Slice of Life: Dancing with Rules

I sat with Laura from Brooklyn outside Zankel Hall. In shadow, as the sun hit the southwest side of 120th, we talked about teaching, about the pros and cons of living in New York versus Los Angeles.

And then, we watched the parked cars came to life as they pulled out and waited for the street sweeper to pass. Honking occasionally at the less aware. Weaving in and around, the street sweeper danced with the cars in front of Teachers College.

Apparently, this happens all over New York.

What we watched wasn’t quite as organized as the above, but the technique was evident. These drivers knew how to navigate the rules of the street. It was all a matter of knowledge and timing. If you mess up, you get a ticket; maybe lose a side view mirror. But for those in the know, it works.

There are times I’m all for rule breaking. Or dancing. With certain things, I either go outside the lines or don’t participate. Writing could be one of those things. I write for myself with a set of rules I negotiate in my writing universe.

Last week  I sat in a classroom outside of my comfort zone. In a class of English teachers, the rules became more defined, and I revisited my writing inadequacies. Fears that my thesis (did I even have one?) did not match my evidence. Verb agreement and structure all came into question. And in the end, did I say anything? Mind you, these fears were created, and the rules were enforced by me.

The lessons I took away from this writing workshop were profound.

Some writing lessons I knew but needed to be reminded of —

Reading texts as mentors can create joy and skill in writers.  Dissecting writing develops writer-self-awareness and content understanding. Revising with specific lenses sharpen meaning and lift the writer and the writing. Doing this work will take goal setting and discipline I’m not sure I possess. My rule breaking tendencies could conveniently sneak in and sabotage my efforts.

Some teaching lessons I knew but needed to be reminded of —

Being in a writing classroom means being vulnerable and possibly feeling inadequate or distracted by those in similar predicaments. When I teach towards higher levels of writing proficiency, I must remember that students are infant writers, just getting their bearings on their journey. When I ask them to ratchet up their work and set goals, it must be done with their fragility in mind. And, this is when dancing with and perhaps around the rules is necessary.

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for Slice of Life Tuesdays. Read more slices here.