Friday, December 10, 2021

The Blogging Poet-Seminarian Who Teaches First Year Comp

Before I started seminary, for the decades before I started seminary, I worried that I wasn't smart enough.  As the years marched on, I worried that my brain had turned to mush.  As I've been in this first semester of seminary, I'm realizing all the ways that I've been preparing, even as I was doing something else:

--I am not one of those English Ph.D.s who got her degree and stopped writing.  I've still done some academic writing here and there.  But more importantly, I've done other writing on a daily basis.  In 1997, I started doing morning pages, the kind recommended by Julia Cameron in The Artist's Way:  3 pages, by hand, every morning.  That practice prepared me for my current practice of daily blogging.  Most days, I write 500-1,500 words each morning.

--Because I'm an English major at heart, I write in complete sentences with correct spelling.  While some part of me believes that we should give permission for rough drafts to be REALLY rough, my rough drafts don't have grammar or spelling errors.  Is that important?  I think that it is--less to proofread and catch later.

--I write every day, which means I know that I don't have to wait for inspiration.  I know that writing brings inspiration.  And because I write every day, I'm always on the lookout for things to write about, and my brain is already working on it on some level.  I know how to compose before I've ever approached the page/blank screen.

--I have taught Composition since 1988, which means I have not forgotten how to document outside sources.  Based on some of the comments of my professors, some seminarians have forgotten the basic rules of documentation.  I got a compliment on my Works Cited page for one paper.  That page was not anything special.

--I have not continued to read academic writing in my Ph.D. fields of 19th and 20th century British Literature.  In fact, I haven't continued to read the primary texts of those fields, although I have occasionally returned to them.  Instead, I started reading theology, and much of it's pretty deep.  I remember going home to see my folks and going to lunch with them and a group of their church work friends.  One of them asked what I was reading, and I talked about the Henri Nouwen book that I'd brought with me.  The response was, "That's pretty deep stuff."  On some level, it was deep theology, although it was a slim volume.

--As I look back to what I've been reading and writing, it's clear that I've had a love of theology for decades.  You may or may not be surprised to find that some seminarians do not share this love of theology.  There are other reasons to become a seminarian, of course.  But if one doesn't love theology, I think it's harder to slog through some of the courses, and it's harder to write those essays for class.  When I got this comment on my first homework assignment for New Testament class, I thought I was going to be OK:  "This shows that you've got quite a bit of background in biblical studies (you mentioned the Babylonian exile, work by Walter Wink, etc.)."

--It's been interesting to be writing my final papers for seminary classes while also grading the final papers of my students.  I've always been a fairly generous grader, so I don't think it's impacted me that way.  I have been the kind of grader that didn't put much in the way of comments on A papers.  As a woman who writes A papers, I'm realizing that a more developed comment might be appreciated.  Have I written that more developed comment as a teacher?  Not yet.

--I am a poet who delights in making interesting comparisons.  I am aware of that personality trait of mine, and I try not to let that part of my brain run wild while writing papers for seminary.  Still, I think my poet brain sees things that other might not, and my seminary papers are stronger for it.

--I am a woman who has juggled many activities through the decades:  teaching, reading, writing, administrator work, church work, a variety of volunteer jobs, family, friends.  I am used to grabbing every scrap of time.  If I only have 15 minutes, I'll write a chunk of seminary paper or read the next part of the text.  I am not waiting for huge swaths of time to get things done.  Huge swaths of time are not coming.

Speaking of getting things done, it's time to get ready for work--and all the other activities of the day.

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