Lessons in crawling towards the finish line

Putting together my syllabus for Beginning Creative Writing. Even though the training we did for teaching was just last fall, it feels so distant; I need to review everything and remind myself of what all the shorthand means that I assumed I’d never forget. There’s this odd thing with time, too: it feels simultaneously like there’s way too much time, not enough material to fill the scheduled days, and like there’s too little time, like I’m going to be bombarding the students with lectures without enough time to really stretch out and let them try this stuff for themselves. (Do we really need two days to go over the concept of ‘show, don’t tell’? Is one day enough to go over all traditional Western and non-Western poetic forms?) What this means is, instead of quickly organizing lesson plans I and my classmates had already prepared and jotting down a grading rubric, I’m cutting some lesson plans in two, removing others entirely, planning every minute of a 15-week course and praying it all comes together, with some alternate lesson plans in case I end up a day ahead of schedule.

The main thing I realized last night, though, is I need to get out of my own way. It’s not about me perfectly controlling every moment, or teaching the students every last detail, because even if I could do those things, they wouldn’t be good for helping the students find their own voices and beginning a practice of growing and changing as writers over a lifetime. I need to make sure they leave with as much or more enthusiasm for writing than when they entered, and hopefully with some good tools for their toolbox. I had some problematic early writing teachers who were the reason I didn’t major in English in college despite the fact that I was already working hard to become a professional writer. Above all, I want to make sure these students have a better experience than I ever had.

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