I have come to realize that what I seek most in a classroom is dialogue. Even if discussions take us off topic, I can always rest knowing that students learned lessons about communicating and relating ideas. When students are sharing, they are learning. It is a simple equation, yet incredibly hard to develop in a writing classroom.
There are several barriers to dialogue. Naturally, things like social awkwardness and a lack of confidence hold some people back. In addition, not being prepared for class on a given night prevents full participation. Furthermore, some students have the engrained habit of sitting in the back and not speaking. Late in their scholastic career, It may never even occur to them that they can benefit and help others by engaging. The old solution would be to hold people accountable through written dialogue. Yet, that practice reveals a more subtle barrier to dialogue: me.
There is a limit to how much writing I can read and respond to in a given space of time. I would love to journal extensively every class. I would love demand that students speak or write out full answers and then hold them accountable to that work. But, I’ve learned that the amount of time it takes me to sift through those assignments and give meaningful feedback is overwhelming. Most weeks, I am forced to make a choice between dialogue through writing and formal writing assignments. The formals win every time.…Read More