Green Squiggly Lines:
What is a writing teacher's job? I remember reading somewhere that Donald Barthelme-the fiction writer of New Yorker fame-spent the last ten years of his life mostly reading student work. Barthelme was teaching creative writing at the University of Houston, wearing cowboy boots, drinking whiskey, and occasionally publishing a short story-but mostly he read, responded to, and evaluated student work.
Barthelme did not spend his last decade-boots propped on the desk, whiskey on ice next to them-reading the works of James Joyce or Thomas Pynchon or even William James. Rather the author of "Porcupines at the University" and "The Catechist" was a teacher in the end. And as a writing teacher, he spent his last decade-boots propped on the desk, whiskey on ice next to them, the air conditioner humming as the air conditioner must hum in Houston-reading, responding to, and evaluating student work.
Whether we admit it or not, identity--teacherly identity--teacherly power and authority in the writing classroom comes from our ability--sanctioned by the university--to grade student work. Reading and responding are acts that lead toward--and lend authority to--the act of grading/evaluating.