Sunday, September 26, 2010

where's that red pen?

I'm a professor of college writing, which already tells you a lot about me.  It tells you that I have one, if not two or three, degrees in English.  It tells you that I'm not in it for the money.  It tells you that I love grammar more than most, and I probably drool over clap my hands at appreciate well-placed semi-colons.  But, it also tells you that I have to work extremely hard at my job to see improvement in my students' writing, if only because they resent me for the fact that they 1) didn't score high enough on the SATs to get out of taking freshman comp., 2) didn't score high enough on the AP exam but think they know everything after taking AP classes throughout high school and, thus, refuse to listen, or 3) have to take a general ed. class when they'd rather be gathering credits that count toward their majors. 

And I know they resent me for these things that are completely outside the realm of my control.  However, with most students, the resentment usually only lasts a month or so.  Once they start to trust me and let go of all the residual resentment from bad experiences in previous English classes, things start clicking in amazing ways.  Trust is key because, you see, writing is a very personal subject.  Students are attached to their words in levels of intimacy they never attain with math proofs, nor chemical equations, nor Spanish vocab flashcards.  In my job, I walk a precarious line between crushing their dreams and cherishing their ideas.  They love their words.  They believe their words...

...which brings me back to things you must know about me because I teach writing.

I have a wonderful sense of humor.

I've occasionally used my blog as a forum to discuss my students' slip-ups with word choice and their very cute works cited blunders.  If you've been reading long enough, you probably remember the famous poultry mishap and the infamous citing of the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.  As I was cleaning out my closet this evening looking for a purse I haven't used in a year, I found an old spiral notebook that I had used as a gradebook several years ago.  Flipping through, I had a sweet moment of nostalgia reacquainting myself with the students names and other tidbits of information I wrote down in my spiral.  "Absent b/c of basketball. Memo from coach."  "Broke arm, can't write in-class essay.  Find alternative assignment."  "Late AGAIN."  "Brought me coffee."  "Not on task during peer review."  Each of these little notes-to-self brought back a memory. And then I turned to the very last page in the spiral.  This was where I had written my students' funny sentences for their last essay cycle!  I totally struck gold.

"Once lost and confused, John Newton went through a time where he was looking for something he simple could not fine, God.  After changing his ways from being a self-proclaimed wrench, he was finally saved by what we could all call, amazing grace."

"He was a monk and had certain expectations expected of him."

"After a facelift you can obtain nerve damage that can make your face insensible."

"The argument here is that speaking in tongues is elf-edifying and Paul shows disapproval."

You bet he does!  Those elves can get out of hand so quickly.

1 comment:

Rita Meggers said...

While I myself am a self-proclaimed screwdriver, it is nice to come across people who are honest enough to be self-proclaimed wrenches.

What a tool.