As you know from an earlier post, I’m in the process of planning my first creative writing class as a teacher. I’m excitedly picking poems and stories to read, as well as writing exercises, but at the same time it’s gotten me wondering about larger questions, such as what kind of a creative writing teacher I want to be, anyway. I’ve had my share of them over the years, both as an undergraduate and a grad student. I’ve had admirable, aloof ones, dispensing wisdom from on high; I’ve had young, hip ones, joking and one of the gang; I’ve had funny ones, and drill sargent-type ones who want to put their students through “writing boot camp” (that last teacher was a former Marine, so it figures). But what is the ideal?
The first thing, I think, is to (obviously) be myself. I don’t have the confidence (or the ego) to be a lofty personality; I’m also not a huge joker, so it would end up seeming forced and fakey if I tried a comedy routine with every class. I’m also not a hardliner; I don’t yell and discipline that well. What I do do well is talk. I love discussions; I love seeing ideas develop and blossom through conversation. I intend to get my students talking, and to let them take the reins in these discussions about literature.
Not all aspects of being a teacher can be freewheeling discussions, however. There needs to be a clear sense of the expectations and rules of the workshop. After all, students will be graded on their performance, so they have a right to know what will go into those grades. A good learning environment is one in which there are fairly strict expectations and guidelines, I believe, along with a lot of freedom of ideas to go with it. I’m ready for the students to hate my reading list, for example, and I want them to talk about it, as long as they can tell my why the books are bad.
So let’s turn it over to you, readers! What kind of teaching experience do you expect in a creative writing class?