My standard for verisimilitude is simple and I came to it when I started to write prose narrative: fuck the average reader. I was always told to write for the average reader in my newspaper life. The average reader, as they meant it, was some suburban white subscriber with two-point-whatever kids and three-point-whatever cars and a dog and a cat and lawn furniture. He knows nothing and he needs everything explained to him right away, so that exposition becomes this incredible, story-killing burden. Fuck him. Fuck him to hell.
David Simon, The Believer (link) Applicable to writing for other teachers?
2 thoughts on “The Average Teacher?”
Aggressively put, but it’s applicable to most writing, I think, because it’s trying to put the emphasis on story. Story is true to situation and true to character, and that’s what I hear when Lani is talking about strong teacher telling.
I was thinking about Geoff’s recent (excellent and provocative) post when I thought about this David Simon line.
On twitter, he and I had a back and forth where I quibbled about the applicability of some of the pedagogy in elementary books to Algebra 1 remediation, and he said, “Well, don’t you want to do something about the gaps in your kids’ learning?” I said, “of course!” And he responded, well, that then you’re unlike 95% of teachers.
It makes perfect sense that Geoff would be talking to the average teacher — he’s a coach and sees tons and tons of classrooms. But is there anyone out there who doesn’t write for the average teacher? In education, our book-writers are those who spend their time with (mostly) short-term interactions with a large quantity of teachers — PD folks, coaches, mentors, etc. (Maybe I’m mischaracterizing their work?)
Have you ever read a book about teaching that really assumes that the reader is smart enough to have an opinion, to disagree? Tom Newkirk is the only person who comes to mind.