On Teaching Writing

We’re just over a week into the new year and what a busy week it was! My two short story writing classes began and I only hope my students are enjoying it as much as I am. One of my students asked if I planned to read and comment on everything they submit. I can’t imagine being a writing teacher and not read what my students write, at the very least. And because I’m teaching the course, I can’t not comment on whatever they submit. It is a writing class, after all, not a lecture class. I always believe that people learn best by doing and, if there’s a teacher available, it’s that teacher’s responsibility to provide whatever guidance can be given. I’ve always been a very involved teacher, and teaching how to write requires a great deal more involvement than, maybe, teaching literature, which I also love, by the way. When I teach literature, I encourage my students to read critically, which means they learn to understand and appreciate literature on several levels. That means my students generally talk more than I do. When I teach creative writing, my students experience writing and not just hear about it, so a great deal of time is spent writing, sharing, and critiquing. Part of the experience of writing is processing what they write, which is what they usually need more help with, so I require students to share what they write. After all, they already have a captive audience among class members. This helps students get instant feedback from readers and helps me, as a teacher, see each piece of writing with several eyes. Probably the hardest part is holding back from just correcting writing outright. Sometimes, you need to teach by example.

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