more on RPG’s as teaching metaphors

Just thought I’d share a little something I cooked up back in 2003 for a class entitled “The Writer as Teacher.” The final assignment was

to do Pedagogy Bites: two or three pages based on the Grace Paley, Max Jacob, and Richard Hugo pieces: pedagogical / literary / psychological / spiritual bites of wisdom / provocation / placation you might say to a class over the course of a term.

Here are the relevant excerpts from my response:

1. I’m going to use a lot of role-playing game metaphors. If you have played Final Fantasy II for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, you’ll understand me just fine. If you haven’t, you can still be saved. Talk to me after class.

2. The goal in this workshop is to increase your level as a writer. How does one go up in level? By earning experience points. How does one earn experience points? In combat. Therefore, seek out and engage your enemy: the blank page.

3. Don’t get so caught up in perfecting a single poem that you forget to learn from it, especially in workshop. The world map may disappear when you enter a battle, but if it doesn’t come back afterward it means you’ve died.

6. As you go up in level, you earn skill points that you can use to improve your poetry. Gregory Orr proposed four categories, or temperaments, to which you might apply these points: Story, Structure, Music, and Imagination. Before you can decide what to increase, you must consider: where does your strength already lie? Do you want to specialize in one temperament or strive for balance between them?

7. It is not useful, or even possible, to determine what particular level you or someone else is on. What is important is that you recognize the experience of leveling up: the dawning awareness that says, “Oh! So that’s what she meant…”

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