By: Helen C. Sitler
This post is a thought piece on how important aspects of the student learning process are sometimes obscured by the assessment expectations placed on professors.
Helen Collins Sitler teaches in the English Department at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where her favorite class to teach is Basic Writing. She is a composition specialist and also works with the English Education resource pool, teaching some methods courses and supervising student teachers. You can reach her at email@example.com.
The lightbulb moment. The moment when we see understanding flood a student’s face makes the hard work of teaching writing worthwhile.
In my basic writing course some years ago, Jeremy struggled to find his voice. His papers were forced and predictable. Near the end of the semester, our class took a day to wander the campus in small groups and write about what we saw. There was no pressure to write a thesis statement, to use perfect mechanics, to develop ideas. The task was simply to write. When we returned to the classroom to share our experiences, Jeremy regaled us with his vivid, humorous account of a few minutes he had spent in the library. It was a startling shift from his usual stiff formality, and the first time his voice appeared in his written words. The whole class loved it. A few hours later, Jeremy presented me with a typed copy of what he had written, reporting that when he got back to his room with the hand-written original, he had written more. He said, “I couldn’t stop writing.”