July 12th, 2016

Teaching writers

I have some feedback on Saturday's teaching and it's given me a lot to chew on. I was using my own research and translating it to meet writers' needs. And it did. I have a letter that has some lovely, lovely praise from a student who not only 'got' what I did, but why precisely I was doing it. I m apparently "a gifted teacher, intense and demanding, inspiring and engaged" and have an incandescent intelligence. I said that some things would change post-operation, and this is one of them. And that's the good news.

The not-so-good news is that, no matter how intense I was and how much the students kept up (and they all did, 13 writers at various stages in their careers and with various stages of intellectual development, in a small room in mid-winter) I need to teach the subject at university-level. Ideally it would be a 3rd or 4th year subject (although a modified version, focussing on narrative choices and structure of story and genre markers, could be 1st or 2nd and I suspect I could develop a more advanced version for postgrads) and, ideally, take the whole year. It meets so many of the professional needs of writers from so many directions, even in the 6 hour version I gave on Saturday. These last few days, however, I've been assessing that 6 hour version and realising how much more students could get out of it with research exercises and writing exercises and class presentations. It could be one of those foundation courses that ground a student for life.

I've not had this feeling of "writers need this" to nearly the same extent with any of my other material. I've worked out courses for specific needs, but this one is for all long-form writing. It's about narrative and story and culture and how these things are part of us and require certain skills and how to develop those skills and make choices within the framework of one's own needs and capacity. I've translated some of my courses into university-suitable material because it's a fun exercise (I enjoy designing curricula) and because it's handy to do, to discover the limits and depths of a topic, but I've not been faced with something new and based on my own research that's so perfect for a broad-spectrum of writers.

I'm glad I could give my class on Saturday so much, but I really wish that there were somewhere that would let me give students the rest of it.

What this means is that I've finally sorted out what my teaching can mean and can do. I moved into the writing side of things rather than the history because I felt I could make a bigger difference there, but it wasn't until now that I could see so precisely what kind of a difference I could make.

I wonder what other parts of myself will re-emerge in the next few months. Could be interesting.