Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Teaching of Writing - Truth Exposed!

Practically every college professor complains about the dramatic decline in writing skills of college students. “If you teach them nothing else, please,” they implore, “teach them to write!”

Writing, or the pedagogy of writing, has been somewhat of a fixation of mine. You see, ever since I learned that my husband—who doesn’t have a writer’s heart—made straight A’s on all his college essays, while I—a passionate writer—didn’t enjoy such an experience, I’ve wondered about this thing called writing.

Though I’ve always considered myself a writer, most of my teachers and professors didn’t view the methodical eloquence nor the originality and style of my literary expositions worthy of the high marks my husband received. However, one teacher in particular did give me excellent scores in writing. She loved, even published, my writing. She was my creative writing teacher. Yes, the student anthology was filled with my poems, my prose, my stories, my thoughts. My college experience was highlighted by exciting writing opportunities, including writing for the student newspaper and the monthly magazine.

Why was it that I excelled when I wrote in one sector, yet that same excellence didn’t translate to my college essay exams and papers? I later learned that I didn’t understand something very foundational about writing. In fact, I believe many people have missed this key concept that could be the secret to success in scholastic writing.

So what is this big secret? What is the mystery that in my case spelled doom for my college essays yet got me published hither and thither? It is this: There are two separate subjects in school, both called writing! How confusing is that? In essence, there are two kinds of writing—and they should be taught as two separate subjects because they produce two totally different kinds of written works. Yes, two kinds of writing. And rarely will the twain meet.

Over the course of this week, I hope to explore this on my blog. I will explain the two kinds of writing and how we, as educators, might approach writing instruction with our students.