Category Archives: Determination

An English Composition Teacher’s Dream

Each new semester I start out with a positive outlook. I think about the new students, maybe some former ones as well. My syllabus is well-crafted, having paid copious attention to the details, assignments, and goals for the course – each element to build on the next new skill.

Students are enthusiastic and swarm about the classroom door waiting patiently to take their seats. Each is excited about the writing process, and enlightened by completed work and my constructive comments. They love the concepts they learn, applying them with ease. New skills are embedded into their newly acquired craft on a weekly basis. They long to cite their sources, and embrace the documentation as if giving credit is noble, almost heroic.

Reading and comprehension flourish. Incorporating another’s work into their own writing is now second nature. Each student leaves the course with a complete understanding of how to take their skills to the next level.

Ah, yes, it is a great dream – the kind of dream that keeps me coming back to the classroom, year after year.

Hmmm, the truth is, new names and faces can be difficult to remember at the start – I fumble through the pronunciations like an amateur. Seat hoppers become the most challenging. Why can’t that student stay in one spot? At my age, the students’ faces tend to look alike; they dress the same for the most part and hair styles are almost exact. The fashions have changed since I was in college. I wonder what they’ll be wearing this year.

It takes me a while to remember 140+ names; but around week 6, when the first papers are graded, I begin to gain a sense of who they are by their names – not quite yet by face. It’s easier when students actually speak up in class and feel comfortable sharing. Often, I’ll have a few who rarely look up or engage. Sometimes I remember the ones who sit way back from me because I tend to heckle them a bit and ask why they think I bite.

Part of my challenge is to remain authentic and build relationships with these young creatures from another time. I desire that they embrace their uniqueness and learn the confidence to determine their opinions – and speak about them. I do feel the standardized testing takes away some of their freedom to examine their own ideas and come to understand their biases.

I imagine that the students will absorb the reality of midterm grades and resolve to put forth the effort to see themselves through the course and finish better than they start. I anticipate they’ll see me as a coach, a supporter, rather than one who condemns. They’re early writers, I tell myself. I’m building a base.

I truly feel college success skills should be embedded into a freshman composition course. Students should seek the help of a tutor from start to finish for each paper. My comments and suggestions should promote revisions that demonstrate they’ve learned something. I need to keep the dream alive, don’t I?

As an intellectual nurturer, my heart breaks when I see the greatness of those young minds – yet they do not recognize their potential. So I continue to try and pull it out of them and help them write. Keeping the dream alive.

Shaping – Gentle Nudging – Showing I Care.

Thanks for reading. My classes begin Monday morning with another new set of students who are headed for greatness.



Determination: Gratitude Challenge: Using the Virtues


Today, I am grateful for the virtue determination.

I was able to finish grading papers today; but without determination to complete the job, I might have slacked or waited until the last minute. Students’ papers take time to read, and complete concentration is needed to accomplish the task. At the start of my task, I remember thinking to myself that I was bound and determined to work through the stack. The best way for me to do so is to read and grade the best papers last and focus my attention on the ones that would need the most work, so that I would not be exhausted if I chose to grade the best papers first.

How would I know which paper takes less time? Well, after spending an entire semester reading papers, I can determine which students need more help than others. So I stacked the pile accordingly. Staying firm in my purpose, I managed to complete the stack. I had made a decision earlier this term to only grade papers when I am rested and ready to tackle the work. I am pleased that I found myself less likely to become upset at the flaws in papers that I know I had explained all term. Early writers need room to improve. Over the years, I make it a point to create a comfortable learning environment for students which would allow them to make mistakes. It is through mistakes that students learn the ropes. Revision is an important part of the writing process. Students should be able to see a difference between a draft and a final piece worthy to turn in for a grade.

I am also grateful those students who completed the courses I taught this term. Their resolve to jump the hoops I set for them must be acknowledged. Most of them finished out the course with a paper that was well-organized and proved their points. It takes perseverance to complete an English course, even first level college writing classes. These courses set the foundation for future writing. I am proud of my students. And this term, the majority of them received grades above C, the average for students who suddenly realize the rigor of college writing is beyond what they were taught in high school. I am happy to say that I held them accountable, and I guided them to the next level. No longer do they think a paragraph should stop after five sentences – a rule that I had to help them break immediately. Yes, I feel good that they are ready to move on.

What does it take to demonstrate determination?
* Set your mind to the task at hand.
* Be sure that you’re well-rested before beginning.
* Allow enough time to take needed breaks.
* Stay focused on the task.
* Above all, complete the task to solidify the feelings of accomplishment.

Determination is a virtue because it takes inner-strength to achieve any goal. It takes persistence, but goals can be accomplished. Good luck.



Don’t Wait for Permission

(2 of 3)

Waiting Wastes Time

In Speaking of Change, we discussed fears and contemplated reasons we may make to stay stagnant in our lives rather than move forward.

I hope that this note may help confront one of the many, but powerful reasons not to embrace our inner changes – feeling as if we need permission to do the task, take the job, move out of state, lose the weight, start a new business, earn another degree, or live the life we desire.

Ask yourself these questions.
Am I my own entity? Do I depend on another’s lungs to help me breathe? Am I capable of thinking for myself?

Surely, as a living, breathing person, you desire to do things that not everyone else around you wants to do. Say this to yourself: “I am unique.” Embrace your autonomy. You’re the master of you.

To require another’s permission to eat, breathe, sleep, laugh, relax, or play is silly. How you do things is strictly up to you. Take this notion into other areas of your life. As simply as it is to be yourself, it is just as simple to make changes in your habits, or create changes in your life. Of course, if you desire any major change, such as breaking poor habits, consult a step by step program that is well designed and has a proven success rate. My aim is to inspire you to muster up your inner spirit to move forward with positive changes without feeling like you need approval from anyone. You don’t. Those fires that wake you up at night are your own inspirations. Listen to them. Do you ache for a better quality of life? You have what it takes within you.

Let me note a strange phenomenon that sometimes occurs in the psyche. After we grow up, into adulthood, we forget that we are adults, equipped to decide what is best for ourselves. That’s left for those major decision makers, we say. Nonsense. We are no longer children. Who else but you knows the best path? As long as we remain aware of our true selves and our surroundings, we can make the best decisions. What do I mean by our true selves? Remember, my suggestion is that our true self is the one that wakes us up in the middle of the night. It’s the voice that you attempt to muffle because you know it speaks the truth about your circumstances. It’s the voice that would have you do something you’d rather not listen to because it would invoke change. It’s clear. We’re lazy. But we can do what are deepest desires require. Change.

Resist the urge to wait for anyone’s permission for us to live the lives we ought to be living.

Samuel Beckett’s ‘Waiting for Godot’ 1953 is a classic, absurdist, two-scene play, now on Broadway depicting two men under the impression to wait in one place for a man named Godot who never arrives. Does your life feel like this? Do you wait in one place, one circumstance, for something to happen? Read the script:

waiting for Godot part i

waiting for Godot – part ii

Dear one, you’re the one who is to make your life happen.

Ah, so you think you have all kinds of time, do you? You haven’t read the play.

Read the last in this series:
No, You Don’t Have Time