They should have completed the first draft of an analytical essay, with four days of writing and thinking and researching in class, and then a week to revise. But nine days later, nearly a third of them have submitted nothing. No rough notes, no point form notes, no links to research – there is nothing. I reach out by email to ask if they need help and I get only a few responses. I try again and a few more trickle in with explanations of “business projects”, “math is taking up all of my time”, and “I’m so behind in science”. One week of lessons spills into the next and I know that writing takes time which cannot be quantified or diagramed with efficient formulas with hypotheses. I know this intellectually, but I feel the “should” shove me anyway, that inward turned dagger of insufficiency.
And even though I know that I can intellectualize the role of writing in all subjects, English is, much like other physical skills, one which requires practice – regular practice without gaps of time. The practice is the point and research can demonstrate the validity of this. It is a type of personal housework which perpetually waits to be done, which gratifies once completed, but which dismays in its demands to return and repeat these actions again and again and again. Writing is never complete, never finished. I try to make this evident in my instruction, yet, I fear they view the task of writing as quotidian. Get it done and move on. They write an introduction before knowing what they will write about and I am still aghast every time I see this. I should not be. Conceptually, they view writing as a product produced by formula, a task of fill in the blanks, or a linear equation. Inwardly again I recoil knowing this is a lesson that repeats in me. I know that I must change for them to follow so I am moving to teaching the process more than the product – the one place where they need to spend time – I will spend time teaching the doing and in not the completing.
Stuck in these accelerated structures of four-hour-hybrid quadmester conveyor belts, I opt not to force feed lessons and expect them to regurgitate the learning. I decide to formulate a new hypothetical framework; write for joy, for curiosity, for discovery; read for joy, for curiosity, for discovery. Learn about yourself, learn about others, and value writing as the process of embodied empathy.