INKSHED XXIII May 5, 2006

Chris -- War and peace? A fictional inquiry into life story

Perhaps the teacher's fear to upset her coloured their relationship. Perhaps if the teacher hadn't tried to read too much into Edina's silence, their work on her resume would've been more productive. I think that sometimes teachers' fears to intrude on their students' private lives affects their professionalism.

But I think what the story speaks to me about is the challenge and vulnerability that students face when asked to produce writing in an academic genre -- a genre they don't know and that doesn't necessarily mesh with their own knowledge and experience. -- Miriam

I still feel strongly that "appropriating" their life stories as research is out of the question -- in an overt way -- but I still wish it were possible to share the real people with others.

For how long and at what cost (to ourselves and our students) do we continue to uphold institutional expectations we don't value. How do we recognize when such expectations are destroying our students. Or maybe such destruction has gone on a long time, years, and only every now and then are we "lucky" enough to see the results soon enough to intervene.

You capture accurately (for me) the teacher's avoidance of the resistant student -- also the teacherly patience that vacillates with the avoidance. And the mutuality of their dual resistance to unlocking pain and expressing intimate and horrible feelings. This takes major work. Rewriting our students' lives -- don't we do this with every comment, as correction or in response, that we make on their written papers?

The idea of putting a person's life into the form of a resume seems horrific, but I guess we all do that sometimes. Curriculum vitas, author's bias, and obituaries.

Summer of the sweater -- I love that metaphor -- the taking off of, and putting on of roles.

I keep thinking about the power differential and the vulnerability of students generally. Perhaps especially students working in a second language -- but then I think most students are really working in a second language (Academic written English).-- Russ

Chris's presentation reminds me of the kind of intense dynamic created in a writing centre setting even though Chris's relationship to Adina (?) did not take place within the time context of a writing centre. I have worked in writing centers on and off for 12 years and I am always drawn back to time intensity of relationship -- or at least the potential for it -- within a one on one context. Yet, it is a profoundly vulnerable moment, especially for the student.

All of what was said in your story makes me think of narrative inquiry -- mutual restorying (or in Adina's case -- was it?). Is your story really only your story?

The student resistance to the film depictions of suffering is a refusal to have our identification with the suffering of characters (pity and terror) used as a pedagogical tool. Retelling a personal story of suffering is supposed to be therapeutic -- apparently this notion is mistaken. But after the fact of the experience, it is apparently useful for the person to organize the experience and integrate it with their own sense of their life story. This may be done in writing -- even periods of writing as brief as 15 minutes per day.