Tuesday, September 18, 2007


A lot of people who have never taught writing, but have been through years of schooling, seem to think they know what it must be like to teach writing. I often want to laugh in their faces. To even begin to assume that their journey as a writer has something in common or universal with every writer's journey is beyond laughable.

An excerpt from a student in my AP Language and Composition class at ERHS. From her essay on Tim O'Brien's theory of truth in fiction, presented in my favorite novel of his, The Things They Carried:

“Often these essay topics prove a tremendous challenge because they are very generalized and incredibly asinine. Writing these essays is a long process that forces me to search into the depths of my mind until I find some sort of truth. Once starting with that sliver of truth, as O'Brien often did, I stretch it and add numerous building blocks along the way, one after another, adding "incidents that did not in fact happen but that nonetheless help to clarify and explain" (O'Brien 158). I continue to elaborate and objectify my experiences until I have successfully woven a seemingly true and credible story. And as I write this story, I am able, as O'Brien says, to look at things I have never looked at or contemplated. I can use these topics as a vehicle in which to explore myself or someone who I would ultimately like to be. I can search my emotions and thoughts and of those who I admire and love... Who can ever know where my fiction begins and where my truths end. We are all creatures of self-invention. We distill the essences of ourselves into a public persona that we present to the world around us.”

An essay from a student in my honors essay writing class at Oedae on bullying:

"Sometimes people makes someone ostracize. Some people enjoy bullying in school. They look so happy when they bully someone. I don't know why they enjoy it I can't understand.

What is bullying. I think bullying is very bad thing. bullying people afflict always week people but they obey stronger people. Bullying people are mean. Sometimes week people kill themselves because off bullying people.

In school, Teacher will be very angry when bullying people hits someone their parents were called by teacher. Even bullying people will leave school or go a prison, and everyone treat them badly.

I've never been bullied someone but If I am bullied, I fight them. Sometimes I've seen someone bullying but I don't help them.

Why do they bully? Maybe if they stisfiy that the bully someone. I think if they have hobby, they don't bully someone. bullying is bad."

My job is to look at both and help the student to improve their writing. You can begin to see why 150 students is exhausting for a writing teacher.

I only have eight students in my essay writing class at Oedae. All my other classes are speaking classes. I am a lot less stressed out this year, even if I miss the more sophisticated discussions in class on occasion.


  1. Grrrr. Which one of them wrote that? They should know better by now!! (unless it was written by David, since he's new to the class)

    Peter usually puts the most thought into writing his essays, whereas the others often seem to just be writing to fill up space, without thinking about what they're saying or how it's organized. They were getting better though....

  2. It was the one who is best at grammar, at least in theory. As you can see, in application, he is not quite as strong :-).

    Naw... they're doing great. I'm trying to work on the speaking component of the class while still working on writing. I think we're going to start journaling next month.

    And Peter's was quite good. He was the only student who got an "A-" on this first essay. They have another due next week. We'll see how that goes.

  3. I only taught some college-level writing here in the US. But now, I might travel to Korea - seems like there are a lot of teaching opportunities there.

    Nice post.



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