I love having students free-write in class. It shows students that they do indeed have valuable ideas which can produce thoughtful essays. It shows them that essays are not so hard to write, that discovering topics does not have to be so intimidating. It gets them started, and I feel better knowing that they will leave my class with some semblance of a plan.
As the instructor, I struggle with how to use my time while the students are free-writing: do I sit at the front of the classroom and stare at the clock, giving them a countdown? Do I stroll up and down the aisles to insure they are keeping their hands moving? Or do I do what I really want to do and write my own free-writing paper? I like writing essays, and I want to participate too! However, I know that being available to my students, coaching them, and answering their questions is my real job in the classroom.
So, as I teach my students that part of composition ethics involves shifting focus from their own ideas to the reader’s expectations and needs, I suspect that, during class, I too must shift focus from my own enjoyment of writing to helping my students enjoy their own writing processes.
I hope no one will fault me if I still indulge in the guilty pleasure of a free-write now and then; after all, I’ve got to model the behavior I want to see, right?