Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Who Are You As A Writer?
This blog response will require some personal reflection about how you developed as a writer in school and your development as a writing teacher. The excerpts are derived from Linda Christensen's book Teaching For Joy & Justice and the question for each response is located under the excerpt. There are 2 questions to respond to this week.
In too many classrooms, grades are the "wages" students earn for their labor. Teachers assign work, students create products, and grades exchange hands. There are problems with this scenario. Students who enter class with skills- especially reading and writing skills- are rewarded with higher grades. They already know how to write the paper; they just need to figure out what the teacher wants in it. Essentially, they take what the teacher talks about in class and reproduce it in a paper. Students who lack these basic skills are at a disadvantage. Unless there has been an explicit teaching of how to write the papers, they don't know how to produce the products the teacher expects. This doesn't mean they lack the intelligence, desire to achieve, or capacity to learn; it means they lack skills. As a result, they receive a lower grade.
Let me pause to say that sometimes students can't write a better draft. They need more instruction. How fair is it to grade them down on a paper if they don't have the tools to complete the task? Is it their fault that they have made it to my class without academic skills? I don't think so. It's my job to teach them how to write, how to revise. I believe that most students would write a better draft if they could.
1. Describe your writing journey through school:
a) What is your opinion of the writing instruction you received in school?
b) What or Who was instrumental in helping you to become a writer?
c) Do you only write for academic purposes or do you write for other reasons outside of the world of academia? (Currently)
Because I want my students to view their writing as a process, I refuse to let them be "done." If students turn in drafts that represent their best work at that point in time, they receive full credit for the writing. If students don't have drafts, they receive no credit. If they turn in rushed drafts that clearly aren't their best efforts, I return them and ask them to re-do the papers. Students regularly write and rewrite papers they care about a number of times.
Too often, writing-and thinking- in school becomes scripted (hence the five-paragraph essay) because scripts are easier to teach and easier to grade. Unfortunately, they fail to teach students how to write. Real writing is messy. And students often don't "get" how to write narratives or essays the first time we teach them. They need lots of practice without judgements; they need to be told what they are doing right, so they can repeat it; they need to examine how to move to the next draft.
2. Describe your journey as a writing teacher thus far in your career:
a) What strengths do you bring regarding the teaching of writing (whether you consider yourself a novice or expert)?
b) What is your greatest fear when it comes to the teaching of writing?