Much of the discussion today around writing at the secondary and community college levels focuses around remediation or developmental writing (aka getting students ready for “college-level” writing). Never mind (for now) that there is much debate within higher education over what college-level writing actually is. Too many people, even within the teaching profession, equate good writing only with having technical proficiency in using grammar conventions.
We reinforce this emphasis on technical correctness through high-stakes testing and more recently by increased use of essay grading software. Sadly, the result of this overemphasis on conventions has been a marked decline in students’ actual writing proficiency and a simultaneous crucifixion of their desire to write.
Thankfully, pushing through these thorns are examples of writing, good writing, by our students, in spite of our misdirected policies.
I recently had opportunity to see and celebrate such budding talent at our Mississippi Community College Creative Writing Association Annual Conference. Along with some very helpful advice from professional writers (who also served as the judges of the student writing competition), the conference featured inspiring examples of students’ poetry, stories, plays, and essays.
like most teachers of writing, I plow through my share of poor writing, half-hearted attempts, and stolen works. The payoff, however, comes in watching people often intimidated at first by the prospect of writing for an audience, learn to develop pieces that are not just functional, but beautiful.
When that happens, I remind myself that I am not here just to produce people who know where to put the parts of language on an assembly line of mediocrity, but rather to help real people learn how to communicate with a world that has often pre-determined that they have nothing of value to say.
Wouldn’t trade it for anything.