Teaching Inspiration — Is it Impossible?

This morning I have been researching ways I might be able to light a fire under my writing class. I  know writing can be at hard at times, but I also know the joy of writing a piece that touches others. I’m passionate about writing. Writing is like breathing for me. So how do I pass this knowledge on to a reluctant class who all have all landed in my class because they are poor writers? I recognize when I need help.

The “Busy Teacher” website has given me some ideas to try. One thing is group work. I’ve avoided  team work because I have such a wide variety of ages and skill levels. The website claims that student interaction will help them get excited. I don’t know. I always hated group work when I was in school because I ended up doing most of the work.  But this class is a challenge, and I am determined not to fail them, so I will try it.

My students believe writing and learning grammar rules are exercises they have to endure in order to do what they really want to do. It’s my job to brand in their brains that writing —no matter what they choose to do — is also something they will have to do. First of all, they will have to write a resume and cover letter to get a job. Once they get the job, they will be expected to communicate in email and other correspondence to people with whom they work. They might have to write reports detailing a situation or a problem. They might also have to write a letter of resignation. But right now, the only thing my class sees is a grade at the end of  sixteen weeks.

I must admit I am frustrated by their blank stares, and I’m almost at the point of not wanting to face them twice a week. I’ve never had such an unmotivated class in my whole teaching experience. By now, I’ve always inspired several students to want to write more than what required for an assignment. But not this class.

So, every Monday and Wednesday evening, I stand in front of their blank stares with enthusiasm, hoping for a miracle–that a few will follow me down a writing path.  Until I find the answer, I keep telling myself, “They are not lazy; I just haven’t inspired them yet!”

Anybody else have such difficulty with students? What do you do when faced with such indifference? I’m all ears!

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7 thoughts on “Teaching Inspiration — Is it Impossible?

  1. Maybe some type of group game or reward system. I know they are older and SHOULD have it within themselves. ‘Should’ is the operative word. When they are at that level… they are at that level!! Just a thought…

  2. I love the idea of relating their writing to a career – this is really important! Resume writing is such a talent. I recently wrote my husbands resume and job application (because we’re moving to another state) and he’s had a lot of offers. I think working in the public sector has been really important for me because I’ve learned how to ‘talk the talk’. I’ve also read a lot of applications and its such a shame when someone you know is a really good worker puts in a poor application (particularly if it has typos or spelling mistakes).

    Maybe something that could get the group going could be a progressive story, where one writes the first paragraph and it is passed onto the next to continue.

    Best of luck with the group (I certainly don’t envy your task).

    • Good luck with the move, and thanks for the suggestion of a progressive story. I did that once and never tried it again. I think it could be a nice filler when the course material doesn’t provide enough material for two hours.

  3. Though situation…dianne’s idea sounds pretty good. There can be many ways to inspire them, maybe ask them to write about something they’re really passionate about? I’m also not a big fan of the group work, because writing is kind of a lonely task. Good luck!

  4. I read your entry yesterday, and I’ve been mulling on how to respond. I want to say two things. 1) Do this: get them talking about a piece of literature. This leads to writing. For example: Read aloud to them (or play from an audiobook) a short story that is so engrossing that they will want to talk about it. But before they are allowed to talk about it, they have to write their response. Tell them not to worry about spelling, grammar, or sentences. Just have them get down on paper in front of them what they want to tell someone else about what they heard. Do not limit the field of what it is they can write. They can even write that the piece sucked. None of that matters. All that matters is that they are about to communicate with another person through writing. Then have them talk to each other. That’s where writing begins. The desire to communicate to another person. If all goes well, your class will be writing short stories and reading them to each other.

    2) As someone who has spent nearly all of my practice with emerging writers (from 5th graders to adults with few skills) I can say this: if a student knows they are in your class because they are “poor writers” they will be poor writers. For them the die is cast. That is unless you specifically explain to them that there are no poor writers. There are writers without skills. Skills are learned. There is nothing about being writers that your students cannot do with time, practice, and scaffolding. What unskilled writers do not know is how to do it. The “how-to-do-it-ivness” is what they are missing. Give it to them.

    It’s clear that emerging adult writers are new to you, but you can be such an inspiration to them. You can show them that their voices are worth hearing. Right now, they have no experience of this, and they are acting upon it. Don’t give in to accepting that crap from them. Start small, accept the little gifts because those are the small successes that lead to the bigger ones.

    Sorry this is so long. It’s mostly what my students thought I should tell you.

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