Teaching As A Writer – A New Adventure
This week I have been doing a completely different type of writing than usual. Usually my work involves stories and characters, plot and scenes. This week, however, I have been working on curricula, goals, outcomes and syllabi. Yep, it’s that time of year again: back to school. Here at Chez Weinstein, it’s not just the kids going back, but also me; I am headed back into the classroom, somewhere I haven’t been in four years. As I have been struggling through this week of preparations, I realized that some of the writing I am doing bears a startling resemblance to the writing I always do.
I will start every day at a small school called International Secondary School (ISS) teaching middle and high school English. Two afternoons a week, I will teach at the Japan campus of Temple University. I have taught at the university level many times – at George Mason University, George Washington University and Prince George’s Community College. I have taught freshman composition, research writing, creative writing, upper level and lower level expository writing, and even basic writing. However, this is my first go at high school.
ISS is a private high school here in Japan, catering to English-speakers only. There is ESL support, but in general, most of the kids should have native English skills. Because it is a private school, it is not subject to state or federal oversight like any regular high school either in Japan or in the US. That doesn’t mean they don’t have standards and best practices and all that; it just means that those standards, goals, outcomes and the like are not as set in stone and I am allowed much more creativity than I would be in a public high school. For this I am grateful. Under the tutelage of an excellent, young special education teacher who has been with the school for a few years, I have learned to adapt my skills and prepare/prepare for, my classroom.
I wrote the syllabi; I wrote the class descriptions; I wrote the learning-based outcomes I hoped to achieve with my students. All of that took every ounce of creativity I had. I realized that engaging these students will take my brain to a new level of thinking that my brain has heretofore not discovered. I had to think about these abstract youngsters and how they are going to feel when they immerse themselves in my world of reading and writing. I had to consider how I would make them into readers and writers – and to think of themselves as readers and writers. These kids – they are going to become my characters. I am going to write them into a story and move the narrative through the school year until they emerge from the high action of the text and through the denouement of the school year in June.
What an adventure.