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As If We Took Them Seriously

posted: 5.26.11 by Elizabeth Wardle and Douglas Downs

Downs pic for Bits


My “summer break” began and ended last week, with the submission of final grades for the spring semester and the syllabus for my summer session Comp I course, which began three days ago.

The Comp I class has met twice now, and it’s a fantastic group of students. Many of them happen to be nontraditional or returning students; a few are enrolled in their first college course ever; many have years of experience in various fields and industries. They have so much experience as writers, so much to offer and contribute to the course, that I am practically giddy.

Yet even after years of teaching writing about writing, I still feel that little twinge of fear in my gut when a student introduces herself to the class as a post-baccalaureate who’s starting another program or wants a particular certificate; this WRIT 101 course is required, even though she could easily point to her complete college transcript and say, “Really? I need this?” I think, what does my course in college writing have to teach students who already have college degrees? Or what does it have to teach business professionals who have owned their own businesses and are coming back to college to strike out in a new direction?

Then I remember: that fear is the old composition course talking.  I don’t teach “how to write a college essay” anymore.  Here, we study writing. When students are already experienced writers, they can get even more out of the course. And so I can say to these students with confidence (and even a touch of pride), “This course will not. Waste. Your time.” And I know I can make that stick.  It’s a tremendous relief. [read more]

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