By Clarissa Guerrero
UCSB writing lecturer Robert Krut has some advice for soon-to-be teachers: “Remember what it’s like to be a student. Remember what it’s like to sit in a classroom.”
One would imagine that after investing thousands of dollars in tuition, students would be scribbling attentively in their notepads each piece of information that spills from the mouth of their respective professors.
But, this is often not the case. Instead of absorbing the intricate course material like sponges, students are scrolling through Facebook and other sites, their laptop screens like waves of white and blue. Yet each quarter, students from all disciplines are forced to check off a writing requirement in order to graduate. In the end, writing professors are given nearly two hours, twice a week to either lay forth a mind-numbing curriculum or enlighten and engage students in the fascinating realm of writing.
Since UCSB’s writing program welcomed Krut to its faculty in 2003, the professor has become a role model for other instructors in the Writing Program. Those who set foot in Krut’s classroom mid-lesson can observe students with arms raised waiting to answer or ask questions. Desks might be squeezed into groups of four and students might be annotating a piece of writing.
Krut grew up in New Jersey, attended the liberal arts school James Madison University in Virginia and received his Master’s of Fine Arts and Creative Writing at Arizona State University. At UCSB he has lectured on a variety of writing courses ranging from the basics of Writing 1 to Creative Nonfiction.
In 2009, Prof. Krut released his book, “The Spider Sermons,” bursting with resonant poems about daily life. Four years later came his book “This is The Ocean,” which won the Melissa Lanitis Gregory Poetry Prize. “The wonder and the wisdom of these poems will burn in your memory like the bright neon of a pier’s Ferris wheel,” wrote Oliver de la Paz, author of Requiem for the Orchard. Currently, Krut continues to publish in journals and is awaiting the publication of his next book.
He says the writing process puts him in the same position as his students. “It’s a lot like what we did in our Writing 1 class. Revision and revision and revision, making it as good as it can be,” Krut said.
Krut remembers how dreary it was to be in a student’s shoes. To hear someone at the head of a class go on and on, non-stop about a subject is just as it sounds —boring. Preferring to avoid this monotonous tactic, Krut employs other more interactive methods. For instance, after a brief but informative lesson, students are instructed to pair up and revise one another’s papers. Knowing that this revision will be signed by the student “editor” and turned in with the final paper, Krut allows students to take a break out of the classroom and sit beneath a shady tree while inking up their classmates’ papers. Such methods make students want to sign up for Krut’s other courses.
In addition to teaching and writing, Krut is active in community out-reach. For nearly eight years Krut has connected the Writing Program to middle schools in Oxnard, California in which Writing 1 students and middle-schoolers exchange letters. At the end of the quarter, the middle school students hop onto a yellow school bus that drives them to the scenic UCSB campus to finally meet their college pen pals. Krut says the program seeks to instill a desire to attend college in the young students.
Krut is also a judge for Starting Lines, a Writing Program essay anthology that offers his own students a taste of what it feels like to be in print. He will host the next quarterly reading for the publication on Thursday, March 8 at noon in the AD&A Museum, next to the University Center.
Krut’s approach has paid off with his students, who say his impact on them goes far beyond their studies. “He puts a lot of effort into his work, I really feel that he wants each and every single one of his students to succeed,” says McKenzie Casey, a former student of his. Many others have also stated that they are grateful to Krut for getting them hooked on writing, for creating mind-burning poetry, for contributing to the community —and most importantly, for genuinely caring about his students.
Clarisa Guerrero is a Senior at UC Santa Barbara who will graduate in Chemistry this spring.