Friday 19 December 2014

The writing and teaching in the title “writing teacher”

Who exactly teaches?

They say that those who can’t teach. However, that is not quite how it works in Higher Education. The emphasis is on the expertise. This is acquired through our research. If you happen to be a creative practitioner that research is generally through practice with some reflective commentary. So you very much have to be able to “do” your particular form of creative practice.

So, I’ve gone back to my earlier routine of putting my two hours of writing a day first. That may mean as was the case last night that I’m looking at work emails until after 8.00 p.m. So be it.

So, what about the teaching

Well, I’ve been doing quite a lot over the last two days.
I’ve led an MA Writing Workshop giving information about how to write a Statement of Poetics to our MA Playwrights and our MA Creative Writers. This was really absorbing. We look at different styles – the script about the script, the brief abstract that describes the physical piece that is being given in elsewhere and the one that looks like a newspaper article. They seem very different but in fact they have some basic features in common; they all show a rich content, they all refer to theories and other writers work and they all show something of the writer’s process. We work on brain storming ideas for the Statement of Poetics by answering some questions about the work in progress. We then turn the ideas that the answers suggest into a bullet-pointed list. Now, all they need to do is write one hundred words about each bullet point –job done.
They are then asked to define their creative project in two lines. They read them out and someone asks them a question – the first one who thinks of something. This helps them focus on exactly what their project is about. I even suggest that they keep this taped to their computer screen. The question helps them define how well they really know their project.
We cover a lot of ground.
I also deliver a one hour lecture on what exactly is expected in the second assignment. I invite questions and answers. I also run three seminars offering drop in slots. Students come by and ask further questions about their work and can even show me work in progress.  My comments are to some extent indivualised, though there are several individuals to whom these comments apply.
“Can you get a self-assessment into 200 words?”
“You can!”
“Can we include any script in our writer’s response?”
“Yes you can, from within the range you have met in your classes, that are on Blackboard or that you have met in Intro to Drama. You may discuss one text or several texts.” 
“I don’t keep drafts.”  
“It’s a good idea to. Well think, about your process and represent that by recreating three of the stages you went through.”
I look at a work in progress and point out to the student its strengths and weaknesses. I’m impressed by the work that I see.
We also talk about how the mark descriptors are used, how words turn into numbers, what sort of feedback we aim to give, how the timetable works out and how next year’s modules  might be selected next year – which is best for which sort of student.
I enjoyed all of this much more than sitting at my desk all day and completing admin. This is the real work. I also think the drop-in sessions work better than one-to-ones. Students can spark off each other and you can actually cover more ground in the given time. I’m now going to adopt this for all of my modules.
We can teach and comment this way because we can write. What we teach and how we critique comes from our experience as writers.                        

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