On Writing / The English Teacher / The Social Network

Caution: Learning in Progress

Creamy yellow cinder block walls and desk/tables built for two with padded, moveable chairs pretending to ease the agony of this classroom masquerading as a detention center. Sure, I know that’s a fragment. I also know that this classroom offers little in the way of inspiration, and I feel the slightest bit sorry for the assembly this evening as they write a reflection, wondering if they’re doing it ‘right.’

‘Creamy’ misleads you, I fear. It suggests a warmth akin to peanut butter toast; but in reality the color is merely institutional, and therefore cold. The chairs, though! Truly comfortable chairs they are, though I suspect no one in the room gives thanks for the padding. I notice that the chair assigned to me only offers a durable plastic bottom for my… well. Perhaps I bring enough padding of my own. I bring my own words too. Here’s a sampling:

1. What do you mean, you won’t be in class tonight?

The email came on Monday. I suppose I should be grateful for the advanced notice. But what about the responsibility of turning in the first writing package? What about penning the reflection as the grace note  atop the multiple drafts!?!?!  WHAT ABOUT THE MIDTERM YOU’RE REQUIRED TO WRITE!?!?!?

2. Where IS everyone?

Eighteen students registered for the class. Ten absent when writing begins. 30 minutes in, seven still AWOL. What am I to make of this? Traffic? (unpredictable, I’ll give you that.) Weather? (it has been raining, after all!) Forgetfulness? Apathy? Fear? The sudden paralyzing kind that comes to every single one of us who picks up a pen?

3. O! Do you know how good this time is? This precious writing time?!

No, they likely don’t. They’re just trying to get through a required English class. They’re faced with GRADES. They’re wondering why this might matter, when ‘business,’ ‘PT school,’ ‘nursing,’ or ‘public relations’ are what they’re really after.

But I know. I sit, watching pens move and brows furrow as thought demand its voice. Learning is happening, right now, in this sadly colored, poorly heated classroom. And I? I am watching it. Overwhelmed by the privilege, and eager to discover what these novice writers have to say for themselves. For now, I won’t even worry about the inevitable errors in usage, construction, and voice. I’ll think about that tomorrow. “After all, tomorrow is another day.” And I have a great comfy chair where I will sit and be a writer who teaches writing.

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2 thoughts on “Caution: Learning in Progress

  1. Boy, I don’t envy you having to teach apathetic students. I dread the day when I have to teach writing to students who loathe the language. But, our passion for the written word is meant to be shared. I remember in my first pastorate I had a guy who every Sunday as I was preaching, would grasp his temples as if every word in my sermon caused him a severe migraine. I would come to count this as a blessing compared to the people who would fall asleep in the pews.

    Hang in there.

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