"Voice Lessons" has left several fragmentary melodies reverberating quietly in my mind.
One such Voice Lesson melody was the notion of low-risk verses high-risk assignments. I am a mathematics teacher: practical, direct and to the point. My main uses of writing are in upper division courses where students write papers, present oral reports and occasionally create web pages. In sophomore classes such as Math 241, students are first engaged in intensive writing and rewriting of proofs, both submitted on paper and written on the board in class. This type of writing is extended in most senior level courses. These are all "high risk" assignments--the proofs especially so. I intend to try some low risk writing assignments my freshman classes (e.g., Math 140), and indeed intended to try ink-shedding this Fall. But since the powers that be have arranged that I am teaching six classes this semester (3 Math 140's, Math 451, Math 481 and GS 111) ink-shedding will be a distant melody for now; restrained but not silenced.
A snarled (some might say sinister) song I brought to the group rings with the question "why?" Why should I give up the activities I do now for others? What advantage does writing have over discovery activities? What proof is there that such activities work? I enjoyed this debate, even wrote about it. After Voice Lessons this melody still vibrates in my mind, but now is intertwined with another: "why not?" Why not just try these writing activities and see for myself. I think I will.
For me, the most persistent melody was the notion of faculty members as writers. This aria provided a backdrop, indeed a grid, for the entire week. I learned a great deal sharing writing with other faculty members. I enjoyed our small groups where we read what we had written. More importantly, the common ground provided by recognizing our common activity as writer, helped link a disparate group of faculty into an entertaining, amusing, enlightening whole. Together we looked at many facets of writing: professional, letters of recommendation, grants. We each have so much to give, and to learn.
I would encourage my colleagues to give Voice Lessons a try. We are all writers.
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