Usually there’s a student aide at the desk when I leave the classroom. Not tonight. Tonight the lab is mine alone.

The KSU Tusc CyberCafe, after-hours.

I tried all afternoon to write. I set office hours prior to my evening class to meet with students looking for guidance on their current essay project. I might not have taken into account these students’ work and class schedules. No one showed.

I revised Part Two of my “Quitter” series. I read SlideShare presentations on collecting data, revising introductions, and working with sources. I tried and tried again to work up the courage to feel good about things — teaching, writing. Being.

I would tell you what the problem was, but at this point I’m not sure. Connection, perhaps — missed connections, or an inability to connect.

In class each student was handed scissors and instructed to cut the draft they’d brought with them into individual paragraphs. They exchanged their cut-up drafts with a classmate. Then each student read the paragraphs they’d been handed and attempted to rearrange the material in a way that made sense to them.

Finding connections among the various ideas in each paragraph. Forging new structures.

After class, I spoke with a few students about their works-in-progress. One had written to reconnect with the passion for writing she’d had when writing in high school. Another had written fiction: a man who has survived a nuclear war sits down to write a letter to future writers; he urges them to write to connect with others, and shares how writing helped him connect with his inner self.

The last student had written a wonderful account of her writing and rereading processes. Three of her paragraphs didn’t seem to fit this account. She writes for her business, she explains in these paragraphs. Loan applications, business plans. The stakes are high, and she’s constantly aware of her audience — hyper-aware.

I encouraged her to see the paragraphs not as extraneous but as vital to her attempts to share with her readers a sense of the importance of a college writing course for such work. They were this writer’s attempt to connect with her audience.

I drove home drained after capturing the image of the empty computers. After a late dinner I started this post, then set it aside. I wasn’t sure I would finish it. I wish I would have photographed the cutting work the students completed. I wish I would have photographed the drafts in pieces and each student at work looking for the connections on the pages, forging a brief connection with their fellow writers through the work.


8 Comments Add yours

  1. SilverFox says:

    Sorry things didn’t go as you had intended. Sometimes things don’t work out quite as I’d hoped but often I find that some time after, things become clear and the new things happen which are at first unconnected but end up being what you needed in the first place. I try to let things play in the direction I want them to.

    1. You’re exaclty right. Though it’s tough to practice, I value that sort of approach. It’s almost essential to teaching effectively, because it’s predicated on listening carefully and being open to change.

      Funny, but after writing the post, I realized I might have positioned my students to begin to see themselves differently as writers — which was precisely the goal of that last assignment. I guess one can’t allow one’s expectations to become too rigid, or else there’s little chance one can see another way through. A better way. It’s one of the lessons this experience with photography is teaching and reteaching: if you narrow your focus too much, you may miss the chance to capture the moment.

      Thanks a lot for commenting. I hope you don’t mind the delayed response.

  2. hermitiancat says:

    Might not have accounted for March madness… 🙂

    I like the repeated elements again. Similar to your picture for solitude.

    1. I struggled with this prompt. There is a great deal of quiet in the building where I teach throughout the day, and I think what struck me was actually the lack of connection I noticed. Solitude dovetails with this sensibility in interesting ways. The image may not do justice to it, but it felt like a good first attempt to try and capture the feeling.

      1. hermitiancat says:

        I think I’ll be doing something similar for “light”. It’s easier to focus on shadows instead and imply light by its absence.

      2. Absolutely. And I’m a huge fan of any attempts to try and capture what’s missing. It’ll be neat to see what you come up with.

  3. debs blog says:

    Not what you intended here, but your piece made that little voice in my head a lot more loud-“take a writing course, take a writing course…”

    1. Wow, Deb. I appreciate that a lot! Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment. I owe you one!

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