Sunday, March 03, 2013

Be Careful of Teaching What You Love: Part One


I love writing. I love talking about writing. I love telling people what I think about writing, and what I know and what I “feel” is true. It’s one reason I’ve done quite a few nonfiction pieces on writing, including my book, Write With Fire. Many of the writing related pieces I’ve produced began because I wanted to understand some concept myself, and I learn best by writing about it.

Because I know that writing about something is a superb way to learn about it, I always wanted to incorporate that element into my teaching.  In the early 1990s at Xavier I saw a way to do that. Du Bois Williams (Irvin) and I got a small grant to create a writing guidebook for our psychology students.  Writing in Psychology was the result, and it soon became a class. Because we had so few faculty, we weren’t able to offer the class very often but when we did I typically taught it. I’ve taught it most years since then, and as we’ve added faculty and rearranged our curriculum we’ve been able to offer it more frequently.

I wanted to teach writing. I think many people hope for a career where they can do and be involved with the things they love. It seemed, once we had the course developed and once the “Guidebook” was published officially as the textbook for the class, that I had arrived at that high point. Every other semester I was going to be able to teach a whole class focused on something near and dear to my heart.  How could it get better?

Unfortunately, I was very naïve.  Today, the writing class is the least favorite of all my classes. I won’t say I hate it; I will say I dislike it. I imagine that if I do it for another four or five years the dislike may well turn into hate. I know exactly why my feelings have changed. It isn’t just one reason, but a number of them. In part two of this post I'll go into the reasons.

NOTE: I give a test tomorrow so my blogging may be sporadic in the first part of the week. I also get my second set of papers in the writing class on Thursday, and give another test on Friday, so at the end of the week I'll probably have another forced hiatus from blogging.  Just giving everyone a head's up
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18 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Did it become repetitive?

Aimless Writer said...

I can't wait to hear the whys. I love my Creative Writing class, Journalism class and even loved English. I would think it would be fun to spend my day just sharing what I know. However I can imagine there is so much more to teaching than I know.

Charles Gramlich said...

Alex, not really. It's more what happens in the give and take of the class.

Aimless Writer, If I were teaching a creative writing class to older adults it might also be different.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I am waiting to hear....generally the writing classes I have taken have been very rewarding. I know there is a lot of reading for the instructor but the students are generally motivated.

Riot Kitty said...

That is really interesting - my brother had a teacher who told him never to try to write and teach at the same time. What do you make of that? He taught English.

sage said...

I want to hear more... There are things I love teaching and keep teaching. Next month I'm teaching a class on Mark Twain and the American West--a subject that I enjoy... I hope I won't come to hate it.

SzélsőFa said...

i too, want to hear the story behind.
i once taught English to a high school boy. he was not really blunt or anything, but had not much interest in studying and in the subject either.

i did my job anyway, but had no students ever since.

Deka Black said...

Well, i realy hope never turns into hate! That can be a disaster for someone who write!

the walking man said...

Seems to me that the only real thing you can teach in that kind of class is terminology. As the children who go on to become Phd.'s it is up to them how they will use the terminology. Them that go into different fields well...they will either be able to communicate in writing that makes sense or they will revert to the three letter vocabulary. OMG WTH SMH and on and on and on.

Charles Gramlich said...

Patti, I think if it were an adult education class I was teaching that might make all the difference.

Riot kitty, during the time I'm grading student papers my own writing comes to a standstill. It's mainly because of having to clear my head of their way of saying things in order to get back to the way I say them. That's probably what that teacher was saying.

Sage, I also developed a course in evolutionary psychology and I still love teaching that course so I don't think it is inevitable. It's the interactions that are critical.

Szelsofa, I'll put up the second half of the post on Tuesday. :)

Deka, I don't think I'll come to hate writing, but I may hate teaching it.

Mark, I definitely am not able to teach as much as I'd hoped.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Sadly, mine was not adult education. Most of the students were under 25. I was the oldest.

RkR said...

Oh man, a cliffhanger!

Rachel V. Olivier said...

It is amazing how sometimes the things we love get twisted when we also do them as work.

Snowbrush said...

Charles, I'm so sorry, but am at least glad that you teach other classes that you like better.

Ron Scheer said...

I just retired from 13 years of teaching writing full time. I found two things over the years: (1) students got more interested in their writing if they each picked their own research topic for the whole semester, and (2) they got a lot out of critiquing each other's writing in class. It made the class more interactive (which they preferred), built their confidence as they became "experts" on their subjects, and made them more aware of writing for an audience. The only thing I tired of was reading and commenting on their papers. My life always came to a stop for 2-3 weeks then.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Charles, I'm waiting for part two of this post, too, but I'm guessing your writing class is a largely one-sided affair where you give it all you have got while the students have something else on their minds. I could be way off the track here.

Charles Gramlich said...

Patti, adult education seems to be a whole different kettle of fish.

RkR: lol

Rachel, absolutely

Snowbrush, I have several classes I really love to teach. :)

Ron, I do let them pick their own research topics and encourage, but don't require, that that they do their whole sequence of papers on that general topic. We don't do a lot of peer critiquing, except for quizzes, so maybe that should be something for me to try.


Prashant, pretty much, although it breaks down into levels.

laughingwolf said...

one way to suck the passion out of something you love :(