Posts tagged: teaching

On Teaching Writing

By , February 4, 2011 10:50 am

Among other things, Roger Rosenblatt teaches writing at Stony Brook University. He talks about teaching in a recent interview with The Christian Science Monitor.

Two key paragraphs hit home, the first, because it has already caused me to raise the bar for myself:

Who taught you to write?
I went to the the Friends Seminary in New York, which was a dreadful school largely, except for one fellow named Jon Beck Shank. He was a Mormon who had come out of the army, went to Yale, and was very interested in theater. He gave us Canada Mints to taste and said, “Taste this and write down what it tastes like,” so we would learn to write metaphor and simile. He had us read poetry, a great deal of poetry so as to appreciate original language. When we studied Shakespeare he had us build a model of the Globe Theater. He just did things that no other teacher would have thought of doing to get into our minds so that we would begin to understand that writing was something that was important to our lives. I was very very lucky to have had him. He meant the world to me.

The second, because it reminds me that I matter as a writing teacher:

What have your students taught you?
That they need me. They need me and my ilk. They need teachers who value them and their lives. Because writing is a validation of their lives and they know it. Whether they’re writing poetry, essays, or stories, it doesn’t matter. Every writing teacher gives the subliminal message, every time they teach: “Your life counts for something.” In no other subject that I know of is that message given.

I learned nothing new in either of these paragraphs, but I needed reminding.

By the way, I have never heard of Jon Beck Shank until today. A Mormon myself, I’m interested in knowing more.

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