My best friend and I entertained each other by telling impromptu stories when we were kids. I remember with a mix of nostalgia and curiosity the numerous afternoons we spent crafting stories that starred grown-up versions of ourselves in surreal situations. It was an exciting challenge to keep the story going, as she and I alternated five-minute turns until we lost interest or it was time for us to part ways. I loved the challenge of building on story threads that Monica set-up and adding interesting twists for her to build on by the end of my five minutes. Those afternoons provided a freeing and imaginative way to cap days that were otherwise dedicated to academic pursuits over which we had little autonomy.
I see a similar gift for storytelling in my eleven-year-old son who writes about fantastic worlds that he's created for his sprawling Lego designs and various action figures. He usually records story ideas on scattered pages that float around the house until he tucks them away in shoeboxes on his bookcase. I recently bought him a leather-bound journal so he can record his ideas with greater organization and pride. He keeps this journal close at hand so he can readily jot down inspiring thoughts and share them with me. I can’t wait to see how his stories develop. I am sure we will have even more to talk about; we may even take turns.
Thursday, January 13, 2011
This semester, I have excitingly added student to my dance card by returning to the classroom through ODU's distance learning program. In November, I signed up for a class about classical rhetoric and theory building as a non-degree seeking student, and as January emerged, my anticipation for returning to the classroom on the other side of the desk swelled. I marked my first day on the calendar, and knew that this day would be amazing...not too much pressure, right? What could possibly go wrong? (It's a terrible cliché, I know, but I really set myself up for it.)
Well, it turns out that a lot can go wrong; the technology gods failed to smile upon me as numerous technical difficulties locked me out of the class. The hours that John and I spent with tech support moved forward with no regard to my scheduled obligation, and I typed, clicked, and watched frustratingly as no suggestion worked. I sat in agony as the class’ start time approached and passed. But it's okay; this experience is a lesson in patience. I was forced to accept that my anxiety didn’t solve any problems, and that patience was needed to cope with mounting frustrations that were beyond my control. While I never want to suffer the disappointment of missing class, I am pleased to acknowledge that I survived a night of everything going wrong.
This week, I welcomed two new groups of students who also had their first days of class. I have a better understanding of how many of them must feel as they anticipate this new semester. I suggest that you take on the role of student for the lessons that you can learn inside and outside the classroom. It is a worthwhile endeavor, even when glitches get in the way.
Saturday, January 8, 2011
As a community college English teacher, I require that my students write—a lot. I nurture a classroom culture that encourages each student to record his or her thoughts for future assignments or for the simple act of waking up the brain. As a concerned and reflective teacher, I am bothered by the fact that I don’t write nearly as much as I did in years past, especially when I was a college student. I fear being hypocritical for not following the writing advice that I give in the classroom: write often; I also fear that my writing skills have weakened from a lack of use. How can I improve as a writing teacher if I don’t write? It is time for me to follow the advice that I give my students, so I have decided to write. I have started this blog to track my pursuit of writing practice. I don’t have any hard-set guidelines for my writing on this blog, but I hope to use this space to reflect on teaching, brainstorm for PhD research, and wake up my brain. If you choose to follow this blog, I hope my efforts inspire you to the pursuit of practice, no matter your craft or medium.