Teaching Writing: Fragments of a Poet’s Credo
Author’s abstract: I have been in school since I was four years old. Now, at the age of sixty-five, I look back on a long life spent in classrooms, as a learner and a school teacher and a professor of education, and I am filled with amazement that I have grown old! I was probably in my thirties before I began to understand how education always occurs in communities of teachers and learners who teach and learn from one another, who search and research together. As a beginning teacher, I wavered between feeling powerless and powerful. On the one hand, I assumed that I was in control in the classroom; I was the primary decision-maker. But, on the other hand, I typically expected educational experts to tell me what I should do. I depended on the stipulations of school administrators, the publications of professors, and the professional development workshops of school district consultants to guide, convince, and inspire me in my teaching. And, now that I’ve been a professor for a long time, I also know that professors don’t really know very much. They might profess a lot, but they know the searching is always in process, returning to the beginning of the search again and again in order to know the quests and the questions in lively other ways. As scholars, theorists, artists, and educators, we need to attend to language. We need to attend to etymology, diction, grammar, syntax, metaphors, and interpretation. All my life I have been enamoured with the necromancy of the alphabet, the magic of spelling, the alchemy of grammar, the mystery of books—the potent fecundity of language. I am always seeking connections to scholars who are committed to provoking scholarship with heartful and artful dedication.
Editor’s Preface: With the permission of his family, we are honoured to publish posthumously “Teaching Writing: Fragments of a Poet’s Credo” by Carl Leggo. Carl submitted this piece to Art/Research International on January 28, 2019, only five and a half weeks before he passed from his physical being and life on Earth. Even as he “dwell[ed] daily in the space between living and dying” with cancer, Carl graciously offered earnest reflections about writing, poetry, and living well in the world: “fragments and suggestions from [his] credo …what [he has] given [his] heart to.” His wise words, always inspiring, are ever more precious now, a living reminder of the poet, teacher, and scholar he was and always will be to so many of his colleagues, friends, and students: thoughtful, erudite, generous, kind, courageous, vulnerable—and steadfastly hopeful. “Teaching Writing: Fragments of a Poet’s Credo” is rich ground to return to again and again: a succinct articulation of Carl’s ways of living poetically in the world, all threaded through with insights from some of his favourite authors. May “Teaching Writing” reverberate among Carl’s many poems, articles, and books—and more widely, among the writings of those who share his he(art)ful path in the academy. May these ever widening and deepening reverberations bring healing and benefit to many.
- Susan Walsh, Ph.D.
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