So I get this telephone call the other day from a friend who I worked with at Indiana State. He wants to know if I can teach a summer course at Ivy Tech in Indianapolis. I didn’t hesitate for even a second. I told him I would.
I’m back teaching what I absolutely love to teach—developmental English. I have a class of 22 students who for whatever reason need some extra assistance to be able to succeed in a freshman level English class, so these students are taking a zero level English class. I’ve been reading their first written assignments—a journal entry where the student addresses what he or she sees as the greatest weakness in their ability to write, how he or she will work to change that weakness, and what that student needs from me to help change that weakness. The vast majority of these essays have one underlying issue. Almost to a writer, the author believes that he or she isn’t capable of producing quality work.
Allow me to state clearly, plainly, and unequivocally to each of these students one simple statement.
Producing quality work is a matter of practice. It’s a matter of learning what needs to be said (written) and how to say (write) it in a coherent, cohesive manner. It’s my job to give these students the tools they need to produce quality work. It is the job of my students take those tools and learn how to utilize those tools within their writing.
Today in class we were discussing prewriting strategies and how to narrow a subject down to a topic. We brainstormed topics to write about if the subject was WWII. By the time we were done, these students had called out enough topics to completely and totally cover the whiteboard at the front of the classroom. At the end of this portion of the class, I looked at my students and asked the rhetorical question, “I’ll bet you didn’t know you knew all of this about WWII, did you?”
There was a moment of silence followed by a lot of grins. They hadn’t realized how much they did know about a “boring” subject like history. I then pointed out that they all probably knew more about producing quality writing than they think they do. The grins faded for a moment and then started to grow again as most of these students thought about what they do know about writing.
Yeah, I love my job!