Writing comes easy to me, but sharing it does not. I’ve made this point several times throughout class this semester, and reading John Bean’s Writing Comments on Student’s Papers reminded me of the immense weight of the vulnerability that comes with showing my work to those whose opinions I trust and asking for constructive feedback. I can see myself sitting in a chair, wrapped in the sinking feeling that comes with the lingering anxious thoughts that buzz through my head, constant, stinging, anxious bees.
The year I taught English in school, I let myself be driven by that anxious feeling, and the idea that there were some students that felt just as I do when sharing my work. Bean brings up the idea that we might not always approach the work of our students with the same sensitivity that we may approach a colleague. If I were to give myself any kind of credit for that one year of fumbling through teaching sophomores and juniors English, it is that I was as sensitive towards them to a similar length that I am bitter towards my own writing. While holding myself to such high standards, I’ve learned the significance of being compassionate towards those students who don’t have the experience I have. I can only imagine being harsh on somebody else who is naturally as self-conscious as I am, and the blow I could deal by providing feedback the wrong way.
When I approached the writing of my students I could tell who took themselves seriously, those who understood that my class was a form of deconstruction and reconstruction. I always found the things worth praising in the work of my students the things that made their works stand out as individual pieces of artistry, sometimes that can be something as small as one well-crafted metaphor, in other instances, it would be eloquent points written in a coherent, linear format that made it clear just what the author intended. Bean points out that one of the things often ignored by a teacher is the “personal dimensions of writing,” but, to me, that is exactly the thing we should be looking for and expanding upon.
Sommers brought up something that I wished I had recognized as a teacher, in that I am not there to instruct or guide through the craft of writing, but I am also there to represent the greater audience. It’s a different lens entirely, even if the goal may be the same, I tried to open my students to the ideas of perspective, open-ended thoughts, but at the same time I only ever did that through how I define the concept and perhaps not how other’s would. I now question whether or not I should have elicited some additional perspectives over the course of the year, if for no other reason than to actually provide those additional perspectives and truly give my students the experience of writing for an audience beyond that of one individual.
Should my opinion have been the end all be all in my classroom? I don’t know. Sommers brings up excellent points regarding the appropriation of a paper during the drafting process. When a teacher provides feedback on a draft, this can lead to students only correcting the particular errors that a teacher has pointed out without expanding on or editing the actual thoughts that they had at the start of the paper. Growth may not come this way, as the perspective those students hold is not being challenged or pushed back upon.
After reading through the two articles this week, I feel stepping back from teaching in order to sort out my views on much of this may have been the correct call.