I make my living teaching writing to college students. It is one of the best jobs in the world, but it is tiring. You have to be absolutely present when you lecture, when you read student writing, and when you meet with students.
It is the last of these requirements that is the most important. You can blah, blah, blah all you want, and you can write comment after comment in the margins, but it's like hitting a ball against the side of a barn. The ball just comes back to you; it doesn't really sink in. What makes the ball sink it, what students get the most out of, are one-on-one conversations. Dialogue helps students understand that readers aren’t in their heads. Good writers anticipate the needs of readers.
Here is my sophisticated pedagogy: I read something and say, "What do you mean?" That's it. I ask questions, and I listen.
Listening does not come naturally to me. I am, by nature, a talker, and a bossy one at that. But listening is what students need most, and so I fight the urge to butt it. Even more, I fight the urge to tell students what I think they mean. Instead, I use all my energy to just...be quiet. It is hard work.
Some students are unnerved by this approach, but most students are starving for someone to listen to them. "Really?" Their eyes say. "Really tell you?"
"Yes. Really tell me."
Then they gobble up the silence between us. They tell me what they think, then what they know, and then, best of all, what totally flummoxes them. And then, being me, I can't resist, I talk too. And really, is there anything better, than sharing ideas? Then figuring out what you mean, not alone, but in tandem with someone who isn't teaching you, but just engaging with you?
But like I said. It's tiring. Four classes. That's what I've been teaching this quarter. Three classes is considered full time. Four! What was I thinking! And next week, the slog, slog, slog of grading, grading, grading. I am day dreaming about being alone in my house, only listening to the rain.
PS: That is daughter Mary in the picture. It is a propo of nothing; I just like it.