[NCTE-TALK:2301] Re: A writing teacher who DOES write...

Julia L. Shields (jshields@pen.k12.va.us)
Sat, 13 Jan 1996 18:30:25 -0600

According to JANETBONE@delphi.com:

> 2) What attitude do you as the teacher project about writing?
> If you take it as "Geez, guys, I don't like doing this either, but
> I can make you do it, and don't have to waste my time trying," that's
> how the kids are going to feel. If you let them know that writing
> isn't easy, that you too struggle when you try it, that writers try
> several ways before locking in on patterns, that revise and edit and
> proofread are just as essential steps as letting the ideas all hang
> out and getting them down, that presenting a polished piece to the
> reader is good manners as well as practical--if your reader doesn't
> understand you because of having to concentrate on what you mean
> due to mechanical errors, your message isn't getting across--
> > then you have a fighting chance of conveying that writing is an
> important tool. If you value writing, they may.

I think a large part of my frustration is that I do
love to write, and I feel resentful that these little creatures
are so badly behaved that it is an impossibility. In other
classes Ihave used a writing workshop approach, and I write
along with the kids. They quickly caught on that I would not
be interrupted for anything during writing time. I've shared
articles I've had published and a newsletter I edit as well as
works in progress.
But with four of the five classes I teach this year,
I'm dealing with kids who may wander into their classes twenty
or thirty minutes late, maybe singing a song, certainly
greeting friends loudly (in the classroom and elsewhere). They
will immediately pick on anyone they can pick on, and the one
picked on will immediately start cursing and maybe fighting.
On any given assignment, most of the class will take five to
ten minutes to get started; a significant number don't do any
work at all for any of their teachers. They spend more time in
the office than in the classroom and don't seem to care which
place they're assigned to.
Alone, without the posturing they do for classmates,
most of these kids have some endearing qualities. In a group,
though, they are the ultimate challenge.
The "real world" writing and reading assignments seem
to prompt particularly hostile responses; I'm not altogether
sure why. Maybe reality is just too much for them to bear.
Thanks anyway.
Julia Shields
Charlottesville, VA