I guess it’s taken the creation of syllabi – which is almost finished, thankfully – to make me understand something about writing that I’ve seen before but also very recently: sometimes writing is not merely about clarifying ideas but about discovering them.
I have to admit to myself that until very lately I have not entirely known what I am going to do with some of my classes. Some have been better than others, and with the sophomore and senior classe especially, I have had to discover the material in order to determine what I want to teach from the materials I have. (What my co-op once said is true: Don’t worry about having all the background knowledge before hand – you can learn whatever curriculum you teach, and I think it’s even true when you are the one putting it together.)
And so it is with my writing elective, which has been vague and somewhat ill-defined almost from the beginning. I asked for clarification once and was told that it was more of a creative writing course than a research-intensive one, so I have strayed away from a major research paper (although I will likely incorporate some aspect of research into a creative piece). Other than that, I have little to no idea: no background on what has been done in the past, no course listing or blurb to indicate the direction of the course, and (as I noted earlier) no text to organize my thoughts around.
So I sat down tonight with my syllabus template in front of me, which has worked excellently for three other courses, and I thought about the course objectives as I was writing a description. Quickly, what emerged was a vision of a course that gives attention to multiple modes of writing, using a code-switching model to focus students’ attention on the importance of understanding how language needs to be shaped by considerations of purpose and audience. I listed things I want students to have had experience with: personal and reflective writing, communicative writing (which could be informal or formal), creative and expressive writing (fiction, poetry, etc.), and even a little of professional/technical writing, like formal letters.
And now I feel like I’ve already taught the class. Lesson ideas abound to me; I feel like this course will virtually write itself.
It truly is a unique discovery to make, especially since it is one that I can hopefully pass on to my students. And more importantly, now I am one step closer to securing my broad plans for this year, which itself is a discovery worth celebrating.