Trying to get my brain primed

When I started teaching, way back in 1996 :), I remember being trained to teach a bunch of writing practices that I didn’t practice myself, one of which is freewriting.  If you’re not a writing teacher and have never done this, the idea is that you start writing and don’t stop either to think or correct as you go; if you do it properly, you allow your brain to open its (metaphorical) floodgates and let yourself have ideas you wouldn’t otherwise.  You make connections among ideas you probably wouldn’t see if you were overly focused.  And so on.

So that’s sort of what I’m doing right now, although yes, I’m stopping to correct typos as I see them; it’s a habit.  I’ve always found freewriting to be much easier with pen and paper for that very reason, but it’s hard to handwrite a blog entry.

Tomorrow is the first day of the summer session.  I’ll be teaching 2 sections of our Basic Writing course for the Academic Development Program.  ADP is a program that brings potentially successful but under-credentialed students to the university for a summer bootcamp.  All the students live together, take a reading/study-skills course, and then take either Basic Writing or Basic Math.  The program has been extremely successful over the years at improving retention rates for at-risk students, and more generally for increasing access to the university for students whose paper records might have kept them out otherwise.  I like teaching this course, and I like the students.  Sometimes I’m a little troubled by the paternalistic rhetoric of the program’s directors; they tend to treat, or at least talk about, the program’s students in ways that don’t recognize them as adults.  The students tire quickly of it, too, which has (in my 2 experiences teaching in the program before) led to some awkward moments for me.  I agree with the students and empathize with their resentment at the way they’re talked to and about, but at the same time, I know the program works.  So I walk a fine line between understanding their angst and cheerleading for a program I respect but don’t always like.

Still working on the ethnographic writing essay for the Writing Spaces on-line textbook.  I’m about halfway through a second draft, which I’d like to have finished today but that’s not going to happen.  A very good friend read the first draft for me, and her feedback really helped.  Unfortunately (or fortunately I guess, depending on who you ask), most of what I learned from her response is that my project in the text wasn’t very clear.  She spent a lot of time in her response suggesting places where I could clarify this or that part of an argument I hadn’t realized it sounded like I was making.  So the revision is as much about stripping down the claims in order not to provoke those questions than it is about answering the questions.  In the end, that’s a win, but I feel bad for the amount of time she spent on a piece the second draft of which won’t reflect all that energy.

Ann and I saw “The Hangover” last night.  It’s the funniest thing I’ve seen in a long time.  Offensive (gender politics aren’t very sensitive, lots of peeing, and more!), but a much better-made movie than I expected it to be.  One example of its craft: one of the bachelor party attendees is playing the piano and making up the kind of lyrics you’d only think of if you were stressed out and brutally hung over.  Standing on the piano is a live chicken (no explanation of how it got into their $4000/night Vegas hotel suite), which is dancing back and forth, clucking in rhythm to Stu’s song.  OK, it doesn’t sound as funny here.  Anyway, a much smarter movie than you’d probably think, but laugh-out-loud funny several times.  And no, the trailer hasn’t busted all the best jokes.

Hmm.  A long post, scattered thoughts, but no closer to being ready to work.  Oh well.  Maybe I need that second cup of coffee after all.

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3 Responses to Trying to get my brain primed

  1. madeline says:

    Funny…freewriting never works for me either. I always just skip it and get the second cup right away.

    It makes for good blogging though!

  2. another PA faculty says:

    I thought Hangover was over-rated and not nearly as funny as the usual dirty-R summer movies of the recent past, such as Superbad, KNocked Up, $)YO Virgin, etc…. The writing was pretty thin as was the talent.

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