Did you know teachers play favorites? Students have favorite classes, but has anyone asked a teacher what their favorite class is?
“If you don’t want anyone to know anything about you, don’t write anything,” said Pete Townshend, award-winning musician and writer.
I agree with him. As a teacher this quarter at Globe University-La Crosse, I discovered that I didn’t really know some of my students. I knew their field of study; I knew some of their simple likes and dislikes; I have even had many of them in other classes, so I knew what their writing was like. But, I didn’t truly get to know these seven students until I spent 11 weeks with them inside my Creative Writing classroom. Why? Because they used one skill I had yet to see them really use while at Globe University: themselves.
Students Open Up Through Writing
What do I mean by this? Simple. Each of these students through fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry opened themselves up to each other and me by sharing a slice of their own life or a life only they could have imagined, whether it was taking the class on a walk into a man-eating forest, fishing with a grandfather who chopped off part of his hand with a chainsaw and finished his chores before seeing a doctor, being abducted by gray aliens, feeling forbidden military love that had to be hidden beneath a table, walking into a hotel room and not being able to recognize your own sister, taking a rocket ride in a cardboard box with a brother, or even following around a man who thinks of ways to kill his own daughter. These are just some of the many places this class went to that we experienced together and thus each other.
Encouragement and Hard Work Pays Off
How did they end up in my Creative Writing course? Well, some needed another general education credit, some had something they needed to say that they couldn’t aloud, and for the rest, well, I had been encouraging, no, maybe stalking them and telling them to take it for many quarters now. Each had their own reasons, but I’m not so sure they all knew what they were getting themselves into. “Writing is hard,” I heard many of them say.
But they worked hard. They wrote and wrote, and rewrote and rewrote, and tweaked until the very end when they shared themselves through their work at a public reading to bring the quarter to a close. “It wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be,” said Kari Christensen, criminal justice degree student. “It actually felt wonderful to share such a BIG part of me.”
Write it Down
Creative writing allows one to look at life differently. Sometimes you don’t really know what you have to say until you write it down. “I loved to share my work,” said Charles Ellingson, a video production student. “It gave me a chance to share what I can come up with only using my mind.”
I’m very fortunate to have had the chance to read what these students had to say and to see them from a different angle, an angle that takes place on the page. I won’t forget our time spent in that classroom. I won’t forget the writers they were, the writers they have become, thus the people they have become, and I don’t think they will either because they are right: “Writing is not easy.”
One of my students said, “This is my favorite class.” And though I don’t like to play favorites, but, yeah, it was mine too.
This post was written by Jodie Liedke. Liedke, a true Wisconsinite, having labored four summers in a mozzarella factory, received her BA from Lakeland College and her Masters in Fine Arts from Wichita State University in Kansas. Liedke was the General Education and Service-Learning Coordinator, a Creative Quill and Writing Across the Curriculum lead, and the adviser/instructor for GLUWW (Globe La Crosse Writers Write). When not writing creatively, Liedke enjoys watching films, exploring the outdoors, and biking.