Note: This is a “Monday Mayhem Post” that’s a little late, so, just go with it…lol!
When I look at my students dozing off in class I wonder…
Why are they here? Why did they bother to roll out of bed, slide into their sweats and flop into those horrible green desks today? Why are they staring at me with those blank stares or into the blank screens of their laptops or cell phones? Why do any of us bother?
Professors dress up. We slip on our uncomfortable heels and button up our bow ties. We revise our syllabi and re-write our semeter schedules to make room for one more assignment, because, well, just because…
Is it intentional?
I’ve been challenging myself and my students lately to think about this. What are we doing–and why? Two of the four classes I teach each semester are sections of the “dreaded” Freshman Composition. The class everyone loves to hate. One of the reasons it’s so hated is that it’s considered to be a “pointless” class–an extention of 12th grade English–touché.
So, this semester, I’m being intentional.
I’m going to assume that their writing skills will progress naturally through the writing process, as writing skills tend to do, and I will instruct my students on the grammatical and usage standards, as any good English teacher should. But, rather than have them write the traditional final essay–that they’ll read once (maybe) and never again–which I’ll, then, read once (or twice) then stick in a file–I’m going to have them, instead, create something of value, something meaningful, something that goes beyond this freshman class! I’m challenging these students to create a document that has legs!
I want them to write with intention, to a real audience. Well, I’m real, but not just to me–to people other than me.
They’re going to identify a problem that they care about–a problem that they want to find a solution to–then they’re going to search out a solution to that problem and write to people who might be able to do something about…
- the friend whose dad got deported
- this religious organization that’s still segregated in 2017
- the family with a history of violence and abuse
It’s about being intentional.
Because, what’s the point of learning how to write better if your essay just gets shoved in a drawer?
So, they’ll submit their articles to magazines or newspapers, or they’ll send off their letters to senators or presidents. They’ll draft feasibility reports or white papers for corporations. Whatever document they think will best serve a real purpose, that they think will make a real difference, that’s what they’ll create!
Who knows? Maybe the documents will still end up in a drawer, but if these students pour their hearts into these projects, their documents will no longer be “essays for Dr. Roper” but rather personal projects that achieve a purpose that they actually care about. These should go far beyond this class. That would make me very happy.
I don’t expect perfect projects, but I’m excited because the act of doing this is enough to shake all of us out of the doldrums. Doing something that matters is worth it’s weight in gold.
So, what about you? Have you gotten stuck in a routine? Been doing the same old thing in the same old way? Why not re-evaluate?
Why are you here? Why did you bother to roll out of bed, slide into your slippers and flop into your day? Are you staring out at your life, blankly wondering when, or how, it’s going to end? That’s no way to live! Challenge yourself! Try something new! Look for ways to make the mundane more meaningful. Why not start by looking for a problem you can solve? Even a small one. Small accomplishments can go a long way towards moving you in the direction of your goal.
For us writers, that may mean a few words, a few pages or 10 minutes! Just be intentional. You won’t regret it.