Monday, October 24, 2011

Top of the Class

It is hard to believe that my 6 week class on writing, publishing and promoting a nonfiction book is over. Of the 16 adults who took the class, 15 ended up completing it. Since I did not have the best experience when I took this class (in terms of some of the students in it, not the quality of the teaching or class content), I was a little apprehensive about teaching it. But I really enjoyed each and every one of my students. They had interesting topics, were great communicators, and actually did the homework assignments. The fact that all but 1 of them could tell me what their book was about in one sentence and completed the 10 questions assigned the first class is truly amazing. In the class I took two or three of us had the sentence down and no one besides me did any writing at all. You cannot have meaningful dialogue in the classroom if the students aren't doing the assignments.

For 3 of the weeks I brought in guest speakers - 1 who spoke on editing, plus Bobbi who talked about writing, 1 covering book design, and 1 who talked about her experience in self-publishing and traditional publishing. I think having other people come in helps break things up for the students, plus these people are experts in their fields. For the week when we covered promotion we ended up attending the monthly meeting of the St. Louis Publishers Association because their speaker, Lethia Owens, is a marketing expert. That was a good call because she was a fantastic speaker with a lot of good information.

The community college did not give me any evaluation forms, so I made up my own. I wanted to know what the students thought was most valuable, anything they didn't like, and what they would change if they could. I also was curious as to how the guest speakers were received. Overall I got great feedback from the class, and some good suggestions for how to improve the course. Several people wanted the class to last a couple more weeks, but at the moment I don't know what other content could be added to make that worthwhile.

Another big thing expressed both in class and on the questionnaire is that several of them would like for me to critique their writing. I did not feel like this was something that the class was intended to provide. My job was to help them understand how to write a book and get it published, not how to WRITE in general. At least that is my interpretation. I do not feel qualified to instruct anyone on the mechanics of writing. I am not an editor, nor am I a book coach. Maybe the program brochure needs to be more clear, but I thought I had emphasized at the beginning that I/we would not be reviewing the actual writing.

I had to let the community college know by the end of September if I would teach the spring session of this class. I thought they were making a big assumption that Bobbi would not be back, so I called to discuss this with her. At first we thought that we might team teach the course, but Bobbi has officially "passed the baton" (as she calls it) to me. So I told the community college that I want to change the night to anything but Wednesday since I don't want it to conflict with the St. Louis Publishers Association. I also asked if I could teach it at Hixson Middle School, since that is so much closer for me. So I guess the spring session will be at Hixson on Monday nights. I can only hope that I get the same caliber of students that I had this session. They made my first experience of teaching at the college level very rewarding.

1 comment:

Mrs. Wryly said...

Wow, that's great! You're running with the baton!