Clearing Away the Junk

16 Sep
harper1
    Image courtesy of Dvortygirl

Lately, I’ve been cleaning: sorting, tossing, clearing out, making room. I’m trying to cut down on the visual noise that surrounds me so I can focus on things that really matter to me, like reading a book that was previously hidden under a pile of junk mail.

As much as I appreciate the technologies my students bring into the classroom, I’m acutely aware of how distracting it can be for students to go online in the middle of class, whether it’s to access an online article or share their own work electronically. It’s a minefield: they can quickly stray from their assigned task to checking social media.

How do you ask students to clear away the junk so they can focus? This seems to be the necessary first step. Before responding, before thinking, even before listening, we’ve got to clear out and make room. We have to prepare ourselves to listen to the voices that are speaking to us, both out of the page and out of the person sitting across from us.

Image courtesy of Dvoritygirl
 Image courtesy of Dvortygirl

It saddens me when students say they aren’t creative. It’s like someone’s clipped their wings, and I’m never sure how to give them back the confidence to be creative.

I mean, isn’t that what makes us, well…human? Isn’t our creativity–our ability to use tools, to solve problems, to think about our experiences–necessary to our basic survival?

I never feel like I have a good answer for students, so maybe I’ll try this: creativity is a habit. It’s about listening attentively to the world around you, figuring out a way to respond to it, and being thoughtful in your responses. It’s about working to understand your own limitations and then attempting to move beyond them. It’s a way of living in the world.

Meredith Harper, Instructor of Writing & Rhetoric, University of Mississippi

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