Sunday, April 3, 2011

Once I managed to escape from my driveway, I had a lovely day yesterday. My friend Angela and the boys and I drove to Portland under sunny, breezy skies. The boys spent the day at the mall with a million other teenagers. Angela and I went to the Maine Festival of the Book, where I spent a pleasant couple of hours in the poetry ghetto with Wes McNair, talking to poets I haven't seen in six or seven years. I even sold a few books.

Among other people I spoke to was Josh Bodwell, new director of the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, who is reconfiguring the alliance's publication, Maine in Print (it will eventually have a new name), thanks in part to support from both the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation and the Davis Family Foundation. Anyway, I suggested to Josh the possibility of including a regular column that would feature teachers of writing--perhaps in a consistent interview format. This way the alliance could continue to reach beyond already-published writers toward the people who are in the trenches, teaching and learning. He's excited by the idea, and I, too, am very excited to think that I soon might have a chance to feature you and your brilliance in that column.

What I need to do first is to start collecting suggestions for pithy, consistent interview questions. Off the top of my head, I'm thinking of questions that would deal with "what work of literature are you teaching right now?" "what are you doing to develop written student responses to that work?" "how do you assess their writing responses?" etc. All you teachers know that we have to include an assessment component, boring as that sounds to the rest of the world. But what other questions are you dying to ask or answer about the specifics of teaching literature? Please do let me know, here or by email, so that I can start compiling ideas.

P.S. I am seriously thinking of going down into a coal mine. I can hardly believe that I would be so brave, but thus far I'm feeling nary a qualm about it. And now Tom has also become quite excited by the idea and wants to come along. Last night we sat over our red wine and thought about turning my reading project into a combined coal-steel-writing-photographing project, and we became progressively more entranced. Maybe we could really do this.


Anonymous said...

Your "combined coal-steel-writing-photographing project" is the perfect next step beyond your recent references to Dan Rottenberg and Walker Evans! I wish you a safe descent into dark mines complete with inspiring Orphic resonances.

Maureen said...

Possible questions (though I'm not a teacher):
- What do you do to open up the world of literature to a reluctant reader?

- What kinds of new media do you use to teach literature?

- Are you free to select the literature you teach or are you required to teach specific titles? Have you ever had to deal with parental objections to titles and if so, how did you deal with them?

- How do you teach students to think critically about a piece of literature?

- How do you accommodate the varying skills of your students?

Having gone deep down into a diamond mine in South Africa, I can tell you that going underground can be an unforgettable experience. Your prospective project sounds terrific.

Ruth said...

Yes, to your venture.
Maureen, I am a teacher and I really like your questions.
Dawn, as a musician there are possible tie-ins too.

Maureen said...

Thought this might be of interest to you, Dawn: