Friday, February 10, 2012


i got the sweetest note from a student today. i almost cried when i read it.

the most curious thing has happened in my classes, i am finding i am engaging the latent writers in my students. how am i doing this. by being their audience. today we embarked upon our second essay and i ran smack dab into a wall. you see, i draft an entire sample essay on the board from one word. any word that they provide. understand that i never know if this is actually going to work out. if there will actually be an essay at the end of the road. but i figure, if we are asking these students to generate essays on the spot, for midterms and finals, we damn well better show them how to do that. i demonstrate that activity no less than six complete times in my class, four times before the midterm, and twice before the final.

when we first started the semester i was excited, because at least i knew what was coming and the cadence of the class. i could venture away from the text a little bit further than i had in the past because i know what they need to know.

so today, essay number two.

they give me a topic, and off we go. i skip step number three. my bad. but when i got to step four, i stalled out, presumably because i skipped a step. i looked at them and said,
i've got nothing. so what do we do?

i've told them endlessly to go back a step or two if they get stuck. it had never actually happened as i am, dry erase marker in hand, standing before the class. but i'm glad it did. if i can get unstuck, they can too. and those students who generally snooze in the back of the room were the ones who were chiming in a lot today. it was nice.

so, unstuck we move on to step five. where i proceed to get bogged down in the details again. so we discuss how we can rearrange paragraphs and flesh out things out of order, that is, create an idea map and flesh out our ideas there.

i asked their opinions on what the topics should be for the essay coming up and they chimed in. so we have a couple topics, now i have to settle on angles.

it's not that my class is a democracy, far from it. i'm a tough teacher. i had a lot of surprised students today, in good and bad ways. but i accept revisions. and i told them,
i will read that essay again and again until you get a grade you are satisfied with.
it is not about me giving them any particular grade, it is about them learning how to correct their errors. revision is *gulp* part of that process. let me be clear. i have never revised, not anything in this manner, but i understand why others need to. they have been turned on to my writing process but it is not their writing process. i aim to teach those whose styles are different than mine as much as i want to teach those strange birds who are just like me.

i love my classes. i love my students. i'm grateful for every moment in their lives. i never imagined teaching could be so rewarding.

i am also offering a poetry class in april. i will be reading at massachusetts poetry festival. and i'm finishing up my thesis class in the city this semester, with the hopes of publishing in one way or another when i am done. oh, and i'm going back in the studio to record a second cd. i love doing that!

there will be more readings, more writing, more teaching.
and i couldn't be more pleased.

1 comment:

Kim said...

You are a fabulous teacher! Your students are so lucky to have you to guide them in the writing process. Josh has been amazed how many have reached college age with not a real clue as how to write an essay. For him, it came pretty easy. Now, can I send you Brady for a few weeks? Actually think there are good teachers at his school who will get him there.