Naturalizing Writing—The Happiest Place on Earth

Wonderful CWPA 2015 conference at Boise. Thanks to all who worked to bring this off in the beautiful town of Boise. I want to come back. To live.
I thought about many issues while attending sessions, listening to the speakers, and talking with old and new friends. I will try to focus on one.
I wandered into a session entitled “The Wonderful World of Administration: Improving Our Programs Using Tools from the Happiest Place on Earth.” I’m slow, but after a while, I caught on. I leaned over to whisper to my friend  sitting next to me, “Do you think I’m the only person in this room who didn’t know where the happiest place on earth is?”
Beth nodded and said, “Probably.”
Since I am neither a Writing Center person nor a Disneyphile, I was misplaced in this session—as I may be displaced in life; nevertheless, I got something out of this session. In her presentation, Nicole Caswell said an instruction to Disney hosts is “Make sure each visitor leaves Disney World happy. How can we make sure that every student leaves the Writing Center happy?” she asked. She didn’t seem to expect an answer.
Uncharacteristically, I didn’t respond, but I thought: Write their papers for them.
I also thought, the happiness exit would be a good credo for our writing classes. We should as writing teachers have as one of our primary objectives students should leave our class happy—our class, not our course.
There was a lot of talk in the conference about transfer. Underneath the question of transfer lie the overt and covert purposes of required writing courses (the convert ones are complicated, involving money and the maintenance of social categories).
Purposes invite objectives. In several sessions, I listened to what teachers hoped would be the take-away for students; and here’s what I took away from these discussions: as a field, we may be going over a cliff by complicating the natural act of writing, of letting words flow from our fingers because we have something we want to say about something we care about to people we hope are listening and may have something to say back–the way I am writing here, on a plane heading out of Boise, and thinking about what kind of student writing I love to read, the kind that makes them and me happy when they leave the class.

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