[NCTE-TALK:2272] Re: "The Main Problem"

Julia L. Shields (jshields@pen.k12.va.us)
Fri, 12 Jan 1996 08:25:36 -0600

I tired accessing RhetNet and couldn't. But I feel
like responding to the text:
"What if someone said that writing teachers, most of
them, are not really writers, that they tend to shy away from
the same challenges they ask students to face? What if someone
said that this lack of engagement with the craft they teach was
the root of most pedagogical evils? Fred so asserts."
[Fred Kemp, "The Main Problem", RhetNet]
Having spent the better part of our wonderful snow week
grading papers and making out exams, I have some fairly strong
feelings on the subject. First, I agree that most of us
probably don't write as much as would be helpful to us and our
students. But our failure to do so is not fear, not
disinterest, but overwork. I work at least sixty hours a week
and don't come close to keeping up. God sends snow to
help me out.
About ten years ago I started writing all the AP essays
my students had to write and sharing my essays with students.
Doing so changed my attitudes and the attitudes of some of my
students. I treasure the more collegial atmosphere that
As to "the root of most pedagogical evils," requiring
English teachers to do more than is humanly possible has to
rank right up there. Administrators are so busy these days
with other matters that they know about the classroom only from
hearsay and they haven't a clue about what teachers are asked
to do.
On the day before winter break, I received 19 special
requests for assignments or reports - from resource teachers,
homebound teachers, the court, etc.- all due immediately, on a
day on which I had no planning period. It takes a couple of
hours each week just to send attendance referrals. I'm also expected to
call parents, send interims and report cards every four and a
half weeks, stay after school whenever students request me to,
serve on school committees and assorted other duties.
Until teachers are given a reasonable work load, we'll
continue to be too harried to do a first class job.
Julia Shields
Charlottesville, VA