Wordsanctuary Revisited

Musings of a writer-teacher-counselor.

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Location: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

I am inquisitive and have worked in writing, editing, and teaching. I am a citizen of the USA and also concerned about the world. This is an addendum to my original blog, Wordsanctuary. That's at www.wordsanctuary.blogspot.com Please check out my column at www.insidehighered.com, "A Kinder Campus." Click on Career Advice to find it. Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Hints for Writing Teachers


With a nod to Jamaica Kincaid, whose work "Girl" provided structural inspiration.

I wrote this poem for the John Carroll University CompPost, an internal newsletter, Volume 3, No. 2 (March 1998).

I share it now for any novice teacher or any seasoned one seeking to recharge. Good luck, and let me know your mantras!

Be muse on Monday, critic on Wednesday, just another writer on Friday; don't assign topics you don't want to read about; try writing the kind of essay you hope to collect; give yourself a break from all that hard work or you will not have the strength to become that teacher you hope to become; remember what it feels like to get an F or a C; if you never got one, take up a hobby at which you might fail; stay humble; boost your confidence; try reading one batch just for the good lines; use the green pen to build rapport, the red pen to assert authority, the black pen to blend with theirs, the blue pen when you're not sure; last resort--post-its...

take a weekend off; learn the value of TBA; if you need a break, they do; skip salty snacks on grading weekends; take a water pill if you can't; don't arrive to class too early--let them say what they want out of earshot; don't arrive too late--they will lose respect; write a comma splice just for fun; imagine it looks right; let them hate English; let them enter the flow in spite of themselves...

enjoy watching them write; witness their minds through their hands; see them swirling in the currents of a surging pen; they can feel it--so will you; observe them tapping on the keys; don't count typos; hold your breath till the printer prints; cherish their random thoughts; peer over their shoulders; help them navigate the blank page, the darkened screen; let their minds be cursors, blinking in the dark; revel in their drafts; make sure they can write when the power is out and they are stranded...

remember when you were big sister, cousin, now mother in age, relative to them; go undercover in class; not really teacher but reporter; be editor again, then writer; be marketer--accentuate positive; be gatekeeper for standard, ambassador for knowledge, actress pretending to teach English, midwife at labor, boot fantasies, send glasses for adjustment; update teaching persona...

carry a thermos; if you wait, the quiet ones will talk, the talkers will listen; if no one participates, you can write together; if writing, then growing; notice their shoes--enter them; make them think of yours, even for a moment; don't worry if they miss your jokes; don't cry if a few seem bored; read what they have written; read great work; read anything that helps...

sit in the back of the room at least once; always have plan B ready or make up one fast; spend a whole class listening; acknowledge any of their strengths and all of your weaknesses; expect to go gray, but vow to go slowly.


Blogger Pat Washington said...

Maria, this is a sweet, kind, gentle piece of writing on teaching English and the art of writing. John Ettore and I have noted on a couple of occasions how horrible it is for nonwriter teachers to teach writing. Although it's really not the teacher's fault - being stuck with a dry curriculum and no writer's flow. And yet I wince as some of the essay instructions, the strict forumla wrting, that come home with my teenage son. I would love to hold writing workshops in the schools, as I have in my home but, although I have my BA, I don't have a teacher's certificate.

Thank you for writing this. Stop by my blog sometime. As a busy single mom I only get to it on occasion, although I must try to get to it more....

October 5, 2009 at 10:34 PM  
Blogger Maria said...

It's very nice to meet you in cyberspace. I will certainly stop by your blog. I find teaching to be a lot like (I imagine) the creative process of conducting an orchestra to be. There are various talents within the class, and my goal is to elicit, entice, and encourage creative response. I had fun writing the poem I posted here. The draft was on tiny sticky notes...which I wrote on fast while cooking dinner...

October 5, 2009 at 10:44 PM  

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