Why I love to teach writing and literature

The one thing I wish I emphasized more in answering to people that broad question, Why do you teach, is why I teach writing. Why do I teach literature? Language is a stubborn toddler, a miser, a moody teenager hiding in their bedroom, a jilted lover, an oppressed people. Language has the power to change how people see people. Language is difficult. I've spent years trying to unlock myself, and years trying to unlock my wife's inner thoughts, and years trying to unlock my son. Language is a janitor's set of keys. We try to get in the room and see what's there. We try to get through one door, so we can get through the next. Language creates laws, which creates borders--legal, ethical, moral, familial, cultural, and so on. Without words, we have very little to distinguish human from non human. That's why I love teaching writing: that struggle to get through a door, to unlock borders, to realize that language is treatment. 

A student reads the word treatment, and what do they think? Good? Bad? They read the word challenge, and they think: a difficulty. For me, words exists as atoms, and atoms must be combined to shape something into physical matter. A word on its own is matter. A word on its own, though, is invisible to the naked eye of any true meaning. A word needs other atoms to make molecules, to make chemicals, to make amino acids, to make minerals, to make life as we know it. Simply, making a word come to its own life is difficult. A challenge. A treatment. The connotations are up to the scientist. Life is an effort. Life is many efforts. To simply exist as a set of atoms strong together with positive and negative charges bonding us. Each part of us matter. Each part of us matters. How we see our parts, including language, exalting language, matters.


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