“I read that book”

Speaking of Media Hub, admission to the class is by application and it’s competitive. Most of the writers I admit to the class I’ve taught before so that I know how good they are. One semester, a former journalist whom I respect recommended a student writer I didn’t know. The journalist-turned-professor said, “She’s a little raw, but she’s really sharp.”

When I was in college, I was a little raw and as sharp as a brick, but a professor gave me a chance. So, I paid it forward and put her in the class.

Her first two stories were awful. She committed all the writing sins you expect from a first-year journalism student — overwriting, rampant use of adverbs and adjectives, vague descriptions without detail, etc. Except she was a senior, not a first-year.
I was going over her second story with her, asking questions, working on the rewrite, when she said, “I want to make this really good because I really need to get an A on this.” I responded too quickly, “Oh, you’re not going to get an A.”
She burst into tears. (The pressure to get good grades in college is way too intense.  I’ve just told you what type of student I was.)
After she calmed down, we talked about how she can get better. I pulled “Writing Tools” by Roy Peter Clark out of my briefcase, and handed it to her. I use it as a text in my Feature Writing course.
“Buy this book and read it,” I said. “Then start using the tools.”
I didn’t expect much because she had four other courses and a job to worry about. (It’s always a crapshoot when you ask students to do something not required.)
A month later, she submitted her next two stories. They were exceptional; they flowed well, the excess verbiage was gone, and the sentences were muscular and telling.
I’ll called her aside and told her how good they were.
“I have to ask,” I said. “How did you improve so much so quickly?”
“I read that book,” she said, and she cited a few of the tools she used.
Because I can tell a student to read a book, I must be a great teacher.
Here is this semester’s class on the LDOC yesterday.

One thought on ““I read that book”

  1. An educator is a leader. You help students understand what they need to learn & help them find the tools to learn. You can guide & suggest, but students have to figure out how & what to learn. A great teacher cares enough to be honest & to help students. Once a student trusts a teacher, the student can follow, & learn, & extend the learning.
    As a librarian, the best skills I could teach my kids was to figure out what information they needed, how to find it, and how to evaluate information to know if it is appropriate. I told them I didn’t know everything, but I knew how to find the answers. I also taught them that any idiot can post anything on the internet. My lesson included a bogus website I had created on how to do brain surgery. Then they would evaluate an extremely extensive site from a “hospital” about men getting pregnant.

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