Saturday, April 20, 2013

my writer's notebook

When I was a teacher, my favorite thing to teach was writing. Not to adults so much because they had their giant sets of nasty fears fed by red pens for all the years of their writing education. It was hard for them to get past that. The monkey mind, Natalie Goldberg calls it.

Adults had fears that they would make a mistake (Oh, God! A dangling participle!) or something would sound stupid. It was hard to get them to let go and just write.

If you could get to kids in time, before the pestilence of the five paragraph essay had them in its death grip, they could learn to enjoy writing, to think of it as just thinking on paper, as mental gymnastics or self-expression.

My friend, Jill, and I did a lot of staff development for teachers of writing, much of it unsuccessful in the long run, but still fun. We had a lot of conversations in the car on the way to wherever, about writing and teaching writing. Some of the favorite memories of my teaching life.

Once, we had to beat a hasty retreat from a small town up north were the teachers turned not only restive but downright hostile. They wanted something different! They wanted grammar rules! They wanted margins to be measured and spelling mistakes to be counted! They wanted us run out of town on a rail! We escaped, but barely. It was like the Old West with no six-shooters.

1 comment:

Jill said...

Not to mention that we were there in November a few days before Thanksgiving, the temp was freakishly warm--in the mid 80's-- and heat was pouring out of the registers in our teaching rooms! At least we got out of there without boot prints on our asses. I still have nightmares about that place.