Besides teaching part time at the International Secondary School, I’m also teaching freshman composition at Temple University’s Japan campus. Today was my second class of the semester. What a total blast!
First of all, I could go on and on about the elements of good writing forever. But get me up in front of a class of students who HAVE to be there to get credit – and who have actually paid to be there, and I’m on fire.
In the first half of the class, we had fun discussing the two assigned essays they read. And I do say “we” discussed them – it wasn’t just me in front lecturing. In fact, we rearranged the tables in the room to make them discussion-friendly, as my dear mentor-professor, Dr. Dulce Gray, taught me to do. The students participated beautifully and we had lively back-and-forth chats about the articles about which they will be writing.
Then, I gave a mini-lecture on the value and necessity of the thesis statement. It was very brief – perhaps three minutes.
After that, the real fun began. I broke the class into four groups of three and made them stand in the four corners of the room. On a piece of paper each group wrote a topic – it could be anything: beer, children, movies, libraries – anything. They left the paper on the table and moved clockwise to the next group’s paper. On the next group’s paper, they had to devise a thesis statement about that topic and write it. Then I made them move clockwise around the room again, and repeat the exercise. They did it one more time so they each looked at each topic.
More fun ensued. I asked each group in turn to give me their favorite thesis statement written on the page. I wrote it on the board, and devised a quick outline of a potential paper that could be written using that topic and that thesis. It was off-the-cuff silliness: on the topic of schools, one group wrote that Japanese school-girls’ skirts should be longer so as to keep the sexual urges of men at bay. On the topic of food, we had a good time with a thesis about fast food and obesity rates. I mentioned defining terms such as “fast food” and even “obesity” for their readers. I did all of this while jumping around, talking, writing on the board, challenging the students to think harder, think deeper and have a general blast. It was two of the fastest hours I have had in a while.
Call me a geek all you want, but I love this. I love the challenge of shaping these first-year students into good writers. I love the challenge of making them think. I love the way they grow in only 13 weeks. And I love writing. I love writing enough to be overjoyed to share it with others.
This is who I am.