From the beginning of the semester, I try to impress upon my students the fact that they are not writing in a vacuum.
We discuss writer-based writing versus reader-based writing. We talk about audience awareness. I emphasize that the lack of circumambient activity means they must think about how they are connecting to their readers.
Soon, their eyes start to glaze over.
I try a simpler approach.
“Writing is powerful,” I say. “The words you write should matter to you AND to your reader.”
Alas, as the semester wears on and they lapse into flat, dull, bland, all-purpose writing, I lament that my message has not gotten through.
The other day, my class had just ended. The students started filing out and I saw the screen on my phone light up with a new text. I glanced at it. It was a message from that Certain Very Nice Man with whom I am deeply smitten.
I picked up my phone and read the text—a tender, sweet reminder that he was thinking of me at that moment.
Putting my phone back down on the desk, I turned to see my student Sarah standing there, smiling a smug smile at me.
“Well! That text made you very happy, didn’t it?” she said in that slightly sing-singy, teasing voice nineteen-year-old girls use so well.
I nodded and maybe even giggled a little. (The text having made me feel a bit like a giddy nineteen- year-old girl myself.)
“I could tell by the way you reacted to it,” she said.
She turned to leave, but then hesitated and turned toward me, “You know,” she said. “I text all the time and I’ve never really thought about what people look like when they read what I write. Watching you just now makes me think about that.”
I smiled and nodded, knowing enough to leave the moment alone and not kill it with teacher-talk. (Though I was tempted!)
She stood there for about three seconds, just looking at the phone in her hand.
Then she looked at me and said, “Sweet!”
“Sweet, indeed,” I replied.
She walked toward the door, waving over her shoulder.
“Bye, Professor. See you next time!”
“Bye, Sarah. See you next time.”