Education is about more than a degree. Its greatest purpose is to shape students into the readers, writers, thinkers, workers, friends, family, neighbors, citizens – the overall people – they wish to become. It is about setting a trajectory for a life well-lived. The study of English opens doors to the other disciplines, nurtures curiosity, cultivates empathy, and enriches the imagination. My goal is to encourage students to make connections and push the boundaries of what they believe they are capable of, rather than rely on formulaic or familiar patterns of thinking. I invite my students to explore their talents and abilities, find beauty in the written word, develop into effective and thoughtful communicators, and apply the power of literature to their lives and their understanding of their callings and vocations.
Writing requires risk, particularly when we are asked to do so in community and to share the products of our imaginations with others. Thus, respect and trust are the foundations of a successful writing classroom.
I approach writing instruction, first and foremost, as a writer. While this approach may be simple in theory, it defines the design and the tone of my courses. To create this environment, I am committed to writing alongside my students, thus modeling the pathways of the writing process and inviting them to join me in the pursuit of the writing life. The classroom environment is collaborative and curious. As teacher and students, our approach is centered upon the literary text or student work at hand, around which we engage in a collaborative atmosphere. Thus, I endeavor to serve both as guide and as fellow learner in an environment where growth is grounded in relationship and we seek to learn from one another.
Collaborative activities build class community and help students generate and revise their creative work. This may look like an exercise in which small groups work together to begin a story or compose a poem. Students may set one another challenges on a particular idea, theme, or form before bringing together their responses and examining what they have done. Students may transform the original workshop text into a new form.
Passion and Purpose
My approach to teaching writing is designed to help my students develop an awareness of the greater context in which they create. Through guided discussions, close reading analyses, and practice writing in a variety of forms, students write in dialogue with contemporary writers as well as the literary legacy. Further, a distinctive of my instruction is a focus on reframing creative writing and research as both response and discovery. This approach allows us to take notice and pay attention. It draws out what is truly original – the student’s own voice and point of view.
The best writers have passion. They understand that their words have purpose and meaning.
The practice of authentic and purposeful writing tasks, alongside the exploration of writing as a discipline with a contextualizing body of knowledge, transforms the classroom into a space where students actively participate in the scholarship of the discipline. Simply put, their work matters. Students will be encouraged to approach writing and research as an adventure by which they may discover more about themselves and the communities they inhabit. They will confidently speak for themselves and in conversation with the existing and developing community of writers and scholars.
By creating the spaces and the suitable environment for my students to say what they have to say in the way that only they can express, the composition classroom can transform boundaries into opportunities rather than barriers. Rather than reshape our students to fit a certain image of a writer, I want to help them imagine the best writers that they can be.
Power in Process
Teaching revision and process can have transformational impacts on students’ attitudes and overall approaches to their writing. My students are challenged to engage in radical revision as a manner of “seeing anew.” What is more, I ask students to see how their writing extends beyond even the process of setting words on the page and the pursuit of publication. A commitment to writing involves many areas of a life. There is both responsibility and joy to find in the writing life, and I desire for my students to embrace this. Students will leave my classes with not only a portfolio of creative work that demonstrates their growth and futures as creative writers but also a vision for the purpose that writing plays in their lives and how they can use that to make a difference.
Reflective learning and writing encourages the transfer of acquired skills beyond the individual assignments and inspires self-awareness. As students find themselves at the intersection of scholastic growth and personal independence, reflective practices equip them to move into their ongoing studies and careers by taking ownership of their learning.
Only The Beginning
Ultimately, I believe that to learn about writing is to learn about life. My chief purpose as an educator—and as a writing instructor—is to mentor the rising generation of writers, thinkers, leaders, and difference-makers.
The writing journey does not start when my students enter the creative writing or composition classroom. Neither will it end when the semester is over. The journey of writing is an ongoing experience. When students arrive at the course destination, the student-writer will see and think and observe far more than they could when they set out.