Motivating Students in Writing Curriculum

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Being an effective Instructor of Composition at the community college level requires a variety of skills and talents, many of which simply can’t be taught in formal classroom settings. Facing constant pressure to make judgments that have weighty consequences is just one of the challenges of teaching writing. A writing teacher who is too strict or inflexible can give students the excuse they may be seeking to withdraw or not perform in class. Some students are only too eager to proclaim that they can’t possibly meet high standards in writing, so there is “no use in even trying.” Putting stringent rules in place for a writing class does not necessarily provide an atmosphere that will foster successful student writing. But being lenient and making exceptions to policies can give a teacher the reputation of being one who can be manipulated or worse yet, “easy.” How do teachers of writing negotiate these obstacles and still manage to convince students to produce quality writing not only in their classes but across the curriculum as well?

How do teachers of writing fulfill an obligation to students, and provide them with a basis of knowledge and the writing experience to prepare them for the next semester of writing instruction while still being understanding and compassionate?

There is a fine line between expecting students to do their best work and knowing when to allow them some room for the extraordinarily difficult situations in which many of them find themselves. This is one aspect of the job that very few veteran teachers speak of to laypersons. And yet this is a very real problem teachers of writing face every day. How do we find a way to be compassionate and fair without compromising the morals and character of the teache...

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...nd working in a broken society---to the complicated and thoroughly nontraditional lives being led by most of our students, regardless of age or background, to the unavoidably and increasingly personal interaction that takes place with our students, to issues of trust and ethical responsibilities. (325)

It is as if Dan Morgan has been observing my classroom and reading my mind. Students are depending on writing teachers to be fair and ethical no matter how much the students attempt to bulge or dilate the traditional boundaries of a student/teacher dichotomy. The ability of our students to develop as writers could very well depend on our willingness to rise to the challenge of meeting the complex demands that are being made on teachers of writing.

Works Cited

Morgan, Dan. “Ethical Issues Raised By Students’ Personal Writing.” College English 60 (1998): 318-325.
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