Writing and Teaching for Fun

Writing and Teaching for Fun

Well, it’s a Thursday night and I’m just kind of hanging around my computer and thinking about the personal writing question–not really a question to me, because I am enjoying how I am teaching writing.  I go into the classroom every day to meet with students who are learning about themselves and each other through what they write.

I want in this post to take up the question of transfer that Jerry brought up in a WPA-L post yesterday & which I have included as a post below. If I may be reductive, Jerry notes that personal writing (and again–let’s get over the hangup of what is and isn’t personal writing– doesn’t move toward generalization.  It remains in the individual’s experience, the logic of One.  Academic (let’s call it scientific [Kinneavy] comes from a different direction: from research of the many, legitimizing generalizations that can the be applied to the One.  I know this is oversimplified, but that’s the general drift.

Jerry then brings up the question of transfer: of what we teach in required writing classes (RWC) transferring to other academic contexts.  I feel myself moving into dangerous territory here and think I should stop, but I guess I’ll plunge ahead for a couple of paragraphs.

Ok.  Probably a good deal of what we teach in RWCs is bullshit, everybody’s wasted time.  Most of us know what’s behind this claim–lots of money, for instance.  Seat time.  Release of tenured faculty for more research because of the cheap labor.  I’m not saying that we couldn’t imagine seriously useful writing classes for first & second year students–but, well, I needn’t go on.  Anyone who has taken the trouble to ask student at the third and fourth year levels how much those RWCes helped them negotiate subsequent writing tasks knows what I’m saying here.

Let me get to two fundamental questions.  What do I want to focus on in my writing classes.  It’s love of writing. It’s learning how writing can help you understand more about who you are and who others are (when you read their writing) and then adjusting your frames as a consequence of what you read.  And when you get your students writing about what they are going through (and including what you are going through), they read about each other and move toward generalizations about the human experience by having read about real experiences.  Obviously, I’m relying on Freire here (unapologetically, my personal hero, along with Moffett and Bourdieu).  And if writers can reflect back on this generalizing process–well, what does one need to say?

And finally, the important question of transfer.  I’m a genre freak.  My dissertation was on the uses and misuses of genre.  But now I’m writing about affect transfer.  I think that if students have good writing experiences, they will be more open to meeting new rhetorical situations/demands. If they have made the kind of connect with writing that I and so many others of you have made with writing, they’ll be able to move their love of writing and confidence of themselves as writers into new territory–understanding how this move into new territory works.

Writing should be fun; reading what our students write should be fun; our students reading what the others write should be fun; and thinking about all this should be fun.  I’m going to make a claim–if you’re not having fun with your students and their writing, well, it will probably show.

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