As I try to fight my amateur urge to be simplistic, it is impossible for me to avoid my main concern about composition pedagogy. The issue that most pervades and perplexes me is the intricate, tender yet all encompassing role and influence of The Teacher. Simply stated, I find the influence of the teacher to be the problem, and sometimes the solution in the realm of teaching writing. I read through our student essays and found the constant notion that what has influenced, and sometimes determined the fate of a student writer is-yes, The Teacher.
In the pedagogical world I have since perceived, the teacher is almost solely in control of the development of his/her students. And more often than not, an encouraging, attentive, positive and guiding teacher will have a class full of blossoming writers. On the other hand, I’ve observed that with negative commentary, harsh judgments and insufficient time and ability to escort them to their writing peak, students may come to a standstill in their development as writers; some may come to detest it because of insufficient guidance which may lead to confusion, and some may come to the conclusion that they have simply failed as writers. The fact that a teacher’s approach, caused and/or influenced by a variety of reasons, which I will elaborate, further on, may be the culprit for the vast amount of students who feel they cannot write, is a grave, grave travesty--but not one we can not combat.
I am not stating that with proper encouragement every student can escalate to the level of Charles Dickens, but I do believe that they will be able to at least make significant improvements with the proper direction so that they can be considered respectable writers. What I believe to be the core of the problem is somewhat psychological. It is about confidence. Whenever someone tells me I’m good at something whether I believe it or not, I would usually muster up the confidence to do it again if need be. On the contrary, when someone discourages me without proper consideration and criticism, I’ll usually put that practice to rest, unless someone else validates it later on.
Let’s take for example some relevant statements by some of our peers from their first personal essay. Regarding the concept of writing, classmate, Shirlee Dufort articulates, “But I am fragile, so fragile. I can write when approval is heaped on me, layered like blankets... ‘Very impressive work’, ‘outstanding job’... ‘A strong paper, certainly no surprise’... ‘You are one of the best prose writers’...Should the softest breeze stir...my hands shake so hard I can’t seem to hold a pen...A few searing comments have incapacitated me...’who ever taught you how to write?’...’Very unfocused’...’so wordy’.” Shirlee flourishes when she is praised and wants to write more, yet with negative commentary, without proper guidance and reason, she gets scared and begins to doubt herself. Anne Jung had a very similar experience in high school where she was told...