3:20 something in the AM. I wake up, make my usual o’dark stupid bathroom run. Damn this aging bladder and the gallon or so of water (ha! more like 24 ozs, lol) I’m drinking in my attempt to stave off my demise. Shuffle back to bed and find that anxiety woke up too and is having a party in the pit of my stomach. Several minutes of tossing, turning, worrying for no reason, and here we are. Wide awake and dreaming (not to be confused with my friend Cassidy’s blog – Wide Awake But Dreaming. Since I mentioned it, you should check it out. Click.)
In this dreamlike state, I imagined being a teacher. Which is odd because the few experiences I’ve had as a teacher weren’t at all experiences I’d like to repeat. But for whatever reasons, this vision persists. And as it is with me, the voices / imagery and whatnot will repeat until I get them out through words. So here goes.
If I were to EVER teach again, I’d want only to do an honors level, elective class titled, “So You Want to Write a Novel” – the name of one of my writer’s workshops that I do through my publishing and consulting business (that’s Nowata Press Publishing & Consulting, if you haven’t heard of it yet 🙂 ). I wouldn’t mind students as young as 16, but no younger. I’m not very good with the younger goobers. At all. College age? I’d skip the 18 – 21 yr olds. I’m not very good with them either ;-). So we’re talking either high school or juniors in college on up.
The textbook would be Story by Robert McKee. They wouldn’t have to read the whole book, I’d assign the specific chapters they were to read for class. They would, however be strongly, strongly urged to keep that book until they no longer wanted to write again. I think it’s that valuable a resource for writers. Along with a couple others, but that’s a blog post for another anxiety attack.
I’d have a Wall Of Extra Credit. Files hanging from the wall that included work sheets – grammar lessons mostly as I don’t think basic grammar is being taught in schools anymore. Correct me if I’m wrong. It certainly wasn’t taught in the schools I attended back in the day, at least not explicitly. I was woefully behind my southern raised counterparts when I got to college. I knew the basics, but when asked to diagram a sentence? I had no clue what the professor was talking about, let alone how to do it. I spent a couple of weeks or so in the language lab that semester. Anyway, along with the grammar sheets, there’d be semantics – a class I had my 7th grade year (that was in junior high school, grades 7 – 9 which makes more sense to me than middle school – something about the age and maturity levels of 12 year olds that makes me think sixth grade should be spent enjoying that last taste of kid-hood in the kid friendly environment of an elementary school rather than thrusting them in with the madness that is teen-ager; again, another topic for another post).
Where was I? Oh yes, semantics extra credit. Learning the origins of words and being able to decipher a word’s definition at a glance because you understand the base meaning of the prefix or root. My reading comprehension increased ten-fold; I stopped needing a dictionary by my side when I read from the adult section of the library. No, not the “adult” section as in the books found in the back of a parent’s closet, but the adult contemporary fiction section….oh, never mind.
Along with semantics and grammar, I’d have penmanship practice sheets, story board sheets, character and world building sheets; timelines and other such parts of story building the young ones should be familiar with.
For the actual curriculum, aside from the readings, they’d be required to keep a blog or a journal. I wouldn’t want to read it, but they’d have to show me either a screen shot of the blog or the notebook in which the entries were written. I’d scan to make sure there were ligit sentences being written and go from there. When I was in junior high school, we were required to keep a journal. Well, my friend and I had a spiral notebook in which we’d write notes to each other. We’d pass the whole notebook back and forth so as not to appear passing notes. It worked great until one of our arch-enemies (yes, we had a clique of bullies that tormented us ALL throughout the 3 years, it was AWFUL!!) caught wind of it. It was time to turn in our journals and she took the NOTE notebook off my desk and turned it in instead of my JOURNAL notebook. Neither my friend nor I knew what had happened until the teacher returned it to me with a big red F on the first page. I won’t go into detail as to what our notes consisted of but let’s just say there may have been one or two disparaging remarks about our English teacher. Sigh. In high school I had a class in which we had to keep a journal. I was also keeping a personal journal by then and would often get the two confused and mistakenly put a personal entry into the notebook I was turning in. Fortunately no disparaging remarks about my teachers showed up, but the stress of realizing too late that I’d mixed them up and was about to turn in something personal (who I was crushing on, how much I hated feeling the way I felt, the latest angst-driven, ‘why am I so alone’ bit of poetry, etc.) was a bit much.
So, aside from the journal, would be the actual writing of a book. We’d go through a week or so of determining what they were going to write, individually of course, no group projects in my class. Hated those (yet another blog post topic). Then a week of how to write and then, they’d write. They’d spend their time in my class room putting words to page. They could ask questions, have little discussions, but mostly, they’d WRITE. Their final would be to turn in a complete first draft.
Yeah, so if I were to ever teach again, that’s the way I’d do it. YAWN. Oh look, it’s 5 AM. And of course, NOW I’m starting to feel sleepy. Gotta get up at 6:15 and get ready for work. It’s going to be a LONG day.