Friday, February 20, 2009

There Was an Old Man...When the Student is Robert W. Walker

Anyone who has ever tried to learn something and has given up, has, at one time or another, blamed the textbook (too thick, too turgid, too thin, too simplistic), or the setting (too many distracting windows in the room, not enough windows in the room), or the teacher (monotone, cranky, doesn’t like me, talks another language) —and perhaps that is human nature at its willy-nilly-est. The last one to blame is oneself, right? But eventually, and especially looking back from the comfort of time, it becomes clear—if not downright apparent—that the student was simply not ready. Not in a “good place” either physically, emotionally, or psychologically, and so how could he be expected to GET IT—whatever that IT happens to be?

If I could have it to do over again, sitting here today and looking back on high school and my time at the university, I would have done a few things differently, as might anyone and not just academically! But at the time, I hadn’t the maturity and emotional stability and psychological cool and “moxie” to learn say Paradise Lost or the nuances of Physical Geography or Interpersonal Dynamics or whatever. From Hamlet to anthropological and sociological truths, I was lost (but it did help tremendously to discover that you check out a book on the subject written by an expert on the subject and you crack it).

As a teacher now, I see so very many students who are not prepared—and I don’t mean simply missing books or note-taking skills, No, I am speaking of their not having yet arrived at that mental station necessary. You know, the station wherein the “master” might actually be of use to him or her? The old Chinese proverb is what I am talking about, the one I suspect comes from Confucius that says: “The master will appear when the student is ready.”

Prior to the student being ready, the mentor or teacher or master is pretty much an idiot who is going about blathering to himself -- most of the time. It puts me in memory of Mark Twain’s remarks about his parents. To paraphrase: “When I was seventeen, my parents were the worst sort of backwater simpletons and fools, and yet how amazed I was when he turned twenty-four to discover how very much they had learned!” The parents had in fact miraculously become geniuses.

When the student is ready (mentally, emotionally, physically), the master appears. It’s so true. Currently, I am teaching writing classes at West Virginia State University, and perhaps seventy-five percent or more of my students are not prepared for college, let alone truly “ready” to drink of the trough. This for whatever reason has them unable or unwilling to pick up the “pearls” cast before them. Some are too young, too na├»ve; some are jaded from years of school and school rules; others are busy raising children of their own, and holding down jobs, and showing up at class without being ready in the sense I am speaking of here.

This holds true for writers and finding a mentor writer as well, and when I edit the works of others some are so, so, so very prepared and ready, and these drink it in and soak it up and move on to remarkable accomplishments, whereas others pout, scream, shout, and call me a butcher. These are not students prepared and ready.

Just an observation, and sorry if I sound pedantic, professorial, or worse—a pontificating old man, but then that’s who I am. If you are as ready as ready can be and are looking for a mentor to guide you through the turbulent writing waters, contact me via my website, via my Knife Services but only if you are ready to be sliced and diced—and to extrapolate and learn from the “butcher”.

Fast Writing is confident writing! Move it along!

Rob Walker
-- come for your free ebook ARC of Dead On; only a keystroke away!

1 comment:

Morgan Mandel said...

No doubt about it. You need to have a thick skin in this business and be willing to learn, no matter what level you're at.

Morgan Mandel