Poetry, Writing

To all those who teach writing–

To all those who teach writing–

Encourage creativity, but teach the rules of the game.

Be steadfast in corrections of commonly confused words:
If they’re going to be taken seriously out there,
choosing their words carefully matters.

Teach them that form speaks, too.
Make them notice that a complex sentence tells about a relationship between ideas,
how the order of body paragraphs can strengthen (or weaken) an argument.
Be vigilant–point this out, show them over and over until they see it.

Get excited about words. Use high level vocabulary with them:
It is good that they ask you what ‘succinct’ or ‘segue’ means.
Use verbal context clues while you talk to help them along.
Give them the words you want them to use in their writing.

Make it clear that planning an essay is not optional.
Show them that writers plan meticulously, so
that the words will flow more easily later.
Embrace unfiltered ideas and messy bubble maps in brainstorming
so they realize that the first three ideas they wrote down were not very good.
Teach them to analyze and organize their support with an outline
so they are empowered with how to use this tool.

Implore them, on your knees if you must, not to use rhetorical questions. Ever.
Ban checklist thesis statements; assign at least one essay
that is a minimum of 1,000 words to show them why.
(When they’ve tried to do this with a formulaic five-paragraph essay
of barely 561 words, they’ll understand. And they’ll write a better thesis.)

Assign writing every single day.
Don’t give feedback on everything
or you will come to resent it.
You don’t just grade papers,
you carry their voices
around with you in your bag.
Value the words
they have entrusted to you.
Very few have that privilege.

Be tough with grades. Make them work hard to earn an A.
Never give a 100% on an essay if you can help it,
unless it is utterly beyond reproach.
Most essays are going to be Cs.
Give them Cs, the Bs, and even the Ds.
They will have much to improve. Let the rubric do the talking for you.

Some students are convinced
that using pretentious words
will buy them a good grade.
Don’t be fooled.
People are easily impressed by big words,
but if they can’t understand you–
You’ve said nothing at all.

If you tell a good writer that she’s great writer,
she’ll never be more than a good writer.
Instead, be generous with feedback;
tell her she is a good writer, but here’s how to improve.
Avoid that cliché, develop this here, demonstrate the effective use of a semicolon;
teach her to evaluate her own work. Then
there there will be no limit
to how great a writer she can become.

Never, ever
use writing as punishment.
Writing is already a laborious process,
but is one that should be treated with respect
and reverence. Communication is essential to our humanity.

To all those who teach writing–
Be patient. Be consistent.
But above all,
Let them know you are listening.

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