Friday, March 03, 2006

Cheating (sort of)

As some of you know, I’m trying to find work, having been laid off from a technical writing job last summer. I’m still looking in the high tech field, but I’ve been trying to find work in teaching and publishing as well.

Today, a community college near me posted the following ad for an English instructor on Craigslist.

Include with your application an essay (500-750 words) on the topic:

The College of San Mateo offers two developmental courses below transfer level. Imagine that you are teaching the lower of these two courses. If you could teach your students only four things in this course during the semester, what would they be? Explain your rationale.


I love the idea of this, and it may be a way to get around the fact that I don’t have years of experience as a teacher.

I’m asking for your help to come up with the four things I would want my students to learn. I can think of two right off the top of my head:


  • You can’t know everything, but you can learn how to find what you need to know.
  • Precision is key to the best writing, from technical writing to poetry.

So what were some of the things you wish someone had taught you in your early years in college? Remember, this is a developmental English class. No idea too far out or silly to consider….

5 comments:

Robert said...

That’s a great question! I’d say the most important thing is you need to put yourself in the reader’s skin if you want to write well, whether you’re writing a poem or filling out a job application. Maybe I’d have students write about something that interests them (“Ludacris is the best rapper ever”) and have the person next to them read it and ask them questions and argue with them while they take notes and then rewrite their essay to take into account the person’s doubts and confusions so the next person who reads it won’t have the same questions.

Pamela said...

All writing is political.

Bob said...

I think that what I have to say goes with with robert said: Respect and understand your audience.

Diane K. Martin said...

These are great! Keep them coming (please).

BTW, these do not have to be only writing directed. I believe the developmental English below transfer level student would have the bare minimum of skills, not enough for a four-year college. I'm thinking I want to teach them something that will motivate them and encourage them and give them skills that will help them navigate,etc.

Beverly said...

I taught a class like that for two years at a community college in Atlanta when I was 24, fresh out of grad school. I was shocked at the poor writing skills and overloaded with a sense of responsibility for teaching them.

What I remember now is the beauty of expression in much of the writing, sans punctuation, spelling, proper syntax and grammar. I was too green to know how to help them preserve that while they learned the mechanics and I've often regretted that I couldn't have done it better.

I stressed clarity (next to godliness of course) which I still would, but beauty and delight have to trump even clarity.

Where I felt saved was with literature—even the badly educated could swoon at Yeats "An Irish Airman Foresees His Death." So I would try to teach them to listen to their own words more.