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.

Joy,

Cheryl

Ethics Defined in One Sentence

Ethics. Having been encouraged to memorize this definition, I decided to share it with you today. And I’m not quite sure why I have not shared it sooner. It was one of the first messages from my former mentor that resonated with me.

“Ethics is primarily the process of bringing out the implications of the choices we make, and of harmonizing these choices one with another.” ~Bob Nielsen

Process: Let’s break down the definition. First of all, it is a process. Processes take time. They require diligence.

Purpose: The purpose of ethics is to bring out the implications of the choices we make. Our choices have consequences. Do we have enough forethought to recognize or determine what might affect others with those decisions?

Conclusion: A result of ethics is that our choices include others’ ideas and mesh with them so they create an agreement.

Not everyone thinks like I do. In conversation and daily occurrences, I take into account what others say and attempt to understand, thereby aiming to create peace and oneness. It takes practice and resolve to create harmony with others. Practicing ethics isn’t easy, but worth the effort.

Are you practicing ethics today?

Joy,
Cheryl

Writing Hacks

As we ready ourselves for the upcoming fall semester, I thought I’d share some writing hacks for English Composition courses that use the MLA format of documentation styles.

These six hacks were put together mostly because a former student thought it was cool when I mentioned one of the techniques for lengthening a paper was a writing hack.

Students like the word, hack. So here goes:

6 Writing Hacks for Freshman Composition

1. Setting your Default Font and Size to Times New Roman, 12 pt takes up more room than the current default Calibri 11 pt. Times New Roman, size 12 simply takes up more space.

2. Using an MLA format takes up space on the very first page. Type: Student name ENTER; Professor name ENTER; Course Number ENG 101-1019 ENTER; Due Date written in Military Style 22 October 2017 ENTER; Set up the Title of the paper (Centered) ENTER. That’s five (5) lines already if you’ve Double-spaced your page.

3. Take up more real estate by introducing the quoted material you want to use by first 1) Summarize it, 2) add the quote, and 3) Discuss what the quote means for your paper in a couple of sentences. Be sure to use the correct in-text citation or parenthetical reference to avoid plagiarism.

4. Use a blocked quote of 40+ words for a longer quote to analyze in your paper. Be sure to use Hack #3. Don’t go over 50 words. Your analysis of the quote should be twice as long as the quoted material. Since these are limited in a paper, be sure to find something that needs a longer explanation for your paper.

5. Use the Ellipse to take out text in a quote you don’t want to use to keep your blocked quote to a minimum. Use the Hard Bracket when you do […]. The hard brackets indicate that this is Super Imposed Content and was not originally in the text you are quoting. When you see this sic in a text, understand this word means Super Imposed Content, not something that’s trying to psych you out. You can also use the hard brackets to make a sentence make sense. Ex: [S]he aspires to find the truth.

6. Add a bit of background information in your introduction paragraph to include information your reader might need to understand where your stance is coming from. It’s not a History or Biography, ever – unless, of course, you are writing a biography or history overview.

I hope these help add length to your college papers. Perhaps you can share these with a student you know.

Joy,

Cheryl

Determination: Gratitude Challenge: Using the Virtues

Determination.

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.

Joy,

Cheryl

Consideration: Gratitude Challenge: Using the Virtues

Atlantic Sunrise


Consideration:
Today, I am grateful for considerate people. Considerate people are those who see outside themselves, and show a general concern for others. They are not self-absorbed, nor do they lack the ability to deeply engage with others. These folks stay clear of the drama that often plays out around them. Instead, thoughtfulness prevails. We often notice when they hold the door open for others, or take into account possible negative outcomes before taking any actions.

5 Steps to harness this virtue:
1. Open your mind to the possibility that your actions have consequences.
2. Think about what could happen to others as a result of your choices.
3. Reflect on possible outcomes by asking if your actions will hurt or help others.
4. If your actions help others, go ahead and execute your plan. If your actions hurt others, refrain and find a better way.
5. Make this sequence a habit before making decisions.

Welcome to consideration. It is a virtue that must be honed. While not a fool-proof way to avoid negative outcomes, practicing consideration of others can lead to better relationships.

Joy,
Cheryl