Thursday, August 30, 2012

Freewriting My Way to Critical Teaching

So last week I brought Theme for English B by Langston Hughes to our Writing 1101 course as the starting point for Writing Into the Day. We generally begin class this way with a point of inspiration and time to just write anything that comes to mind.    

The day I brought the Langston Hughes poem was the second day of class.  As I sat writing with students also writing around me, I had one of those moments when I was struck by an immediate idea about what I wanted to say about this poem.  (I don’t always just have a spark of an idea right away when I write... sometimes I can’t think of anything to say.)  But in this moment I was immediately reminded of a recent conversation with a friend and my ideas just flowed out onto the page in a messy and sprawling kind of way.  I put pen to paper and just freewrote my thought-flow onto the page,   

 I learned this strategy of freewriting from Peter Elbow... and it is one of the most useful tools to me as a writer.  Just get your thoughts down on the page.   Keep your pen moving.  Even if you are writing “I don’t know what to write...”  It frees my thoughts up (even at 8:00 am) to go in directions I didn’t even realize I wanted to go.  

When I did this writing in response to Langston Hughes, I knew that issues of race, class, gender and sexuality... issues of identity... are concepts that I want to be visible part of our conversations in class.  And I did choose Langston Hughes’s piece about school writing for that reason, but I guess as I sat down to actually write alongside students and Langston (via the coffee stained poem glued in my daybook) I started thinking newly about my own position as white, middle class teacher and feelings of insecurities in broaching issues of race, even as I know intellectually that I want to and need to.  Writing into the day with the Langston Hughes poem let me start to articulate ideas that had been simmering that I didn’t even realize I needed to think through.

1 comment:

  1. And that's the power of writing into the day AND writing with our students right? One of mine has me all shook up about the words he picked to talk about from Words Become Us - "hanging out with a bad set of words." That along side Tan's Mother Tongue got us all thinking about power and grammar and language and literacy - and has my diving back into my inquiry about help. AND all this free writing here to you has me thinking more about how blogs don't replace daybooks - the just add to them - making the semi-formed thoughts a little more public so that we can think together!