when audience matters

i am teaching a class of students who want to share their work with one another.

for their first out of class piece, my students were writing about themselves. their audience: our class. the assignment required presenting their work in class to each other upon completion. while some students seemed apprehensive about doing so, on the due date, our room was weighted with anticipation.

i announced that day that students would take turns describing their papers to the class and explaining what they were trying to accomplish with their writing.

revolt.

for a very intense moment, my class was in an uproar. students told me that they couldn’t see any point in talking about papers they had written for each other. they wanted – demanded – to read them aloud.

they were right, of course. and as these writers took turns reading to their peers, it was plain why so many were proud of what they had written.

heritage, hardship, the art of welding, losing a parent, a struggle to break free of a culture of drugs and violence, enlisting at 18, a nomadic lifestyle, culinary arts, failing high school but finding hope, a day on base in Iraq, becoming a missionary nurse

they heard one another. nodding. respect. was that a fist bump?

it seems absurd to me to grade any of this. these writers have powerful messages for one another. and for each other, they accomplished something extraordinary.