Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Back to Writing Basics

My first semester of teaching College English is rapidly coming to a close--it seemed light years away back in August! I have to admit, I'll be breathing a sigh of relief once finals week rolls around--to say teaching has been a challenge is pretty much the understatement of the century.

I've been met with resistance every step of the way, so much of these students' English experience has been writing. They aren't big on class discussions, so I turn them over to the old reliable PC and let them loose.

I feel bad for many of them. This is the first experience many of them are having with the tight, constricted world of academic writing--so many rules! That damned MLA format! Why do I have to cite it this way? When/where/how should I quote directly from the source? It really is enough to make you want to blow your brains out (figuratively, of course).

They're not to the point where language is flexible, even fun. I've written more than my share (and probably many other people's) share of research papers in my day, so I can churn out 10-12 pages of the most beautiful nonsense you've ever read. Well, maybe it's not nonsense, but it's definitely not something I'd choose to sit down and compose on my own. But anyway, I can cite sources, breeze through the Works Cited page, and summarize my sources til the cows come home. They're stuck at the stage where thumbscrews would be better. I remember those days. I really disliked Language Arts and conquering all of those pesky grammar rules. I always realized they were necessary, but that didn't mean I liked them. Now I'm getting a refresher course in all of that thanks to my teaching experience. I still don't like it any better, but I definitely have a new appreciation for the basics.

I can't see many of them turning to writing for fun (or profit), but I hope I can help them appreciate the written word and tighten up their own writing skills for whatever they do next.

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