The ideal writing class

I asked my class today what the ideal writing class would be like.  I haven’t analyzed all that they said, but was surprised by a couple of comments in our class discussion.

1.  They hate peer review, find it useless.  I agree, as presently structured (though I don’t follow the recommended structures).  They do benefit from reading other peoples’ papers.  Next time, I will put them in groups of four, they will read three other papers, and have a discussion period about them without judgment, correcting, or editing.

2.  They suggested two drafts instead of three.  I disagree.  I see a clear difference between the second and third draft.

3.  They want to be given readings and other sources, have some time to digest them, and then have a long class discussion about how these sources are related to the subject of the essay. I told them that I did not know how to structure such a discussion, but that we would have one on Thursday, and they should think about what questions we should be asking ourselves.  The subject for the essay is WORK, its place in their lives, what they expect of the future, how they are guarding against the obsolescence of all that they know how — all that fancy computer gear will be SO old-fashioned to their grandchildren. Think anti-work – unemployment. What should we do about it?  Why are there no songs like Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out, or Brother Can You Spare a Dime to image the suffering that people are going through in today’s prolonged recession/depression.  This Thursday will be an experiment.

4.  They are very aware that their teachers do not fully read their papers. One student raised his hand to say that I was the only teacher who commented on all pages of their papers. At another university, the students complained that one of their teachers only read the first paragraph of each essay. I explained that I have the luxury of only having one class and so can devote time to each of their essays, while other professors are teaching four or more classes. I don’t know what the solution to this is. Perhaps fewer essays and better?  Perhaps time spent in class on other matters than writing itself, such as analyzing the writing of excellent writers, reading, and doing exercises which will contribute to excellent essays. Perhaps we just have to live with this.

5.  I will await their comments about use of online components in class.  They definitely do not want an online class, and they emphatically banned computers (and iPads and phones, etc.) from class.  Too distracting.

6. They love meditation.

So that’s it from the front lines, for today at least. I urged them to keep in touch — we need to transform the university experience, and this is just the very beginning. They’re ready for change.

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