The inspiration for this post comes from a book I’m currently reading. Those of you who know me well will not be surprised to hear that I’m reading a mystery series as I have been a long time fan of the genre. I grew up with Encyclopedia Brown, Nancy Drew, and the Hardy Boys topping the list of books I checked out from the Mary Cotton Library in my small Kansas hometown. On Saturday mornings, my favorite cartoon was Scooby Doo! As I became a more mature reader, Stephen King, James Patterson, Patricia Cornwell and true crime novels have prevented much productivity in my life!
An author I recently discovered has now become my new method for relaxing: Elizabeth Peters. Her Amelia Peabody series is not new, just new to me. I’m in the third of the books in the series where the main character, Amelia Peabody is solving mysteries in the setting of archeological excavations in Egypt. Peters’ sense of humor comes through with subtlety in her writing, and I enjoy the challenge posed by the interesting vocabulary with which she writes.
So . . . How does this all tie in to the title of the post, “Students Need an Audience!”? Well, in the book I’m reading, Peters’ character, Amelia Peabody has a short passage where she is expounding on why she references “gentle Reader” when she really doesn’t intend for her “memoirs” to be ever published. The following passage is straight from the book:
Why then, the gentle Reader will ask, do I infer his or her existence by addressing her, or him? The answer should be obvious. Art cannot exist in a vacuum. The creative spirit must possess an audience. It is impossible for a writer to do herself justice if she is only talking to herself.
When I read this passage, it struck me as a great reference for why we as teachers need to strive to provide an audience for the work of our students. I know I have had students in the past who would give me good work simply because they respected me and wanted to please me, or some who have set high personal expectations for themselves who do good work because that is their own personal standard. But I wonder if “good” would have been “better” or maybe even “great” had I made more of an effort at finding them an authentic audience for their work?
Another post will have to explore the definition of “authentic audience” and how a teacher can help students find their audience!