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Roll Away Your Stone December 2, 2009

Posted by monty in education, teaching.
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Thus far, I’ve purposely avoided writing about my current teaching experience.  I don’t think it’s entirely appropriate (or professional) to mix that experience with some of the mindless nattering I regularly do on here.  But for my current class on the principles of writing instruction, their final assignment was to write a letter to the class describing what they’re taking from it, what they enjoyed, whose writing stood out to them, etc.  The main tenet of the class is that teachers of writing are writers themselves, and to that end, the class wrote a lot, and they shared all (or almost all) of it in writing groups and with the entire class.  It was an invigorating experience, and I thought I’d share the letter I wrote the class, just to give a little snapshot of what I’ve been up to in the classroom, and to let those of you who actually know me to see what I look like as an honest-to-goodness professor.

*****

Dear  students,

The learning curve for me in this class was fast and steep.  As I prepared to teach my first class in my first semester, I was plagued with the usual insecurities I always feel when I’m getting ready to teach a class for the first time.  These anxious, imaginary situations invariably ended with an armed student rebellion, and me being drawn and quartered in the parking lot outside the English Building.  I’m thankful that didn’t come to pass, although I realize the semester isn’t yet over, so anything’s possible.

What I didn’t anticipate is the level of care and commitment all of you would bring to your writing in this course.  On the first day of class I established what I hoped would be our guiding principle: Teachers of writing are writers themselves.  It’s one thing to say that, and another to see it in practice.  And I saw it consistently for 16 weeks.  All of you, whether you believe it or not, are writers, and that vital characteristic is going to enable you to become excellent teachers of writing, who engage and challenge his or her students to become more competent, confident, and sophisticated in both their writing and their thinking.

As I’ve listened in on your writing groups – and especially as I’ve had the pleasure of hearing your Shared Public Writings – I’ve been entertained, educated, moved, and inspired.  There has been great humor and creativity in these writings, but also extraordinary acts of bravery.  You’ve taken many of these writings to places I never envisioned them, tackling moments of personal anguish, insecurity, and sadness, but never doing so in a way that seems self-centered or whiny.  You’ve written with passion, as Tom Romano advises us to do, and you’ve embraced Natalie Goldberg’s wild mind (even if you’ve fortunately not started hallucinating small furry animals at your side).

Despite the fast pace of the class and the extraordinary amount of work I’ve asked you to do (and believe me when I say I appreciate every ounce of effort you put into what we did here), I hope you’ve taken something away from this class – no matter how small – that you can use in your future teaching.  For me, one of the things I hope you’ve seen is that confidence in writing often comes with understanding the nature of the process.  Writing well isn’t easy.  It isn’t a static, one-shot deal.  A piece of writing evolves over time, and that evolution is sometimes painful and uncomfortable.  But that isn’t something of which to be frightened.  It’s an exciting challenge that indicates real learning and development.  I saw you take up that challenge this semester, and I hope it’s something you’ll remember as you prepare to take over your own classrooms in the next few years.

In closing, it has been a true honor and a real pleasure to have you as my inaugural class.  I realize I came dangerously close to the armed rebellion scenario when I assigned the portfolio, but I thank you for hanging in there, and I hope you see (either now or later) that there was a method to this class’ madness.  I’ve had a terrific time this semester, and I wholeheartedly enjoyed seeing you begin to make the transition from being my students to being my colleagues.

Cheers,

*****

Current listening:

The Velvet Teen – Out of the Fierce Parade (2002)

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Comments»

1. thoreauly77 - December 3, 2009

ah yes, the feeling that guides our teaching and our inspiration…


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