The school year has just ended, and I’m excited about the freedom of thought and lifestyle that summer brings, but as of yet, I haven’t quite relinquished my highly-organized, teacherly mindset. Every year it takes me a few weeks to let go and allow my imagination and my enthusiasm for writing to come out to play. It’s a little like getting your summer clothes out of the attic. Right now, everything is all over the place, piled high, the usual mess made in making the switch. I’m anxious to get those winter clothes packed away.
But it’s the perfect time to begin my blog, for in this strange crossover period, I can think about what writing and teaching have to do with one another. It seems to me that writing and teaching have always gone hand in hand; after all each is a complex and prolonged endeavor to communicate something that you are passionate about to other people. Of course, the modes of communication are very different, but in each case, entertainment plays an important role.
As a teacher, I want my students to appreciate the craftsmanship and richness of literature as a form of entertainment, which (not surprisingly) means that I need to teach the texts in my courses in an entertaining fashion. As a writer, especially in today’s world of byte-by-byte entertainment, I need to grab a reader and make him or her want to read more. Literary writers can no longer afford to ignore plot, just as teacher’s can no longer ignore their need to entertain to compel kids to learn. Everything has to have a hook. But what both a teacher and a writer must do, to be responsible to their students and readers, is to provide substance beyond the hook. We must entertain to communicate, not merely to distract.
So, frankly, that sounds completely overwhelming to me. It’s difficult to bring pleasure and meaning, but it is my goal as both a writer and a teacher . . . and a central theme for this blog.