Best American Short Stories

My philosophy of teaching is based on the belief that writing is a collaborative process and the best way to cultivate learning is through a student-centered classroom. Writing is oftentimes seen as an individual activity; a task that requires one to spend hours in isolation strategizing the best ways to articulate one’s thoughts through words. However, my goal as a creative writing instructor is to try and make writing as social and collective as possible by providing ample opportunities to demonstrate writing as a collaborative process.

My experiences in the MFA program have shown me the importance of being part of a literary community, and the significant advantages that come with peer mentorship and guidance. Therefore, my plan is to create a similar environment for my students; a space where students are active participants of their own learning and encouraged to seek out others for dialogue and feedback throughout the writing process. My role as an instructor is to provide students with the tools and skills needed to improve their craft, while at the same time, empowering them to push past their comfort zones and take more risks with their writing rather than be limited by their own inhibitions.

One way to do this is by facilitating workshops that allow students to feel safe and comfortable sharing their stories, ideas, and suggestions with one another. I will ask students to turn in their written stories prior to their workshop dates in order to give their classmates extra time to read and construct thoughtful commentary on their work. I will also ask students to type up a one-page critique focusing on three major areas: a brief summary of what they believed the story was about, a paragraph (or two) specifying what they felt worked strongest in the piece, and finally, a paragraph (or two) offering suggestions to consider.

In addition to workshops, I will also design neutral settings for students to experience writing in groups rather than in isolation. Students will be asked to respond to various in-class writing prompts and be given opportunities to share their writing in small and large groups. By making writing a more social activity, students not only feel more accountable for the work they produce, but it also offers motivation and inspires them to break the silence around any negative feelings they may have about writing.

I also believe that reading is one of the best ways to improve as a writer; therefore, one of the texts I plan on assigning is the “Best American Short Stories” collection. This text allows students to get familiar with the conventional elements of short fiction written from a wide array of authors. Students will choose a piece from this collection and lead class discussions centering around the structure, style, and aesthetics of the story. In order to deepen students’ understanding of these elements, they will also be asked to read additional works such as: Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills like White Elephants” and Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” to better understand tone and style, Jennifer Egan’s “Buddha in the Attic” to discuss point of view, Andrew Lam’s “Show and Tell” to understand voice, and Raymond Carver’s “Little Things” to discuss the use of dialogue.