I’ve noticed that for some of you there are like two totally different people I’m interacting with each week, but all coming from one mind/body. One is the super open, excited, upset, confused but generally emotional Weekly Writing writer. And then there is the cool, calm, collected in-class-persona. That separation is normal, I think. It’s how we’ve been taught to go about life. We limit ourselves to a few safe spaces to fully express our emotional experiences. Like even if they’re not that big of a deal….
For example, on a Monday when I ask you about your weekend you’ll be like “It was cool. My friend came. I dunno.” But the Weekly Writing representation of that experience is like...sooo different. It goes something like this: “My friend came this weekend and it was so awesome. I haven’t seen any friends since I left home, and I’ve been wondering what it will be like...if they’ve changed, if I’ve changed...so I was really relieved when the weekend was awesome and we had fun like normal times.” See what I mean? This isn’t some kind of deep, dark, secret reveal of personal angst (but ya’ll know I’m totally into hearing those as well)...but it is an emotional and fully connected representation of an experience nonetheless!
In like even just little bit and pieces I want more of us to bring that to our physical classroom and interactions therein. Let me explain my reasoning for this a little more, and, I promise, it isn’t all about death and tears and doom and gloom.
I’m always so happy, humbled, and honored that you all share with me issues of personal consequence. You use emotionally charged language, regardless of whether something great or awful has happened. I think this may be because you find the Weekly Writing a safe space to do this kind of accounting and processing in your life, and I feel great success with that because that’s exactly what the imagined and hoped the Weekly Writing might do. Please keep sharing with me all of the glorious mess that is life. And I’ll keep sharing my glorious mess in bits and pieces.
I have noticed, however, that I think you’re not feeling as safe/comfortable to express these kinds of things with each other. You’re shy to share your papers in peer response. You’re hesitant to engage emotionally with what another writer has written, focusing more on the development of the writing itself -- which is great, and definitely what peer response should do! But there is space for it to do both, as I think I have shown in the ways I respond to your writing -- both technical (about the development of the writing) and personal (about the emotional experience of the self).
I especially saw this emotional reserve, distance, hesitation in the “29 Questions” responses from Wednesday’s class. On the whole, they were short and too concise for you to see the fullness of each other’s experiences. They were just the very very very tippy top of some pretty interesting and beautiful icebergs. To do Project 3 well (we will discuss in detail on Monday), I think you’re going to need to get beneath that surface a bit more.
I’d like to offer my answers to the 29 Questions as example of how, while still relatively brief, responses can begin to paint the picture of a person. I think if you read my responses, you’ll find I’m a person moved by love, confused by my relationship with my parents, and excited about new and maybe even scary/embarrassing experiences. I’m also coming through as profoundly introverted, something I’ve learned to manage as I realize that teaching is my passion. You’ll want to see some of these kinds of broad strokes with representative stories in your group’s 29 Questions document so that you can start to think about how you are going to design and present “the story of us.”
I know this class (via me!) asks you to do weird stuff, like think about your best and worst memories within seconds of each other. That makes us feel the feels, and sometimes feeling the feels in front of others is just too much, or it’s like “Lady, these feels are MY feels. Leave them be.” I get that being open about our emotional experiences as they impact our intellectual ones is a particularly risky and uncomfortable thing to do. I. get. it. That’s precisely why I’m asking you do it. Here’s why:
I think the next 3.5- 4.5 -6.5 years (However long it takes! Get that degreee!) of your life will ask you to remove your emotions from your intellectual work. It will ask you to analyze arguments with “rationality” and “logic” supported by those who have more authority than you do. This separation of intellect and emotion might make you think those are two different processes, but they aren’t. Our emotions guide our intellectual/professional work.
For example, one student, who is studying forestry, likely feels something for trees in a way that brings meaning to his life. Another student, who is going into neonatal nursing has some real feels about why she wants to do that work, the meaning it will bring to her life, and the good it will provide for others. Asking either one of them to leave those emotional connections at the door before entering spaces of “learning” risks the potential of “missing the forest for the trees” (pun intended) because they might forget, deny, or devalue the reason they got themselves into this mess of college to being with. This leads to confusion, alienation, doing things “just to get it done”...and that’s a tough space to find intrinsic (internal) motivation from. And all the best research in educational psychology (I’m apply that master’s degree ya’ll) says that internal, stable motivation is the key determiner in successful, positive educational experience. That’s not me, that’s SCIENCE.
Sure, your intro to biology instructor might not need (or want!) a journal each week that asks you to reflect on your emotional connection to your lab work, but perhaps by spending a semester (this semester, with me!) thinking about those things they will become part of your routine. And then you’ll be able to switch more fluidly between spaces dominated by rationality and reason, and your own emotional connection to those spaces. In my experience, the people who not only “survive” college but thrive through the experience, maintain and cultivate these reflective, emotional connections to the work they do and the space they are attempting to inhabit in the world.
You always have the ultimate agency (power) to decide what you want to share and what you don’t. You would never be graded in this class on how deeply or personally you share, that wouldn’t be a fair standard of me to require. Think of this more as an invitation to take a risk and reveal a bit more of your internal life not just in the Weekly Writing but in class as well.
Here’s what I can tell you from having the privilege of being the person to read the glorious mess of 27 lives each week -- you all have sooooooo much in common. You write about similar personal issues. You think about home and homesickness and sense of place. You wonder what others are experiencing in these first few weeks of college...are you the only lonely loser who misses home? The answer is NO! You’re ALL lonely losers who miss home. (Jokes, obvi. No one is a loser).
Open up to each other. I promise you it’s not as scary as you think it will be.