Jul 18, 2013

Writing & Educating: A study of Philosophy

My good friend, fellow educator, writer and partner in crime, Gage, wrote a piece for the Boston Teacher Residency blog recently. His writing got me thinking about writing and teaching... and teaching writing and I came to realize that even though it was unstated, I have a well developed philosophy on how to teach writing to others. Simply put, learn by doing. Because writing is a process, it must be done constantly and repetitively. Sure, there are rules to learn that guide writers and show them how to do it, but to really and truly write, one must engage in the process. Sometimes, however, as a teacher, we must show students the process so they understand it.

I work in a writing center at a Texas college. One of the core philosophies of the writing center is to make the students better by not editing their papers and essays, but showing them how to improve their work by focusing on a specific aspect that can be strengthened. By doing this, the writing center makes students better writers because we don't take their work and make it better ourselves, we show them how to make their own work better through focused lessons on singular topics.

While I agree with this teaching idea, I disagree with its implementation. We writing center Writing Specialists are not to write or mark up students' papers when we work with them. The thought here is that if we do that, then students will just make the corrections we highlight and not actually learn from their mistakes. Maybe in some cases this is true but it doesn't give our students very much credit for trying to learn. I have yet to meet a student who's only aim was to have a writing specialist quickly read their paper and make some cursory corrections. Every student I've worked with has asked me to help them with something specific that they can learn and apply to their current  writing as well as their writing in the future. These students are eager to learn from us to make themselves better. furthermore, this awkward implementation gives us educators even less credit.

None of us work in the writing center to just glance at students' papers, do some superficial corrections and send the student packing. We are passionate about writing and it shows when a specialist stays a little later than they have to to make sure a student understands a concept, or when faced with multiple students, a specialist attempts to help them all. Whether we write on a students' paper is irrelevant when compared to these gestures. Moreover, sometimes writing on their paper is the best and easiest way to illustrate a mistake and how to fix it moving forward. It is frustrating when a rule hampers the furthering of knowledge.

Overall, I very much enjoy working in this writing center. I don't agree with that particular policy but it hasn't stopped me from getting my message to students. Still, it would be nice if my philosophy on writing and teaching matched up with that of the place I work.

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