As I have mentioned earlier in this blog, I retire at the end of this school year. I have mixed feelings about leaving teaching after 23 years in the classroom. Some things I won’t miss, such as committee meetings, office politics and dealing with students who really, really don’t want to learn or just want a grade without putting any effort into it.
But there are a lot of things I will miss as well. I’ve decided that a few of the future blogs will feature these items. I’ll try not to get sickly sweet with the nostalgia, but I think there might be some merit in talking about the pluses of being a writing teacher at a small university.
The first thing I will miss is The Rough Writers, the small creative writing club for students that I put together with two students–Edward Cheever and Kathy Douglas–back about 12 years ago. It has had its ups and downs, with membership being as high as ten people as as low as a couple of students. We typically get together once a week to review five pages out of someone’s manuscript that they are working on–poetry, short story, or novel; sometimes a screenplay. In addition, we do writing exercises that sometimes are educational in nature, and other times are just meant to be fun. Here’s an example:
Last night, we met and each thought of an exotic character (a zombie, a dragon, Medusa, etc.), and then thought of a mundane task that required a list of instructions. For example, one of our students ended up giving instructions on how to bake a cake by Frankenstein’s monster. It’s not intended to teach much, but it’s a lot of fun, and that’s important too.
Then we each put two random words on the white board and we were asked to write a ten-minute poem. Last night, the words were: hamster, neanderthal, sluggish, supercilious, witty, lively, player piano, dog. Here was my poem:
Hamster, hamster, burning bright,
Be my neanderthal tonight.
In a sluggish, supercilious way,
Be so witty, so lively, so gay.
Upon your player piano play,
Like a dog, I tell you, stay.
Hamster, hamster burning bright,
Neanderthal with me tonight.
In addition to weekly meetings, we plan special events, such as occasional poetry slams, and our annual Creative Writing Contest, which is open to the entire student body.
Writing is a creative process, but for most of the time, it is a lonely process. It’s always a treat to share this creative process with others, and I will miss these students and their creative energy.