Posts tagged with "teaching" - Faerye Net 2011-03-18T10:41:06+00:00 Felicity Shoulders Blog recommendation: MFA in a Box 2011-03-18T10:41:06+00:00 2011-03-18T15:49:50+00:00 <p>My first advisor in <a href="" target="links">graduate school</a> had a huge influence on me. I had several fabulous teachers in the program, but working with <a href="" target="links">John Rember</a> set the foundation of my writing life. He got me to state with confidence &#8220;I&#8217;m a writer&#8221; and taught me that being a writer is a <a href="" target="internal">continuous state of being and seeing</a>, not something you just do when you write. The books I read at his behest and discussed with him in my correspondence semester helped give definition and certainty to things I had felt as instinct and hunch: things about the importance of writing, writing as survival strategy, writing as making meaning.</p> <p>John&#8217;s craft talks at the program were also rich and valuable. They were the sort of lecture where you scribble notes intensely, and you can&#8217;t keep up with all of it that you want to get down, and you also want to be writing your own notes about all the things in your own writing and life that hook into what he&#8217;s saying, all the ideas this gives you. Luckily, many of the rich, layered craft talks that he wrote for the Pacific program are now available to me in a more complete and much more legible format than my own scribbles: printed essays in book.</p> <p><a href='' rel='powells-9780982579428'><img src='' style='border: 0px; margin-right:5px;' align="left" title='More info about this book at (new window)' style='border: 0px; margin-right:5px'></a>John has written a writing book, <em><a href='' title='More info about this book at' rel='powells-9780982579428'><span class="caps">MFA</span> in a Box</a></em>, which I am reading. To be honest, I&#8217;m reading it very slowly. That may sound like an odd endorsement, but it&#8217;s an honest one. I started reading the book on the plane to a convention. Every chapter is an essay, one of those rich interconnected thought-weavings that we got to listen to as Pacific students, with the addition of a top ten list at the end of each &#8212; valuable for focus and review, but also often funny. I found, reading on the plane, that when I was done with the first essay, I didn&#8217;t want to read the second. I wanted to write. So I dug out my carry-on and switched activities. On the plane ride home? Same thing. One essay, and then writing.</p> <p>Obviously, this is a rare writing book. I have read quite a few, and I don&#8217;t remember any of them making me want to write <em>that moment</em> like this does. The cover says it&#8217;s &#8220;a <em>Why</em> to Write Book&#8221;, and the evidence says it&#8217;s convincing.</p> <p>So the good news about John&#8217;s splendid craft talks is that you can <a href='' title='More info about this book at' rel='powells-9780982579428'>buy the book</a>, and the bonus good news is that you can <a href="" target="links">read his blog</a> while you&#8217;re waiting for the book to arrive. It&#8217;s a relatively new blog that he&#8217;s started in support of the book (hence the name!) and it is chock-full of the stuff John Rember specializes in as a teacher: thoughtful, mordant, lucid non-fiction about things which are important and hard to tackle.</p> <p>Here are some of his posts:</p> <ul> <li><a href="" target="links">Narcissism and Depth</a>, which may obviate or at least mutate two blog posts I meant to write here</li> <li><a href="" target="links">The Wannabe Writer</a>, about stopping pretending to be a writer and actually being one.</li> <li><a href="">A Writer&#8217;s Meta-Narrative</a>, about the stories everyone lives by, not just storytellers</li> </ul> <p>I don&#8217;t think I&#8217;ve ever written a blog post just to recommend another blog before. Maybe John&#8217;s blog isn&#8217;t the blog for you, if you&#8217;re not a writer or interested in writing, or don&#8217;t like hard questions. But I am so glad it&#8217;s there, that someone with so much experience and so much willingness to examine it honestly is sharing in this way. John as teacher is challenging, wise, and dryly, darkly funny. John as blogger is much the same.</p> Darmok and diversions 2010-10-07T22:46:17+00:00 2010-10-07T22:59:11+00:00 <p>I&#8217;ve been substitute-teaching again, a pursuit which reminds me that, contrary to what I was taught of sleep cycles in Psych 101, I still apparently have the 26-hour day of a teenager. Since I go to sleep at a grown-up time and no longer live with a patient mother who is willing to shake and wake seven times before seven o&#8217;clock, this is a trial. You may infer what you wish from this about my blogging regularity. In case I haven&#8217;t mentioned it, I substitute-teach at the private high school from which I graduated, sometimes for teachers under whose auspices I myself learned. It is surreal and enriching.</p> <p>Today was a great joy. Many of the sweetest moments in my return to this school are in the actual teaching, which is of course difficult, changeable, suddenly enlightening stuff. But today my task was the classic sub-task: <span class="caps">DVD</span> in, lights off, stern gaze on. It was a good day to sub, however, for today I administered a Freshman tradition: Darmok Day.</p> <p>In my eighth grade year I had argued with my Government and Language Arts teachers. &#8220;Why do you have to show us such <span class="caps">BAD</span> episodes of <em>Star Trek</eM>? These non-Trekkers are going to think it&#8217;s all like that!&#8221; Yes, I said &#8220;Trekkers&#8221;, for I was a <span class="caps">TNG</span> nerd. In 8th grade, they showed us <a href="">Wesley Whining</a> and <a href="" target="links">Riker and the Androgynous Being</a>. But in ninth grade, my Humanities teachers finally showed the class a <em>good</em> episode of <span class="caps">TNG</span>. <a href="" target="links">&#8220;Darmok&#8221;</a>.</p> <p>Freshman Humanities is an English/History combined course that takes students through several millennia of human history and a pile of major religious texts and epics. At first &quot;Darmok&quot;&#8217;s connection to this seems somewhat tenuous: Picard recounts the story of Gilgamesh to the wounded Tamarian Dathon. Today&#8217;s students, still raw from their first-ever high school critical essay (on this same Gilgamesh), groaned at the name.</p> <p>But when I pressed them to consider why the freshmen watch this every year, they did see that a sci-fi tale of a culture which communicates entirely in terms of shared, mythohistoric stories had some relevance to a class where the students establish a knowledge of our own planet&#8217;s oldest shared mythohistoric stories. Stories that will allow them to communicate and understand. I didn&#8217;t mention, but did think, that in an odd way it connects them to traditions at their own school, to years of students yelling back and forth across the Great Hall: &#8220;Darmok and Jalad!&#8221; &#8220;At Tanagra!&#8221; Cultures within cultures, with their own languages of reference and metaphor.</p> <p>And of course, as one earnest young man said when I called on him, &#8220;Because <em>Star Trek</em> is awesome!&#8221;</p>