Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Power of Writing

During my 15 years at my current position, I've had the opportunity to propose a special topics in English class to be listed on the schedule, and each time, though enrollment was on the lean side, the classes were given the go ahead. As such, I had a wonderful semester of reading and talking about literature of Golf. I had another semester of hashing out issues brought about through the readings for a Sports Literature class. While both of those classes were fun and gave me the chance to share my love for sport as well as my love of reading with students, they didn't leave me walking out of class at the end of the day with goosebumps like happened to me today.

This semester, I've had the pleasure of working with just a handful of students who signed up for a class on writing memoir. With only five students in the class, I can spend a lot of time with each, reading as they add to their memoir and giving immediate feedback to help them move further into their work. One particular student in the class I met last semester through another instructor, and after getting to know her a bit, I believed she would benefit from taking the memoir class and told her so. She wondered what she could possibly get from writing her memoir, to which I responded she'd have the opportunity to work through some issues in a safe environment. That's all it took for her to say yes.

The first week of class, I had the students write scenes for five different moments from their lives. From those five scenes, they had to choose one to use as the basis for their memoir. One student chose to go with the roller-coaster ride that has been her relationship with her boyfriend over the last seven years. Another student chose to write about finding then losing who he believes could have been the love of his life. The student I encouraged to sign up for the course decided to tackle the death of her brother, a subject that causes her much distress and difficulty talking about even after nine years of him being gone. I was afraid her decision might cause her to sink into a place of not being able to write, but I decided to let her go with it.

The following class period, this student came in with seven pages of her memoir. After workshopping her piece in class, she took her work and continued writing. Over the past eleven weeks, this student has been adding to and revising her memoir, very willingly taking my advice and that of her peers. Today, her memoir is nearly 20 pages. It offers a poignant glimpse of how the death of her brother at the age of 16 impacted her mother, her father, his friends, but mostly her. The reader learns about the close relationship between the writer and her brother, how he knew no enemies, and how his death meant others might continue living through the donation of his organs. It is in this vein that the piece ends with: "There was a point that night where I so badly wanted to ask if I could hear Dean's heart one more time, but considering I just met him and I barely knew him I felt awkward asking, but it kept going through my mind I just have to listen to his heart I just have to. I never did of course, but to this day I would love to go to his house and listen to the beat of Dean’s heart."

Even now I get goosebumps when reading what this student has written.  


J said...

Wow. Wow. That is amazing!

JK said...

I've had a wonderful time teaching this class. The students are so invested in what they are writing, and some very powerful stuff is happening.