If you are more aware of your feelings, the feelings of others and your children are more accessible to you. Your feel ings do not imprison you when you write about them; you can let them go. The feelings (of anger, helplessness) will no longer have control over you, you will have control over them, and therefore you will not have to act out those feelings. The icing on the cake is that you can take those raw writings, those journal entries and/or class writings and turn them into Art through editing them and making them into stories, poems, plays, memoirs.
Reading and writing set one free. One of these freedoms is the ability to attain one's GED, but the GED is just a beginning. Students need to see that reading and writing pertain to their lives now and in the future, to learn informa tion, to connect them to their children and the world in general, for self-expression, and for fun. Classes are for the long view, the rest of one's life, not the short view, the attaining of a GED.
Writing is a way to deal with feelings. Keeping a journal is one avenue for writing. If one writes their feelings in a journal, they need not act out those feelings. Even people who feel powerless have some power; they can express their feelings through writing. When one writes, there is no right or wrong. There is writing in the language of the dominate culture, standard English, or writing in the everyday language of one's life. (Instead of "turn right at the next corner" one may write "go to the corner and bust a right")
Emphasize writing in the language of the dominant culture, standard English, for the ability to pass the GED and work in the work force. Emphasize that there is not one correct language, but there is a standard language. Once one learns the rules, one can break them. Also let students write in their own 'language' or expressions.
People become interested in reading and writing when they are able to find a place for themselves in literature. Expose them to writers where they are more likely to see themselves. (See suggested reading list)
The work of writing is draining, exhausting, exhilarating.
You want your students to fall in love with language, with words, with possibilities. Playing with words is a key or new entry into the self. People learn about themselves through their writing, things they never suspected, good things; they find their strengths.
You want your students to love all aspects of writing. This includes the first writings, the revisions, the obsessions with finding the exact words, the frustrations about the difficulty of finishing a piece. In other words, appreciate not only the finished house, but every nail, piece of drywall, the tools, all the materials, as well as the finished product.
Being part of a group helps the individual as well as the group. When we do something for someone else, we work harder and are more productive. If we are only responsible to ourselves, we, especially women, tend to postpone our own personal work for the good of the family, or for other obligations we put first.
There is a fear of writing, finding out about oneself, finding out whether one has the potential to be a writer that must be addressed. We look for reasons to avoid this confrontation between ourselves and the paper. When one makes a commitment to the class, that kind of obligation becomes positive; the student comes to class and writes, if only once a week at that time. At least there is consistency and a moving forward, a progression.
Start with love. Start with trust. Be open. Share a secret or a fear. Create a safe room with total acceptance. Trust yourself. Tell your students to trust themselves. The object of the exercises is to fill the page with words. If you (the student) do that, you are doing the right thing; you are doing just fine.
You are painting a picture with words. You want your readers to see what you see, feel the textures, the smells, the tastes, the sounds, the feelings. Remember to use all your senses.
Writers begin as ordinary people who feel compelled to write. Writing is a way of saying "I am"; my thoughts or ideas are valuable. Writing is an acquired skill improved upon with practice and reinforcement.
Give a word, a group of words, a picture, a smell, a taste and say, "Write as fast as you can without stopping, without thinking, until I say stop. Forget about making sense, spelling, capitalization's, sentence structure. Use dashes if you want. Let your mind go wherever it wants to go." I use a timer for the writings to add a pressure that forces one to write and not think.
Retype work of students, correcting spelling and punctuation. Return work and have students compare their original with corrections noticing changes of spelling and punctuation.
Read aloud poems, or pieces of novels, essays, articles that are examples of good writing, or inspirational, or just plain fun.
The group process is such a powerful, interesting tool. The energy of the group is contagious, and even when someone comes to class tired, they are reenergized by the others. The atmosphere is so positive and encouraging that people improve rapidly, faster than they might on their own. The classes are addictive. Writers work alone, but sometimes writers enjoy writing in a group for fun and support.
Use a timer and make the exercises timed writings. With the pressure of timing, one more easily shuts out the editor's voice, the voice that says, "Don't write that, that's stupid." Under pressure, the writer gets out of their intellec tual head and goes into their deeper self of memories and secrets.
Writing is dangerous. One learns things about themselves they didn't know or forgot. It's an adventure into the inte rior, an archeological dig into self.
"Write in ordinary language," tell your students. "You know already all you need to know to do it, and what you do is okay, is correct, is just fine. Time and practice, some editing, perhaps a lot of editing, will refine your work."