Alex Reid, after some discussion of the smaller-than-previously-thought role the conscious mind actually plays in human life, tells us that “teaching practices work fairly well for the most part, even though they are built on a likely faulty model of the mind.”
In part, that’s because writing relies on a lot of the subconscious functions built in to the human brian, Reid writes. So he asks what we can do to help students develop these subconscious processes and become better writers.
He writes that we might think of the mind itself as a rhetorical device “that allows us to construct relationships like author and audience for purposes of communication.” Basically, we model the behavior we want students to learn — acting like good writers in the hope that the students will emulate that behavior and become good writers themselves.
There seems to be a lot of responsibility there. I’m not a writing teacher anymore, but that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten what it was like or that I won’t become one again. Holding myself (or at least my mind) as a model for my students seems fraught with pressure. What if my mind isn’t of the right rhetorical shape? Will my students learn effectively?
Basically, if my mind is not of the right rhetoric, if I am just “acting” like a good writer when really I am not, will that artifice show through? Will the students get a deep educational experience if my mind is not of the right shape?
This lends itself, in my mind, to dedication. Perhaps as a struggling grad student, I was not as dedicated to teaching as someone hired for that purpose might be. Perhaps I was not pure of mind enough, not dedicated.
And yes, of course, this is all theory. Of course there’s no 1:1 transfer of thought patterns and subconscious neural formations. This isn’t Star Trek, after all. But it does get me thinking on the humanitarian, literature level.
If my heart, and apparently my mind, isn’t in the work, will those learning from me be shortchanged?