What it means to teach writing

I went to an interview today for a writing instructor. The school was essentially a vocational school though it goes by the title of college.

The most fascinating part of the conversation centered around teaching writing. The student body is comprised of those who may have a language  barrier etc. They are not at this school to learn how to write well, at least they do not perceive that to be the case and the traditional college writing program will not apply. “Can you let go of your academic notions of teaching, can you find a way through humor to teach these kids what they need to know to succeed?” The challenge was presented to me plain and simple.

Of course, I stated, yes! But, it is not a simple task to teach writing to students. I know from my own experience the resistance we can carry with us about writing and writing well. At times, I still get intimidated by the rules. The one thing I do know is that I came to writing through writing, not through the rules. I grew sensitive to the language: the more I read and the more I wrote. “Perhaps,” I stated “we can read a novel, see the film, and work from there.” My interviewer looked at me, shook his head and stated plainly, “I don’t think you will get them to read the novel.”

Thus the challenge is how to teach through that kind of resistance. I believe that the core of the issue remains the same whether it is teaching at Harvard or at a career college. Writing is a form of communicating and the better one is at that skill, the better one can communicate in his or her job. It is certainly a challenge, it is an intellectual challenge as well but a challenge that could be very exciting and fun. I do see how being in such a situation can force one to expand her perspective on teaching.

Step one , the interview has been completed, step two is to do a demonstration to 4 administrators acting like students. I will keep my fingers crossed that I get to step two and then to the real challenge.

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Returning to the past

OK. I did it. I actually went to my 40th high school reunion and lived to talk about it. There was some anxiety about the trip -what would I look like next to all those others…How would my life fare next to others…BLah BLAh BLAH!

I believe I did fine. I really felt, at least most of the time, just like myself. I have changed so much over the years, as everyone has, that it is absurd to think we will some how be 17 again. Certainly, there were moments when insecurity reared its nasty head. But, those were fleeting moments.

I have always worried about measuring up to some bizarre standard. I am not sure where I came up with the standard, but I do know that it has not served me well.

I can remember discussing such issues when I would see my son trying to measure up against some unknown standard. From my perspective, he exceeded all “high school” measurements of success.

I should remember the next time I am feeling less than, that my “feelings aren’t facts, they are just feelings.”

It was good to see some people.  I am glad that I moved through my weekend with ease and maybe even grace. But, I do surprise myself. After all, I did not return to the past. Instead, I was very much here in the present with people who I knew from the past drifting by…

For that I am grateful.