Experience is one thing you can’t get for nothing.
– Oscar Wilde
I laid across a bean bag chair in my room today trying to conjure up a memory.
My G11 students are writing reader autobiographies as their quarter three benchmark projects. The assignment calls for them to write from 7 to 15 vignettes inspired by moments of their readerly lives.
As it’s been a while since I’ve written a vignette, I committed to completing the assignment as well.
Thus, I was sprawled on a red pleather bean bag at the end of the day.
My first vignette was about the brown leather recliner in my grandparents’ living room. It was the chair where my grandfather would read to me before bedtime when I was little.
I tried to pull that memory to me through the years and carefully mold it back together on the screen. I attempted to make it something someone would want to read.
As I was typing, one of my students, Luna, was in the multi-colored bean bag opposite me. Having difficulty framing her first vignette as a single literary photograph because it took place over a stretch of time, Luna kept asking me to look over what she was writing.
Her vignette detailed a span of her middle school years and I offered suggestions and feedback a few times as she was composing.
After each piece of feedback, I returned to my writing, attempting to convey the image of footy-pajamaed me learning to sight read as my grampa read “just one more book.”
Finally, toward the end of the class period, I got it where I wanted it. Well, I got it as close to where I wanted it as I could hope of a first draft.
I had that feeling of one who has created – that need to share.
And so, I turned to Luna and handed her my laptop. I didn’t say anything or preface her reading with any comments. I handed her my laptop and asked her to read.
I’ve had students read pieces of my writing before. I’ve shared journal entries. This was different. I’d written a memory in all its first-draft roughness and turned and shared it with my student.
If I had to guess, I’d say the vulnerability in that moment is close to the vulnerability my students feel each time they submit a piece of work in class. For that reason, I’m glad I’ll be writing my remaining vignettes and submitting them to my students.
I should be doing more of that. While grading, planning and the rest of being a teacher often prevents me from completing every assignment I ask of my students, crafting these moments and embracing the vulnerability of sharing them with my students is a stiff reminder of the openness I ask of my students each time I ask them to write or share in class. It’s a reminder I’ll use next time I’m tempted to breeze through a stack of assignments for grading.
If I’m going to ask them to share their ideas with me, I need to remember (and experience) all the rawness inherent in that sharing.