I am a writing teacher. Whenever I say that to anyone, eyebrows go up. Wow. My classroom must be full of fledgling J.K.Rowlings and Ernest Hemingways. How awesome, they think. No, not really, I think back. It would be awesome if students wanted to learn, to improve their writing skills, but too many think that is so unnecessary.
This blog post could go 100 different ways but I am going to swing it now onto the mesmerizing subject of what I am sitting here doing. I am reading a classification paper that I warned the entire class would be graded once only. Whatever grade students get will stick. (For the first part of a semester, I generally revise/ edit a paper so that my students can take and “fix” their essays, changing “D”s and “F”s to “C”s and “B”s. I do this hoping students notice how much smoother the syntax reads and may realize I have only advised semicolons where they actually belong.)
Apparently my warnings have not worked. Almost all my classroom explanations and advice fall on deaf ears. I know this because as soon as I say something, I call on students to repeat it back. They never can and find that hilarious. We always get a good belly laugh.
How many times have I counseled,”Read your essays out loud to yourselves”? Most of my writing students don’t have time. I ask them not only for two peer edits of the first draft and two peer edits of the second draft but to take their papers to the Writing and Reading Center where the tutors are free. I have to remind my students about this requirement as they are trying to quietly lay the paper down on my desk, hoping I won’t notice the lack of the tutoring slip. When I bring the matter up, they look up at me aggrieved. Oh Crap, really? We actually have to walk over there and waste some of our precious time so that this essay reads better?
What about my time? Why do I have to read endless essays with glaring pronoun disagreements that we have gone over and over in class? Why do I have to point out run-ons that anyone reading aloud would have noticed?
For example, “If a person can’t sleep, they put on some soft music and low and it will comfort them. A football player is getting ready for a game but they aren’t really energized yet, so they put some loud music to get the blood flowing and before they know it, they’re ready and amped up to play. If people didn’t have music in their lives, then it would be awkward at events also weird and quiet.”
Let’s say that is my job. I am supposed to spend my golden years reading really bad syntax. But why do my students have to look so pained and surprised when I hint that they may not pass? Why isn’t writing class like shoveling manure, they clearly wonder, so that when the wheelbarrow is full, the job is done?