Thursday, May 2, 2013

Teaching Through Texting

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.”


Nicole said...


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Somebody got it!

Peggy K said...

Lesson learned. At least for one! Or two!

Old Kitty said...

Awwwwww yay for your Very Nice Man and his txts!!! Take care

Leah J. Utas said...

Betty, thanks so much for this. It never occurred to me think about how someone's looks while reading. This is a great help.

Alison said...

Lightbulb moments are my favorite.

I totally remember being that kid in class, not understanding what "audience" I was supposed to be writing for. The only one reading my persuasive essay was going to be my teacher, not a bunch of strangers in a theater. Nowadays, however, my blog has a potential audience of billions. In this case, it's very important to decide what kind of audience you want to attract!

Shelly said...

Not only a great life moment, but a priceless teaching moment, too!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Betty .. that was amazing - and how perceptive of Sarah - even if she was just unintentionally watching ..

Both generations learnt lots from this .. and now to mention you're blogging about it ..

So pleased about the text too!!!!!

Very interesting .. cheers Hilary

Phyllis E said...

Wow. Something every wanna-be writer should keep at the front of her mind. "Think about what people look like when they read what I write."

Thanks, Betty, for sharing Sarah's lesson.

Tabor said...

Well, I guess if you can reach just one, you should count that as a success. Maybe you should print out some emotional sentences and then discuss with the students how they would feel if they got this message and transition into how their words can influence others...for good or bad. Are you frowning right now?

jenny_o said...

How nice for you to know, without a doubt, that things fell into place for that young lady!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I know how much I enjoy unexpected texts from my children especially when they're sharing good news.

Hilary said...

How beautiful when life offers these teaching moments. And what strength you must possess to keep from killing it with teacher-talk. Any parent knows how tough that can be.

I'm so glad that you have someone whose words make your joy palpable to onlookers like Sarah.

Ms. A said...

Words ARE powerful and at least one of your students was able to see the proof.

Unknown said...

Maybe you need to do your lecture by text next time ;o) Seems like I get more communication from my third son by text then in person :o/

Pat Tillett said...


Gigi said...

YAY, Betty! Using modern technology to get through to the younguns!

Connie said...

Sweet indeed! Sounds like a lesson learned. :D

Sally Wessely said...

Sweet. Very sweet. I guess the teacher and the student learned something from that exchange. Love it.

Baby Sister said...

How very sweet indeed. Sounds like your message got through to her. It's a start, right? :)

Daryl said...

sweet ... like getting a POTW

Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

Words matter. ♥
Sweet POTW!