Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Thoughts Upon Starting a New Semester of Teaching

Those who are in college trying to earn a degree in order to better their lives are working hard. They are sacrificing. Some of them might not much like their classes, or at least some of the required classes, like the classes that I am very likely to be teaching. English. Essay writing. The research paper.

It’s hard for them, sometimes, to see how it’s going to matter in the future. I get it. And yet, I also know it is going to matter to them in the future.

This term, when administering a start-of-class diagnostic essay, I asked students to write about their previous experiences with English classes, writing, and/or reading (with thanks to Bob Zacny, who suggested the prompt). The results have been fascinating. Some students have written passionately about how much they HATE English classes and being told what to read and write. In fact, the finest diagnostic essay that was written was written by a young man who passionately and persuasively argued how much he hated English classes and being told what to read and write.

It was beautifully written. Passionate, clear, concise – all you would want in a well written five-paragraph essay. Now I need to figure out how to channel this young man’s passion into the assignments that he’s going to have to write on in this course. I can’t change the curriculum, but perhaps I can help make a connection, or help him make a connection to something that interests him. He’s a very good writer and I want him to learn and succeed.

Earlier this evening I was thinking about composing a blog about the “grotesque disconnect” between the Wall Street bailouts and the lack of jobs for so many in America today, and that is likely a subject I will return to, but, it seemed to me that this subject, this thinking about, “How do we effectively teach our children?” seemed somehow more important.

We need to teach our children. We need to meet them where they are, and we need to understand that they inhabit a world that is FAR different from the world in which many of us, or at least, I, grew up. I did not have the distraction of the Internet or the pleasure of the iPod when I was growing up and first enrolling in college. Nor did I have the beneficial parts of the Internet (research, hello?) when I was first in college. But, students today need to learn how to marshal these resources effectively, and they need to learn how to judge the reliability of what they are finding on the web. There are a lot of bogus websites out there.

At any rate, I’m rambling now, so should stop. I guess the point of this blog is that I think we all can write. It’s about writing about things or issues or ideas that we care about – that’s what matters. That’s what makes our writing worthwhile.

So, write. Express yourself. Even if it’s only for you to read in some distant day.


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