west_wind (west_wind) wrote in compositionism,

Random Thoughts; Or, What are we really *trying* to do?

I'm always fascinated by my resistance to saying the phrase, "I think you mean 'such and such a word' here," even though I will do that when a student misuses a word. I'm also interested in my desire to try to understand what my student means. When we're talking about the thesis, or lack thereof, a student will say, "I guess what I was trying to say..."

I myself try not to tell the student what she or he means, what that person was trying to say.

I cringe when I find myself imposing my meaning onto theirs.

So what the heck am I trying to do then?

I use words like, "work toward" forming a thesis; "force yourself" to sit down and write; "polish" the flow between sentences...the phrases are eluding me somewhat, but I'm sure they'll come back to me as I start my next round of grading. The point is, the language I use is often at odds with my pedagogical values. And yet, I can't stop using it. It's all I know to use when I want to talk about and teach this complicated task of writing. It's work, it's hard, it takes practice, it never comes out the way we mean...

Of course, I often start writing these days without knowing what the fsck I mean.

In theory I talk about the slipperiness of meaning -- I even talk about it with my students. But in practice, how do we acknowledge this and put it into play in the classroom? How do we move away from the discipline that's required to write and write well and into an understanding of all that writing entails.

I don't have any answers to this. Maybe if I did I would have less work to do; I don't know.

I'm sure there's lots of scholarship out there on this dilemna. Probably stuff I've read and just forgotten about. But I have come to feel that usually the articles and books on this topic end up leaving me disappointed. I don't think it's something anybody has figured their way out of.

So I'll just go on, doing what I do. At least I'll be conscious of and careful about my language. That's a start, right?
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