[NCTE-TALK:2303] more on writing

Sat, 13 Jan 1996 20:40:33 -0600

I agree that all this stuff about writing teachers writing sounds great in an
ideal world, and that in reality too many teachers are too busy correcting
things and filling out forms to do their own writing. I also agree that once
you take the leap and begin to do it yourself, your life as a teacher -- and as
a person -- will be more gratifying and fulfilling and that you'll never want
to stop and wonder how you ever could have done what you are now doing without
writing, too.
I'mnot talking here about writing for publication. Would it make any
difference to you if I told you that I am not on a tenure track and I can write
until I'm blue in the face and I won't get promoted? It's true...but I write
anyway. Because ever since I started to write, I HAVE to write. One of the
side benefits is that I have backed up what I do in class with my own teacher
research so I can speak with authority about my choices...but even if that
hadn't happened, I would continue. So don't write because academics tell you
to write. That's not a good enough reason. But DO write because people whom
you respect encourage you to try to fit it into your schedule. Maybe they are
trying to turn you on to something.
So how do you fit it into your schedule? Here are some suggestions:
-Take 15 minutes at the end of the day before you go to bed, perhaps, and make
a list of things that happened to you that day -- like this:
shoveled snow and really got into it
hung out suet for birds but they haven't noticed it yet
tried to get in to see Sense and Sensibility but couldn't find a
parking space and went to new Chinese restaurant instead. Will try S and S
again tomorrow.
wandered around office depot for an hour and got some ideas for class
bought folders for business writing students...what to do with them?
After you make the list, raise some questions about what you've written, like
"how did I 'get into' shoveling?" or "Where are my snowbirds?" And take a few
minutes to answer the question. The entire process shouldn't take more than
about 1/2 hour.

-Form a writing group...maybe you could meet once a month at a local coffee
house. You could bring stuff you have written and share it, or you could use
the time to write together.

-Go to a coffee house by yourself and write for an hour while you have coffee
and a muffin.

-Buy Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones and.or Wild Mind for other
suggestions such as the two above.

-Raise a question about your teaching pedagogy and try to answer it: why was
e-mailso effective in comp last semester? What differencwe did it make in the
class? something like that...Just write about it...youdon't have to do
anything formal with it.

-try a writing marathon in class: have your kids sit in a circle and give them
a question, as if it were going to be an essay test: How did the US change in
the years between the Civil War and WWI? for example. Everyone starts to
write. After about two minutes, tell them to stop writing and pass their
papers to the student on their right. You participate in all of this. Read
what that person has written and continue writing. Repeat 2 or 3 times and
discuss the answer to the question. I know some of you said it's hard to write
with discipline issues that you have to face. I know. I've taught 3rd through
12th grades. But everytime I have sat down to write with my kids, they take
the assignment more seriously.

-Keep a "what really pisses me off" journal: You know what really pisses me
off? People making me feel guilty for not writing!" And let it all out!

Don't write for anyone else...just write for you. Take 15 minutes, maybe every
other day. Try it and let me know how it feels. I wrote nothing before the
summer of 1988 except a few letters and maybe a shopping list or two. "Don't
forget to buy milk" may have been my total yearly output. Now I write a
lot...not every day, but whenever. I do write whatever I ask my students to
write, and most of them have commented to me on how impressed they have been
with my doing that and what a positive effect it has had on their own attitude
toward writing. Last semester Iwas so busy with graduate school tht I wrote
nothing else but my grad school papers and I used what I had written the
semester before in my comp classes (ssh...don't tell!) But I did work on my
own stuff over the summer and during this snow.

Let me know if you try it...you could even write to me over e-mail if you want
to talk about it some more.