In “Thoughts on the Teacherless Classroom” Peter Elbow advocates the writing teacher’s less obtrusive position. He offers the writing students a more active role in the writing class as “readers” or a responding audience for classmates. This gives the teacher a more facilitating role as “reader” as well without having to focus on structural, language usage, or other aspects of grading with which teachers preoccupy themselves. According to Elbow’s ideas, the writing becomes easier for the writers and readers in the classroom. With Elbow’s method we learn that our “fear of honest feedback” is more exactly a fear that “our words are not heart at all.” In the Teacherless Classroom we create a place where “noncommunication” is out in the open because “when noncommunication is more out in the open, good communication can begin.”
Yet for me throwing “noncommunication” out on the table is not unlike spending the entire day in the kitchen cooking for people you care about. The dinner is tasteless and no one says much about it except for everything–ungenuine but polite–else you don’t want them to say. The food sucks, no question. No one will say it, of course, the meal you intended them to eat is not at all like the finished product. You’re disappointed and their disappointed, even though they have only a pretty vague sense of your intentions, which is always the case, isn’t it?
Is there a point in the teacherless classroom when people stop being polite? I’m not sure I’m looking forward to that experience. That is perhaps why I always wait for the last minute when a “paper is so late [I] finally stop worrying about how it will be perceived.” However, I’m not sure that the fear comes just from the thought of my peers’ honest responses. Instead it comes from an imagined amalgam of all those past hella smart and articulate peers I have encountered, and their (not my) even more hella smart profs. Elbow divulges the one true way to avoid ridicule is “rip it up and throw it in the wastebasket.” Cooking is something I know I can do and sometimes I still get takeout.