WITS Voices: To Be Writers!

By Matt Gano, WITS Writer-in-Residence

I hate the word “lecture.” I’ve always considered teaching poetry as a “conversation.” I hope to learn along with my students by talking about creative ideas, to open space in the classroom to unpack concepts such as “writing from the body,” “poetry as an economy of language,” “write what you know,” and other standard writing adages. But what do you do when you find yourself as the instructor asking and answering your own questions – when your class is not engaging in conversation – when the class you have designed as an exchange turns into a “lecture” (gross)?

After a rather blunt conversation and critique from the 27 students (a mix of 9th – 12th Grades) in our Poetry Elective at The Center School, it became clear that what I had been interpreting as a Socratic seminar over the first 8 weeks of class had in fact read to them as a “lecture.” I was losing them. Cue my heart dropping, internal booing, and disappointment that I wasn’t able to read them earlier.

The truth has a way of splitting paths. You can either choose to follow your ego down the dirt road and continue to be a rigid dummy, or choose to shed your preconceived ideas, go fluid, and hop in the river. They wanted to write more and talk less. Did that mean more writing assignments per class? (We were already tackling two writing assignments per class). Or did that mean longer periods of writing time? Turns out, according them, they wanted both.

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