Sometimes, Teaching

About halfway through my first semester teaching “Introduction to College Writing,” I remember making an offhand comment to my students about how I would like to include writers from “more backgrounds” than I had at the moment on my syllabus. I forgot about it until it was time to look at my course evaluations, where one student pointed out that they enjoyed the readings, but also thought it would be good for me to follow up with my desire to add different writers to my syllabus in the future.

I’m not sure whose backgrounds I was referring to, but I know that comment came from my persistent anxiety that I would be called out for teaching “only” Black women in a writing class that was ostensibly only about the writing, and not a “niche” topic-based seminar. I believe I was trying to pre-empt resistance from my students, who I imagined would be a lot less receptive  to me and my approach before I had the chance to meet and engage with them.

I also felt as if I had to prove that it was possible to teach  students how to be generous and bold writers and readers from a Black feminist and womanist perspective. I was apprehensive because I thought I would have to prove that I didn’t assemble a syllabus of Black writers and artists simply because they look like they could be my aunties and sisters. I felt pressure to demonstrate that Black women and femmes write and produce knowledge  about the craft of writing itself, and about language and its potential for destructive power, as well as for imagining and constructing better worlds.

Ultimately, no-one ever asked, “What would you say if the reading list was majority white men, the way yours is majority Black women?” Even if they had, I would have been ready with some discussion of false equivalencies, and probably a lot of bitter and incredulous laughter. I’m mostly proud of the work we did, and I no longer feel the misguided need to prove the merits of Black feminist writers and thinkers who definitely don’t need me to justify or validate their brilliance.

I wrote semi-regular reflections about my teaching experience, some of which I shared with my students, some I kept to myself. I would love it if you took a look at some of my work from the fall semester here.

This is not about writer’s block…

Alright- maybe it is, but it’s over! Hurrah! Hurrah? So now I’ve crossed into some alternate King Arthur-themed dimension?

Anyway, in case you hadn’t noticed, the dark cloud of zero productivity has finally drifted off to bother some other poor writer out there- my sincerest apologies- but I’m free! This is for whoever has inherited the curse, may it be lifted soon.

Just Out of Reach

I’m trying out this new thing where I ask myself everyday, “Have you written today?” I’m making the effort to blog more and to escape if even for a short while from other kinds of writing that I don’t enjoy so much, the kinds that must be “logical” and “have a point”. I can’t say it’s going too well since I haven’t liked anything I’ve written so far, but I think if I keep doing this long enough, something amazing will eventually come along! This is my attempt at writing through the block…

There’s a story stuck just in the back of my throat. It’s irritating, scratching at tissues but refusing to let me cough it up.

It’s hovering just behind my eyes, in that blind spot where sleep eludes capture during restless nights.

It’s playing on my temples, tap dancing, whirling around in place, mocking me.

It’s tickling me somewhere between my shoulder blades and tracing lines on the small of my back.

It’s floating above my head, all weightless and carefree. But my arms have been locked to my sides, incapable of reaching upwards and beyond to grasp it.

It’s whispering in my left ear, taunting me. I can’t swat it away, but its  teasing hum never subsides, it’s a refrain even for my moments of solitude.

There’s a story sitting on the tip of my tongue, resting gently on my fingertips, waiting at that point where the ink begins to flow, standing at the crossroads between fruitfulness and drought. Flow.