How do you teach your students everything you want to?.
I’m very excited to report that as part of my grad school program, I’ll be teaching an intro creative writing class to undergraduates this coming fall. While it seems very far off, a draft of my syllabus is already due at the end of the month, and I’ve been panicking a little. I’ve been given complete control over what to teach and what to have my students read, and it leaves me wondering what theory I should put to use behind structuring my class. I’ve read so many wonderful short stories over the years, taken so many craft classes and workshops, and I’m finding it very difficult to narrow it down.
I’m feeling almost overwhelmed with questions. Should I alternate fiction with poetry (I must teach both) or have half of the semester be fiction then poetry? Should I lump all of an author’s stories together in one week, or split them up depending on what theme I want to teach that day? How will I find time to workshop everyone’s work? I’ve been feverishly poring over my bookshelf this past weekend, picking and choosing. Because this is an intro creative writing class, I want to give my students a firm background in the classics, so I’m beginning with some Chekhov, Poe, and Hemingway. But I want them to begin to see the magic of contemporary fiction, so I’m filling the syllabus with Lorrie Moore, John Updike and Larry Brown as well. (If you haven’t heard of Larry Brown, his story collection Big Bad Love is on my five star list).
It’s an interesting process, creating a syllabus. It’s almost like trying to structure a story: I want to take my students on a journey through literature across the semester, getting them excited, getting them talking. I’m feeling very daunted by the poetry requirement as well; I want to give them the classics, like Shakespeare and Yeats, but I want them to be able to see contemporary poetry and write it themselves. It’s a delicate balance to walk, and I’m beginning to experience what just about every teacher feels: there just is never enough time to teach everything you want to.
In future weeks and months as I plan more, I’ll be writing more about the process of teaching creative writing. I’ll keep you posted, readers, on what it actually feels like to lead a class in discussion, workshop their pieces, and see their writing begin to improve.