Why Teach?

I am a writer. That is my primary identity when it comes to my job and my purpose. So why do I teach?

At first, I taught because I didn’t know what the hell to do with a B.A. in English. Of course, the college counselor told me I could go into ANY field- everyone was looking for someone who could communicate well, especially in writing. Yeah… not so much. Besides, I was NOT cut out for corporate America: sit-down-shut-up and follow someone else’s rules all the time and meet the goals set by management. Industrial-age thinking was over for me a LOOOONG time ago. So, what to do? Teach! As long as my students’ test scores improved with my methods, I got to make up my own rules and curriculum and teach my way. It was a beautiful thing. For a while.

But somewhere along the way, the industrialists got ahold of the educational system (again!) Innovation, critical thinking, cooperative learning, striving for more and better results all flew out the proverbial window. Students had to pass tests. Test scores were the only recognized measure of a teacher’s effectiveness and a student’s capacity to learn. I became so disillusioned that I left teaching. For good! At least that’s what I told myself.

But guess what? I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t abandon students to believe the crap the industrialist educators were telling them about their writing and themselves. Any student can be a proficient writer, regardless of what their writing placement test says. And they don’t have to know the difference between a past participle and a dangling modifier to write well. Granted, they may not ever be a Hemingway or Stephen King; but they can certainly communicate effectively and become a leader in their chosen industry. And isn’t that what good writing SHOULD be about?

So, back to my original question: why teach? I’m a professional writer, true. But I’m good at teaching; and I feel a responsibility to undo the damage to students’ confidence and motivation done by stupid, ineffective placement tests. It just makes good sense. Besides, every now and then I get a semester like the current one, full of students who inspire ME to write my best too!

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What All Will You Find on This Blog?

While the main focus of this blog is topics and issues related to academic writing, there is far more to life than school. I could no more write exclusively about academia than I could eat only vegetables – and I like vegetables! Variety is not only “the spice of life,” but critical to a well-rounded education as well.

So, in order to keep you (and myself!) from getting bored, I will periodically post about my “other” favorite writing and writers. I LOVE historical fiction and writing about the places where history and story intersect. I spent some painful useful time working in corporate America developing an aversion to badly written business documents, so I will periodically address the finer points of business writing for the benefit of readers currently caught in that setting.

And of course, I want to address YOUR needs and questions too. What problems or issues to YOU encounter in your daily writing tasks? If I don’t know the answer, I’ll find it… out there somewhere! So ask away…

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