Sunday, November 08, 2009

Unexpected Gift of Writing Club

Writing club is an excellent way for students to improve their English skills. For an hour, they are reading, writing, speaking, and listening. They are free writing which is an attempt to continuously think in English. This is hard for the students especially for the freshmen. For the participants of the writing club, I believe the hour of thinking and trying to express themselves in English is the most useful skill for them to practice.

Personally for me the best part of writing club is getting to meet the students through their writing, through the thoughts they put on the page, through what ideas they decide to write about triggered by the prompts. I have spent a year getting to know students through the questions I ask about love, family, culture, conflict, and school. Because they are shy it is hard for them to bring up their own topics to talk about; therefore, everything they talk about is somehow influenced by me, by the questions I ask. I am not really learning who they truly are. Their experiences and thoughts are somehow filtered by the one who asks the questions, but with the writing club there is a free flow of thoughts and ideas coming from within them.

As writers, we write from our experiences, from our feelings, from our philosophies. We write about things that are dear to us. When given writing activities, the prompts inspire writing based on who we are. Sharing our writing with each other leads to cultural exchange, leads to an exchange on a very personal level. I am learning more about the students from what they write about than from the many conversations that I have had with them.

Today we did two writing activities: 1. a warm-up of writing an emotion poem 2. using random words to inspire us to write a poem (Random Words Epigraph).

What have I learned about myself and my students ? I learned that I in contrast to the students write about pain, tension, conflict, a pessimistic world while they write about happiness with very beautiful peaceful imagery. But then I also learned about some of them being in love with crying, about the prison of anxiety, about the freedom that kite flying invokes, about how it is maybe better to be weak when there is a fight. We shared with each other how we view different emotions and situations differently. We opened ourselves up and revealed ourselves in ways that answers to my questions never seemed to touch.

Writing club has surprisingly had some unexpected results. I was hoping to just practice my writing and to help the students practice their English skills. Instead I am seeing a new side to Chinese students and they are seeing a new side to their American teacher.

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