It was only after our six-week-long summer semester that I really stopped to think about what our classes accomplished in such a short period of time. We were lucky to have a lot of experienced poets, and a few students who had taken the class previously. But a good portion of our students were first time writers, and many of them had no clue what the class would even be until they arrived on the first (or second, or third) week of class.
In only six weeks we submitted to a literary journal, wrote collective stories, read and discussed dozens of poems and short stories, and even created our own chapbook. Then, we gathered as a group to share our writing at the final reading.
We had funny lull between the last week of class and the reading, because all of us teachers were enrolled in an intensive 10-day writing residency at Chatham's Eden Hall campus. In those ten days we as teachers had a chance to reflect, both individually and collectively, on how our classes went. That's when we began to realize that our summer program at ACJ was really a writing residency of its own, and given the variety of skill level and experience from our group, we couldn't say enough about what they accomplished.
We returned to the final reading to watch our students reaffirm our conclusions. Almost every student stood up in that microphone and shared a piece they had written. They spoke with the same pride and enthusiasm that fueled their hard work throughout the summer. It was so rewarding to see my students transform their shy reluctance into a genuine eagerness to celebrate their writing.
Some of my students were released during the semester. Others are sure they'll be sent elsewhere by the fall. But many of them were excited to start up again in the fall, and I must say I couldn't be more enthusiastic in preparation for my second year teaching. I'm looking forward to sharing my reflections, here, and to writing more about teaching at ACJ in creative work.
We've got lots of exciting things in the works for Words Without Walls tenth year of service!
Mike Bennett, Words Without Walls Teacher