Helping Students Want to Write

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How do you get students to want to write? Because I was a writer before I became a teacher, the question wasn’t hard. I knew what inspired me, and it certainly wasn’t money or fame. Not that I’m opposed to them—would take either if you offered—it’s just that, so far, my writing hasn’t been good […]

The Power of We

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This morning I watched students edit one another’s essays. Their expressions said it all. The occasional smile and/or nod told me the pedagogy was working. I have students read and comment on each other’s writing because . . . Positive reinforcement works. Praising a student’s strengths makes those strengths even stronger. Modeling works. Observing successful […]

Messy First Drafts

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“Messy first drafts,” I tell my students, “are not only common for professional writers, but necessary.” Because, as Professor Furnish used to tell us grad students, “90% of all good writing is revised writing.” And, of course, one can’t revise what isn’t there. Sounds easy—to produce a collection of disjointed thoughts that touch on what […]

Nothing Gold Can Stay

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“Nothing gold can stay.” It’s my favorite line from my favorite poem by my favorite poet. “Nature’s first green is gold,” wrote Robert Frost, yet it’s “her hardest hue to hold.” And while “her early leaf’s a flower,” it’s “only so an hour.” The poet was describing what philosophers call the law of mutability, what […]

Remember Me?

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It happened again Sunday. Was paying the ticket at Calico County, and the cashier recognized me. “Dr. Bellah, remember me?” “Of course; what’s your name again?” “Andrea B. I had you—let’s see—2006, I think.” “Sure. How are you, Andrea?” “Of course you remember me. I was special.” Her grin was both mischievous and eerily familiar. […]

My Students, My Heroes

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Christy was nine years old when she was sexually assaulted for the first time. While her tormentor had his way with her younger siblings, she was locked in a closet where she banged her head against the door until she passed out. Christy spent the next 20 years hopelessly hitting her head against doors, including […]

Overwhelmed

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Overwhelmed. Before this week is over, I will grade 75 narrative essays, 50 annotated bibliographies, and I’ll read and comment on 300 student journal entries. No, it’s not normal. It’s the most abnormal week of the semester, and somehow I survive it twice a year. I coax myself through with promises of future reward: spring […]