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CREATIVE NON-FICTION (Essays not directly related to education or writing)
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Thoughts About Writing, Education, and Experience
Forrest D. Poston
As Some might guess, I'm not especially fond of boxes, labels, tags, or other ways of reducing people to tidy categories. That includes resumés, obnoxious, if perhaps necessary, little lists that pretend to summarize worthiness for some position. However, I also recognize that some people may be curious about this odd stranger making claims, pronouncements, and suggestions. I've no plans to follow the rules and expect to get downright talkative in places, but I'll try to keep less than a three hour tour.
My rules, so I'll start by bragging and complaining at the same time. When the latest edition of "Who's Who Among America's Teachers" comes out this fall, I'll be in it for the second time (assuming my paperwork reached them in time). I'm more proud of this second time because I haven't actually had a teaching position for about 3 years. Since I had to be nominated by a student, that means that someone in one of my last freshman comp. courses was still feeling influenced by their junior or senior year even though I wasn't around to keep pushing. So maybe my efforts "ain't been in vain for nuthin'" (approximate quote from "Singing in the Rain").
As for the complaint, would you believe that teaching awards can make it harder to get a college teaching job? The logic is that anyone who spends enough time on teaching to get an award must not be spending enough time on research and publishing. Even at places that call themselves teaching universities rather than research universities have a strong tendency in this unfortunate direction.
When I applied to a community college some years back, the interview committee expressed some concern over how I would balance my teaching with my own writing because I had published two individual poems. The Chair called to let me know they had hired someone else for the specific reason that he had published two books. My two poems were a potential nuisance factor, but his two books actually made the school look better for upcoming accreditation issues. And that was at a small school tucked in an economically depressed, very small town, where I actually would have liked to live.
729 N. Sonntag Ave.
Summary: Ph. D. expected August 2002; thirteen years part-time experience teaching composition from developmental to advanced junior/senior level, plus literature surveys, and working in a MacIntosh writing lab; non-teaching experience ranging from construction to retail sales; currently taking time off from teaching to write my overdue dissertation.
Philosophy: Education is the process of learning to create, discover and apply meaning from experience. All we have is our experience, whether it's the experience of sticking our hand in a fire or reading a book. We don't learn from the fire or the book but from our experience of them. We must each learn how to decipher, integrate, and apply both the broader social experiences and the individual experiences without devaluing either.
Composition Philosophy: Telling and teaching are not synonymous. Students should be given the time to make as many of the decisions as possible with non-invasive guidance. This helps break the passive "please the teacher" model, and when students develop an active relationship with writing, they discover the importance of writing beyond the classroom. I want students to realize that writing is an active tool, extremely helpful with problem-solving, a way to create meaning and form a symbiotic relationship between self and society.
September, 1996 - December, 1996: (sick leave replacement)
September, 1994-June, 1995:
September, 1991-August, 1994:
September, 1987-December, 1989:
Computer/Writing lab attendant, Ohio University, Autumn 1992 and Summer 1993. This includes working with students on both writing and computer related problems using MacIntosh equipment.
Ohio University, Athens: Ph. D. program in English with focus in twentieth- century literature (Degree expected in August, 2002). Exams completed 1992. Title for dissertation: Reading Yourself Into Being: Creating Mythology From Sylvia Plath and Theodore Roethke.
Ohio State University, Columbus: Master of Arts in English, December, 1989. Thesis title: A Mythology of the Individual: The Poetry of W. B. Yeats.
University of Oregon, Eugene: March 1986-June 1987.
Muskingum College, New Concord, Ohio: Bachelor of Arts in English, 1983.
University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee: August 1976-May 1977.
Professional Activities and Awards:
"Another Quest" (poem) Block's Magazine, Spring, 1997.
February, 1993 "Challenging the Corncob: A Revisionist Version of Temple's Rape in Faulkner's "Sanctuary," presented at the Twentieth- Century Literature Conference at the University of Louisville.
October, 1993 "Self-image in Breece Pancake's 'Trilobites,' presented at the Appalachian Studies Symposium, Bluefield State College.
June, 1994 Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant, College of Arts and Sciences, Ohio University.
Current Activities: I always wanted my dissertation to be more than a compilation of criticism with no use beyond fulfilling degree requirements. I believe I've finally developed my teaching enough to write a dissertation that can help students, and my wife and I have managed to alter our finances enough to let me take the next few months off to do the writing.
In our attempts to help students understand literature and view it critically, we've lost some of the value and effect of reading. Stories, whether oral, written, or filmed, are important in the continuous process of creating ourselves and refining our relationship with the world around us. Stories contain broad elements found in traditional mythology and elements that require more individual translation and application, what is now called personal mythology. For each reader, there is an intersection between the social and individual elements. My dissertation uses the poetry of Sylvia Plath and Theodore Roethke as examples for reading at the crossroads. Though both authors had personal troubles they couldn't resolve, their writings contain the elements that can make fiction truer than history. With that in mind, the dissertation is titled, "Reading Yourself Into Being."
I've noticed several authors doing companion books about reading and writing. While I have a tendency to avoid popular trends, this one fits perfectly with my thinking. I have begun planning a composition text titled, Writing Yourself Into Being based on what I've learned from experiences in class and individual student conferences. Too much writing is done simply to please the teacher, creating a passive model that has little benefit for the writer or the teacher. I strive for a more active process, allowing students to make more decisions and apply the writing more directly to their lives in ways that develop self-awareness, purpose, and a sense of control...for the students rather than of the students.
I'm also devoting a more significant amount of time to writing
poetry for the first time in three years. Overall, I see the
next few years as something of a coming out party for me. I think
I've finally reached a point where I have some things to say.
Some of the materials will be adapted for conference submission,
and I have set aside web space to create a site to post my work
and try to relocate former students. Teaching is always my first
priority, and when need be my writing will wait. At the same
time the two are closely related because so much of the writing
is inspired by the teaching and especially conversations with
Would you like to know when the site gets updated? Drop me an e-mail, and I'll add you to the list. Much of my writing has been for the antiques site lately, but I have a long list of essays in assorted stages of revision for this site. The people who e-mail often apologize because they assume I'm swamped with e-mails. I only wish it were true. I'm a teacher from the marrow out, so give me questions. I'm a writer, so I also need an audience. Sometimes that means applause, sometimes rotten tomatoes.
From time to time, a student decides to use some of my ideas, or perhaps they even quote me in a paper. Great, I'll take what fame and traces of immortality I can get. However, I should also warn such students that my ideas are not always the things that your teachers want to hear. I'm a stubborn idealist, and that puts me at odds with quite a bit of education theory and literary criticism. Sure, I think I'm right about some things, and I'm sometimes convinced of my own brilliance, but don't jump into the fire blindfolded.