Fit your ideas into this fill-in-the-blank, I encouraged them.
No wonder when I started to teach eleventh- and twelfth-grade students that they struggled with writing and thinking beyond what the teacher required.
In the United States, we’ve done a good job at doing the wrong things better, Richardson pointed out.
For example, we might make improvements to standardized tests, but we don’t question enough if standardized tests themselves aren’t the problem. For a long time, I used a Band-Aid approach to teach writing.
*** Every year, when I ask students to tell me what they know about writing, they almost always recite a list of rules.
They tell me how they were taught to never start a sentence with how the thesis statement always goes at the end of the introduction, how thesis statements need three reasons, how first person isn’t allowed in formal essays, how paragraphs are 6-8 sentences long, and on and on. It’s about getting closer—through repeated observation, approximation, and experimentation—to a deeper understanding of the world around us.
To approach writing instruction sans formula is messy. Last year, when I decided to try a different approach with my ninth-graders, there were many days I went home feeling like the worst teacher in the world. As one of my mentors often tells me, “Be forgiving. Richardson argued for urgency in our approach to the challenges schools faced.
My own inexperience in teaching students to write sans formula was reflected in the writing they produced. A Band-Aid may be an easier short-term solution, but it often only covers up the real problem.
When students find out later that these rules aren’t really rules at all, they feel offended. Only then can something become a law, like gravity; otherwise, it’s all hypothesis.
Shouldn’t that be how we approach writing, how we frame essays?