Despite the fact that I spend more and more of my time reading blogs, I’m still in love with books. I’m drawn to the wonderful immediacy of blogs, but also still enthalled by the book written and revised over time. Some writers (and people) reveal themselves in a flash (like blogs) while others unfold themselves over time (like books). I love that word “unfold.” Not surprisingly, “unfolding” is a key metaphor in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, which I’m preparing to teach again this fall. In it, the main character literally folds and unfolds a letter sent to her while she metaphorically unfolds the characters of others and herself. Key to her new self-knowledge is rereading, rethinking, replaying of the movies in her mind (anachronism!) of past events. In the 1995 film version of the novel, we see the replaying of the past in flash back (slighted altered) as she reads the letter.
Sometimes, you discover things you never imagined about people when you read their books. I’ve know my colleague Hector Vila about 5 years, and I decided it was finally time to read his book. I’ve been reading a bit of his book each night. I discoverd it’s a Writing to Heal narrative–interesting, because I’ve been teaching a Writing to Heal course for the past 3 years, and Hector and I never discussed this in terms of his own writing. I’ve finished part I, and I’m finding it very moving–both his own narrative and that of his inner city students.
My time working with inner city students really formed who I am as a teacher. It’s true that when every thing you’ve been taught will work, won’t work, you either quit, or reach down into yourself for anything you can find there and for anything you think has a prayer of working, and then you dance on the wings of a plane in flight to move your students forward if only an inch.
Hector’s book is aptly titled Life-Affirming Acts. To me that’s what teaching writing is and does–giving life to words–whether on the page or screen–it’s life and death to me, and I try to convey that to my students, and some come to believe it, too.