MY VISION FOR STARTING UP A CENTER FOR COMPOSITION STUDIES THAT FOREGROUNDS ADVOCACY, MINISTERIAL, SOCIAL JUSTICE AND VISIONARY WRITING
MY TEACHING STATEMENT -- DIANE K. OLSON

FIRST AND FOREMOST, WE NEED TO TEACH STUDENTS TO HAVE FAITH IN THEMSELVES AS WRITERS AND THEIR HEART-FELT, GOD-GIVEN PURPOSES WHEN THEY WRITE

First and foremost, we, as composition teachers, need to teach students to have faith in themselves as writers and their heart-felt, God-given purposes when writing.   Too often, our impulse when teaching writing is to judge students and their writings but so often, that only stymies the writing process and causes students to lose faith in themselves and their purposes as writers.  We need composition studies courses that inspire students to use writing creatively and purposively to understand, imagine and creatively refashion the worlds that they live in -- that is what I would call faith-based, visionary writing that encourages students to pursue their creative, imaginative purposes in writing rather than merely having them perform writing for our evaluation, assessments and judgments -- writing that really has no purpose in the larger world and does not effect social and educational change and seems useless to many students, hence their resistances to writing tasks.  When the focus of writing is on evaluation and judgment, that does not build and encourage students' faith in themselves as writers, so we need to change our focus, as composition teachers, to creating and designing the kinds of writing assignments that do build and encourage students' faith in themselves as writers who have a purpose  in writing/communicating/expressing and have something important to say that matters to the world beyond the classrooms and beyond the university.   We build students' faith in themselves as writers by showing them ways that they can make and use their writing to imaginatively shape and transform and change the social worlds that they inhabit. We build students' faith in themselves as writers when we allow students to write about the issues and concerns that are near and dear to their hearts and that they care deeply about and feel compelled to write about -- and all students -- and teachers, too -- are born with the need to express and the desire to communicate what matters most to them -- that is why expressive letter-writing and song-writing are two of the most compelling forms of communication and resonate with so many people -- because letter-writing and song-writing come from a need to be heard and to interact with other people and effect/move the people who encounter the writing.  Hence, part of building students' faiths in themselves as writers also includes offering them opportunities to engage in these forms of expressive, communicative writing and allowing them to do the writing that they truly love, need and feel compelled to do -- writing that comes from the heart and also from a concern about improving the world and making it a more compassionate, responsive place.  We, as composition teachers, need to understand that our students' often possess fresh and compelling visions of how they would like the world to be and how they would improve the worlds that they inhabit, and by encouraging students to write about their visions for a better world, we are empowering them and teaching them to have faith in themselves as writers and communicators whose words truly matter and have far greater power than simply being evaluated and institutionally judged, as composition teachers are too frequently and unfortunately called upon to do by our universities.  In order to build our students' faiths in themselves as writers, we have to give up our roles as evaluators and taskmasters and imagine ourselves as co-creators and co-visionaries and co-communicators with our students who foster a sense of creative and visionary and heart-felt purpose when writing -- that is the type of writing that most builds students' faith in themselves writers, when they see their writing reaching out to and impacting the world around them and communicating their dearest concerns, especially to engaged listeners. This is the form and type of writing that I aim to teach in my classes -- faith-based, social justice, visionary writing -- and I am still seeking a university that will bring me aboard to teach the forms of writing that I describe and advocate for on this blog. If you teach at or know of such a place, I would be happy to hear about it.   My email address is dianekolson@gmail.com. MORE YET TO COME ON THIS BLOG IN THE FUTURE.   Sincerely, Diane K. Olson 

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