Question: What wells up fear in an English teacher's blood, nearly paralyzing her from moving forward in life?
Answer: Writing for others to read!
Seriously, those of us in the this wonderful world of word-smithing don't always practice what we preach. But sure shootin' we know what we preach and as soon as our fingers hit the key board and we are expected to poor out meaningful sentences and crisp, to the point words for all the world to see, we wonder, Oh, my goodness what judgement did I bring on myself by putting words out there that are formed together in incomplete thoughts, with incorrect punctuation and without evidence of smooth-flowing, cohesive ideas? Its enough to bring on a mini-panic party in one's head, requiring a small pep-talk prior to hitting that dreadful "publish" button.
How often do I tell my students, Writing is about getting your ideas down. Don't worry about the conventions, the flow, the presentation. Just get your ideas out there and worry about the rest later.
Let me tell you, OFTEN! And if I could I think of a way to do it, I would set text message alerts to be sent out to my students daily reminding them, Just write! Don't worry about it being right! And then those lovely words could be associated with whatever obnoxious alert bell they have attached to their social life.
But honestly, when I sit down to write and I know that my words are going to be shared with others, especially those in the field of education or those who know I am supposed to be good at grammar, organization of ideas, specific support, in-text citations (For the love, who came up with all those rules, anyway?), I freeze-up.
True confessions, it took my 5 hours to write one section (4 pages) of a rough draft for my most recent research paper! And I would love to say that the following sections went more quickly, that I was just a little rusty after having been away from the actual act of research writing (teaching research writing has been more my mode lately). But alas, it is not true! Every blimey section has taken me at least 5 hours and left me wondering, what in the world I saw in writing when I started on this career path. I mean really, wouldn't pulling your eye brows out with a tweezers be more appealing than spending 25 hours on research paper ROUGH DRAFT? At least with the former the pain is at most 20 minutes--not 25 hours!
So why do we English teachers do this? Why do we preach to our students about the beauty and importance of the process of writing? Why do we force, err, I mean, engage our students in this treacherous process of penning ideas to paper? Why do we believe it is good for them?
I believe it is because, in the end, we know that just because a task is challenging, and possibly produces fear and anxiety, doesn't mean it shouldn't be done. Such a process (one that is challenging and fear-invoking) whether it be in the classroom, on a court or in a neighborhood, produces strength, accomplishment, determination, and quite possibly meaningful relationships others. In the English classroom it produces an artifact that reflects a student's progress of learning. And what could be more beautiful than to stare at a set of paragraphs that shows the original thoughts of an individual who took a unique journey down a scary path, to find that they had ideas that mattered and were worth sharing?
So in fear, I will continue to write for others, but I will also remember that no matter what others think of what I write, I have done something courageous. I have taken a journey down a scary path to discover what I have learned. And in the end I will have an artifact that documents a process that, though painful at times, brought me to a new understanding of a subject and of myself. "And that has made all the difference."
Links to all the, Go and See Study, sessions.