Time for collective reflection
Time for collective reflection
Guided Reflection Protocol
1999 | Volume 56 | Number 8
Educational Leadership: Supporting New Teachers Pages 34-37
Last week, we focused on why we write and developed our identities as writers. We discussed purpose, audience, genre, and exigence.
This week, we are moving from writing purposes to writing products, from “why do we write?” to “what is good writing?” Once again, we look to Zinsser to kick start our debate. Is good writing simplified and uncluttered (without being simplistic)? Is it jargon free?
Exigence = Urgent situation requiring one to respond (in writing)
When we sit down to write, we have to make a choice about which task to tackle first. Should we write a poem about how much we love our kid, or a letter to our future self, reminding us not to sweat the small stuff? Should we work on an article or editorial about our teaching for a magazine or newspaper, or a bit of a memoir that helps us to understand why we always react to our mom that way? When working with students, should they write an essay about learning to ride a bike, or about that Black Lives Matter rally that they went to last weekend? An essay about Hillary Clinton is very timely right now. Next year, it may not be so exigent.
When faced with this choice about what to write, we can ask ourselves which task has the most exigence, or is most exigent. Our word exigent in English is a synonym for the Greek word kairotic.
In Greek, there are two words for time, chronos and kairos. Chronos is what the clock says. Kairos is the significance of the moment–in history or in your life. The punch line of a joke shouldn’t come at 3:03, it should come at the “right time” in the delivery. Rhetoricians (those who study public speaking and writing) say that a speech that is delivered at the right moment in history is “kairotic.” It was just what the audience needed to hear.
When a friend says that your encouragement was “just what I needed to hear right then,” they are saying that your words were kairotic.
When helping students to figure out what to write about, try to help them find something that matters RIGHT NOW to them, some decision that they need to make, some message that they need to communicate to someone significant in their lives.
As the cliche goes, tomorrow may be too late–even if it’s just because the punch line lost its kairotic moment.
Where does the title come from?
Why do you think Anne’s brother (and so many other writers) procrastinates?
What is Anne Lamott afraid of? What is she anxious about?
How does she manage her fear and get back to the work of writing?
What advice would Anne give to us if she were in this room?
Does the structure of your grocery list shape your behavior, or does your behavior shape the structure of your grocery list?
Carolyn R. Miller and others have defined genres as typified communicative actions in recurring situations. In other words, recognizable types of texts emerge because the same need occurs over and over.
Miller, C. R. (1984). “Genre as social action.” Quarterly Journal of Speech (70), pp. 151-67
Charles Bazerman challenges us to see genres as more than forms of texts.
“Genres are not just forms. Genres are forms of life, ways of being. They are frames for social action [,…] locations within which meaning is constructed. Genres shape the thoughts we form and the communications by which we interact. Genres are the familiar places we go to create intelligible communicative action with each other and the guideposts we use to explore the unfamiliar.” (19)
Bazerman, Charles. Social Forms as Habitats for Action. Journal of The Interdisciplinary Crossroads. 16 (2), p. 123-142, (2003).
Who are we writing to? What do we know about our audience? How does that shape our texts?
Our students are often writing for an audience that they don’t know well. Their teachers know more and have experienced more than they have. The audience of “educated readers” has expectations that they don’t fully know or comprehend. This makes writing hard! And intimidating.