Jenn Monroe has been teaching writing at the college level for more than a decade.
I believe the best teaching begins not with scholarship but with relationships. This is especially true when working with writers. I can teach apprentice writers technique and vocabulary, assign them a wide variety of reading, and provide constructive criticism, but if they do not feel valued and respected, if they do not feel they can trust me, I will never be able to help them on the journey they need to take to get to the center of their creativity. They will not believe me when I say, "you can go deeper than this," or be moved to discover the answer to the question "what are you afraid to write?"
Opportunities to build these relationships happen both inside and outside of the classroom. I welcome conversations about reading and writing with students (as well as about current assignments) before and after class. In this way I can encourage students to send out work or answer questions about being a working writer.
Inside the classroom it is my responsibility to foster enthusiasm not only for the subjects I teach, but also for learning in general. To do this, I must be as enthusiastic about the act of teaching as I am the subject matter I present. While I seem to have an inherent love for writing and reading, it has been my time with students that sincerely fuels my desire to be the most effective instructor possible. The excitement I feel when I see a student start to make connections between what we are discussing and what s/he has learned in another class (or through independent investigations) is like no other. That is my idea of job satisfaction. That is when I know I'm doing it "right."
My goal is to present information by way of conversations, rather than lectures. While I provide direct discussion and measurements of their progress, my students understand they are responsible for what they take away from my classroom. My hope is that what they gain extends far beyond the subject area I am teaching at the time, and leads to personal growth and understanding at some level.
As important as it is to get students excited about writing and poetry, it is equally important to challenge them. I do my best to provide coursework that is as stimulating as it is challenging in a supportive environment, while helping to build confidence. When I sense a student wants more, I suggest addition reading, often from my personal library, most of which is in my office.
I stress respect in the classroom, not only for me, but also for their peers. In workshops I encourage students to first try to understand what their peers are attempting to do with their own creative work, to acknowledge attempts at individual style and voice. It is not helpful to the apprentice writer to be judged based upon an aesthetic that is not their own. I do this myself, by way of example, and to get a better understanding of what my students are trying to accomplish with their work. Keeping their goals in mind allows me to help them find what is "working" in their poems and, ultimately, make them successful. This approach fosters strong bonds between students (and between myself and my students) who continue to support one another throughout their academic careers. It is important for students to know they are not alone in their trials and triumphs.
It also is important for to see a creative writer at work and I am happy to be this example. As I research publishing opportunities for my own work, I often come across calls I know will appeal to particular students or colleagues. I share these opportunities whenever I find them with the great hope my students and colleagues will find success. I also invite the members of this creative community to the public readings I give and encourage them to participate in the "open mic" portions of these events. In this way we can support one another and make connections with the wider network of writers here in New Hampshire and elsewhere.
When I was interviewed for my full-time position at Chester College, the then department chair asked me what I consider "success." I said while it would be wonderful to be a widely published prize-winning poet, my greatest moments come with the accomplishments of my students. This still holds true. If I am a successful teacher, then I have many more of these moments ahead.
Click Here for Jenn's resume in PDF format.