutilized.  Introductory writing courses at the university level can use writing as a way of having students engage in conversations with their classmates about issues that affect them, not us: like the pressure of exams; the gap between home and university life; what kind of professions and life styles they are imagining for themselves. It’s actually easy to imagine writing topics that young people would want to write about and share with each other as long as you don’t place them in pseudo writing situations over which hang the sword of grades. 
You can see why most universities might not want to hire me. I might be a bad teacher, but that’s simply not true. I’m a good teacher. When my students left my classes, most of them were more writers than when they came in. I began under the assumption that people like to write—until the desire gets schooled out of them. My job was to school that desire back in.
And I’m old, at least as far as the clock goes. That might not be the dominant reason that schools to which I have applied wanted to keep me at arm’s length. But I’ve wondered about the degree to which my age was working against me. I’m 74 and no one wants to hire a full professor and have him or her hang around for two years before vanishing to the Barbados. 
But I could teach until I die. Teaching is a wonderful profession. I can help any group of students discover more about themselves, their classmates, and their relationships to the world by writing. I have enjoyed teaching simply because I have helped bring writing into my students’ lives. I miss it.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

The Art of Being Alone

Being single is interesting. In the early years after Sarah died, I was a bit embarrassed about being single, like when going to a movie, a dance, a party, a restaurant, a bar. Not having a partner—a date. As if no one would have me. After seven years of being alone, I’ve gotten into being single. I like to eat in a restaurant alone. It’s hard to describe, but I like to advertise that I’m okay with being alone. I can go the rest of the way by myself.
Of course, I am not by myself. I have Lola, my dog, my most constant companion. We love each other. I recently wrote a song for her: “When I look in your mind, that’s what love is.” I also have two wonderful children and four equally adorable grandchildren. And more friends than I can count. But still, there is something about not having a partner.
I wonder what it is. I’ll skip the sex issue. I wonder why some of us (certainly me, who was used to being a couple) shrink from being alone. It takes courage to face life alone. This requirement of courage has been understudied. People commit suicide when they find themselves in the wilderness. Durkheim described it as anomie, not being heard. Certainly, the desire to have a partner has something to do with language, being a linguistic biped, as Burke more or less called us.
I realize I am confused here. I am merging singleness with social isolation. Maybe I’m equating being partnered with social acceptability. You are not ok when you’re alone. In high school, it was so uncool to not have someone with whom you could dance. 
I thought I was going somewhere with this post, but I find that I’m not. I was nodding toward the ideology of partnership, of procreation, but I can’t get there. Something is missing. I suspect it would announce itself if I were to fall in love. I suppose what I’m asking is why we need love? I know that being in love is wonderful: I’ve been there. I still am, in a way, because I’m in love with Lola. But welcoming love and needing love are not the same thing.