I miss my writing group! Although it has always been a very high priority for me, through circumstances beyond my control, I missed the May meeting and will now have to skip June’s as well. Sadness pervades my efforts to write.
“Why?” I’ve been asking myself. I wrote both of my textbooks as a lone ranger, getting feedback from my editor only after I turned in semi-final drafts. Her comments polished the work and let me finalize it, but they came in near the end of the process of writing. My group, on the other hand, responds to my work earlier in the process, and their varied perspectives, while sometimes confusing, usually lead me to a better version. I miss the discussion, I miss their perspective, I miss being reminded that my audience includes non-teachers and I can’t assume background knowledge.
But it’s more than that. I miss the community. I miss being part of a group where individuals commit not only to their own writing but also to helping their peers. I miss the joint sense of purpose, the shared learning.
And I miss being able to offer my own comments and perspective. I miss the give-and-take that characterizes a good session.
The degree of my frustration over missing two months in a row surprised me, but it shouldn’t have. I am a better writer, a better reader, and a better communicator because of this community of writers. And with no firm deadlines for my memoir or my blog, I value the accountability of the deadline of each meeting.
Thinking about this led me to an epiphany: my best classes – as learner and as teacher – have been like my writing group, a community with a shared purpose, mutual commitment, and genuine concern for each other. My teacher training [admittedly a lifetime ago] never addressed that. When I student taught, my supervisors didn’t evaluate how well I was building community.
But as I mourn missing these sessions and promise myself to protect July’s date, I realize that all educators should concern themselves with these issues. The very reason I never loved my online classes and workshops was the distant nature of any community they offered. Our classrooms should promote a sense of connectedness and shared purpose. Only then will our students and teachers eagerly attend and participate in the work together.