I love teaching.
I love the opportunity to put on shoes and lipstick and leave my little cave every once and awhile.
I love being around when new writers experience epiphanies and evolution.
I also find it hard sometimes.
Trotting out the shoes and lipstick, yeah, but also trying to figure out how to be most helpful to my students.
What resources to offer... what to say and how to say it... what to require...
How to balance encouragement and critique... how to stay organized and on track... how to assess creative work...
At the end of each semester, I reflect on how it all went (okay, so I'm procrastinating because my grades are due today).
Here's what I've come up with this time around:
1. Sitting in a circle is a good idea, even when I'm giving a sort of lecture.
2. The fewer lectures the better.
3. The more reading aloud the better.
4. Humor's a good idea, too.
5. Workshops are richest when there are many voices. I've resisted "required commenting" for a long time, but I think I'm going to experiment with a new format next semester to get every single student to speak up more regularly.
6. Online workshops also work best when communication is frequent and vital. Students say they want to be left alone to work at their own pace, but that actually just allows them slip away into the great interweb void. I need to play a little bit more of the street performer to keep everyone engaged from beginning to end.
7. Meeting in person, at least once, might really, really, really help an online workshop gel. Just attaching faces to names and saying, "Please pass the cream." That sort of thing. Next semester, I plan to schedule an in-person get-together right out of the gate.
8. I work best when I have a particular day or two per week dedicated to teaching prep and student critique. I need to get in the zone through immersion. A little bit here-a little bit there is not efficient or inspiring.
9. Trying to discern between a student who needs a little empathy and a student who's taking me for a sucker is.not.easy.at.all. So, although I do get burned at least once a semester, I'm still going to err on the side of a little empathy.
10. Not all students have library cards. I'm seriously thinking of making this a required part of all my syllabi from now on. I mean, it'll look like a requirement but it will really be a gift. Y'know what I mean?
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some really dynamite portfolios to read.
The written word is alive and well in Austin, Texas.
Indeed it is...
Thoughts at the End of Another Semester
I love teaching.