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Monthly Archives: October 2014

Dealing With Fear of Writing

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I learnt to read and write in school through decoding. I began with learning alphabets and then joining these alphabets to read simple words without any meaning or context. Then after two years of this kind of training, I began to read simple sentences with little meaning. In the process, I learnt two things. Firstly, reading and writing is a complex formulaic process that I know nothing about. Secondly, meaning is unimportant in the initial stages of reading.

Together these two learnings affected my confidence, as for me the process of reading and writing was now mystified and my own knowledge of language was not acknowledged. I was also not able to make much sense of the reading writing exercises that were given in school. Soon, I stopped intellectually engaging with language. But I managed somehow to sustain my interest in reading. Writing however remained a frightening experience for me and it still is.

In college, while training to be an elementary school teacher I came across constructivist approaches to reading and writing such as whole language approach; language experience approach, emergent literacy and process writing approach. I learnt about these and used them as effectively as possible in my grade one class. But I remained a reluctant writer. I was scared of writing my experiences of using these approaches.

Recognising my fear for writing, I remembered what Rousseau had said that if the teacher herself does not love her subject she will give pass on message to her students. Afraid of this, I promised myself to make reading and writing a more meaningful exercise for my students. Then while working with Dalit girls of rural Uttar Pradesh, I learnt that writing has a lot to do with confidence. I promised myself that I would make reading and writing fun for these girls, so that unlike me, they begin to enjoy writing. I wanted them to write for themselves. This happened but I still could not overcome my phobia for writing. Reading Frank Smith’s ‘Essays into Literacy’ also did not help me much.

I moved on but in every stage of my life writing became an inescapable reality. Now a doctoral student, I cannot but have to face my fears. In the meanwhile I began teaching MA programme students, and through them I realised how systematically all of us learnt to curb our voices in school which developed into our fear for writing.

So, in order to deal with this fear, I decided to take up a writing challenge for fourteen weeks. I must thank Brandon Sanderson for inspiring me to do this. I watched a clip of his 2013 lecture titled ‘Build Good Habits’ in which he asks his students to take up the challenge of writing 3000 words a week for fourteen weeks. My challenge begins from 1st November 2014 till 8th February 2015. In this period, I vow to write 500 words everyday. I vow to begin my day with writing.

I am hoping that by the end of this challenge I will be able to get rid of my phobia for writing.

Wish me luck.

First Day of University Teaching

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I was born and brought up in a political capital of my country, now I took a decision to shift to a small town for a job. It was difficult but I wanted a slow-paced, peaceful life for myself which my home city could not offer. First job at the university in a new town was quite challenging.
However, filled with energy and enthusiasm, I began climbing the hill on top of which my department’s office was located to start my first day. Eighty step climb felt easier. I reached my scarcely furnished office to take a breath and revised my plan, I began to remember all advises my teacher had given me. Now that I was going to be in their shoes, I felt anxious as I didn’t want to let him down. I wanted to give my best.

This was my first teaching hour at the university as well as the first teaching hour for our newly opened School of Education. So this was our first M.A. batch and together we were all beginning a new phase of our life.
At 10:29 AM, I left my office to reach the designated classroom revising my plan for the hour. I ignored all the gawking from the male students while managing my saree that I was still learning to drape.

I found three students waiting for me as I entered the small classroom with no fan on a humid monsoon morning with a non-functional cooler staring at us. We introduced ourselves. It was our first interaction. I enquired about the status of their boarding-lodging and other logistics such as internet login; library cards etc. My students were in their early twenties hailing from two small towns in Uttar Pradesh. They appeared excited.

I informed them that I will be teaching Sociology of Education in this semester. Then I gave them an overview of the course beginning from Durkheim, Dewey to Education in Modern technocratic society. I explained that during the course students will be given a set of readings which they will read before coming to the class. In class we will have discussions on these readings. Each reading will be summarised by the students.

After listening to this introduction, a young female student asked me how will I dictate notes-with headings and sub-headings or without headings? I was shocked. I was certainly not going to dictate notes. That’s not how I learnt and that’s not how I will be teaching. I firmly replied that no notes will be dictated instead if they wish they can jot down points from class discussions.

Now I understood the challenge I am faced with as students were used to spoon-feeding. Anyway, I gave them a very short 4 page article to read. It was written in simple Hindi language. With this began a new phase in my life.