Life is disorderly. And so is the process of writing. The mind is raw, full of energy, alive, and hungry. It is also ill-mannered, defiant, and unruly. “What is natural in studying, learning, and teaching? And what are our assumptions about how the mind ought to function in learning and teaching?” asks Peter Elbow.
I have never in my life experienced this much difficulty in writing a paper. It feels as thought I have hit a wall—a thick, tall, wide, concrete wall. With no footing, no handholds, no way to go forward or to turn back. I first came across Peter Elbow in the early weeks of Pedagogy, but I did not become excited about what he had to say until my husband brought home a stack of books from the library—one of which was titled Writing without Teachers. The title is what first caught my interest. I had been spending the weeks preceding that moment listening to a bunch of teachers expound on the notion that their students do not care about writing. Am I just lucky to have a class that is proving them wrong? Am I just naïve? Occasionally someone would say something that really bothered me. In a flare of annoyance I would open my mouth in defense of the students--trying to make a point about something that I truly believe—it is our attitude as teachers that are reflected in the attitude of our students.
Granted, I have been a lover of words even before I could read. They held mystery to me—strange symbols that I could not wait to unravel the meaning behind. Eventually I became a writer. I never decided to—it just happened. Language held a power over me that I could not ignore. And so, it is not surprising that I decided that I wanted to teach—but even this wasn’t a decision. It was simply what I wanted to do all along. And to be honest, I don’t care if my students walked into my class the first day with the feeling that they hated to write. What mattered was that they leave the class, at the end of the semester, with the willingness to give it a chance. I knew from the beginning that the majority of them were not there to become writers. But what they were there for was to learn. What, I thought do I have to teach? Nothing, but an absolute love of language.
And I am asking myself—why is this paper so hard for me to write? I do not know the answer except that I am in no position, as a first year G.A. to give my opinion. Or am I?
Writing is hard. It can be downright painful at times. So why is it that we write anyway? To learn, to grow, to discover? To put ourselves through unnecessary mental anguish? I don’t know and to be honest I don’t even care. All I know is that I do it because I can’t stop myself—and it is that energy that I wish to share. And maybe that is a big difference—I am not there to teach, I am there to share. (please hold the cynicism) This is all bullshit. Why the fuck am I doing any of this anyway? Oh yeah—to discover. Just keep writing. Maybe, just maybe something will become of it. The mind does not act the way we were taught to act—well-mannered and obedient. No, it is anything but. It is a wild horse. Unpredictable, erratic, fickle. Not unlike writing. How then do we teach something that bucks at the first sight of threat?
So why is this paper so hard to write? Because I have not been teaching long enough to offer a valid opinion. Because I am just trying to sort out up from down… but already I am under pressure to have it all worked out, neatly organized, and ready to offer up in a tidy package. The problem is that I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING! And I can read forever, but until I experience it all for myself—I don’t have anything to say! I am about an inch away from giving up completely. I am so close—it has brought me to tears. The kind of tears that seem to have no end in sight.
good god... no wonder students are so afraid of writing. and by the way, my friends and fellow co-workers, do not take offense in anything i say. you get me thinking and i love you for that.