This is one of those things that sort of walks the line between “official” and “unofficial” blog material, but I thought I’d put it here:
My wife Annette and I went to a wedding this afternoon, the first one we’ve been to since my youngest sister got married about five years ago. A very nice ceremony and all of that. For the dinner and such after words, we were seated with two older couples who we didn’t know but who turned out to be very nice folks. During the course of chit-chat, we talked about what we did for a living, and it came up that I was a writing teacher. People often assume (as they did here) that I teach creative writing, but I then have to explain that I don’t do that. As a sort of simple explanation, I usually say something like “Remember that first year composition course you took? I teach courses like that.” If they want details, I will go on.
Anyway, tonight, in the course of my first year composition spiel, this guy, who said he graduated from high school and took his first year composition class in 1955, told this story about how he had written this essay about how he had cut his hand badly at a boy scout camp during a ceremony in which he was dressed like an American Indian, which, for the time, meant he had on war paint and a loin cloth. He went to the hospital and was treated by a Chinese doctor, who, according this guy, didn’t really know what to think of the outfit. This guy, who had to be into his mid 60s if not older, talked about how his 1955 comp/rhet teacher had read this essay to the other students in the class and how proud he was of that essay and the impact it had on the other students in the class. This guy, well into retirement and with his college days long gone, obviously remembered this classroom experience so fondly that it was a story he told in situations like this one.
This is one of the reasons why I’m happy to be a college writing teacher.
PS: Just in case you were wondering, I’m aware of the “cultural awareness” problems of the story this guy told me– a white kid dressed up like an Indian performing some sort of fake ceremony, being treated by a doctor who was “Chinese” (which probably meant someone who was some form of Asian, not necessarily Chinese), etc. But hey, this guy was in FY Comp 40 years ago; I got to cut him a break…