Posts Tagged ‘motivation



31
Jan
11

The value of useless chunks of time

In the film, Office Space, a frustrated worker finds a way to manipulate a computer glitch in an accounting program that simply discards fractions of a cent with each transaction. A fraction of a cent is something that no one will miss, but when these workers siphon off the fractions of a cent from thousands of transactions, they soon find themselves with more money than they imagined.

Writers can take the same approach to time that ordinarily gets discarded. Continue reading ‘The value of useless chunks of time’

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26
Jan
11

The Girl Who Was Bad At Semicolons

Lisbeth walked into my office claiming she wanted to get better at grammar. “We can help with that,” I said and ushered her over to a conference table. “What part of grammar would you like to work on first?”

“I’m not sure,” she said, casting her gaze downwards as if she might find the answer scrawled into the black surface of the table. I remained silent, knowing that she’d get more out of this if she set the agenda. When she finally figured out I wasn’t going to fill the silence, she began speaking “Well…I’m really bad at semicolons. Could we work on those?”

Her answer surprised me. I answered, “Certainly we can go over that.” But I was too curious to stop there. “But first, let me ask you a question. What makes you say you’re ‘bad at semicolons’?”

“I don’t know. I am just really bad at them. I’ve never got them.”

Her answer fascinated me for two reasons. First, understanding semicolons means understanding two rules, neither of which is very complicated. Second, Lisbeth was no stranger to using the Writing Studio. She’d been in on a handful of occasions. Yet, she never asked for anyone to teach her the rules for semicolons, nor did she bother to notice the spot on our wall where we display a brilliant comic, which provides the clearest and most creative explanations of semicolons I’ve ever read.

Lisbeth is a bright student. On top of that, she’s got enough courage to walk in and ask for help on a topic that’s challenged her sense of own intelligence. That’s admirable. However, it’s precisely these traits that make her situation so puzzling. That leads me to think that the most important question in education is this:

Why do bright, competent students make the same simple mistakes over and over again even when a teacher points out these mistakes and provides plenty of resources to help? Continue reading ‘The Girl Who Was Bad At Semicolons’

16
Dec
10

Motivating students – when “giving a sh*t” meets the “oh sh*t” moment

Think about the students you have the most difficult time dealing with. Plagiarists. The back row slouchers. The grade grubbers who complain their A- is not an A. In-class texters. The sleepers who are dead to the world. Know-it-alls who insult other students with in-class comments and then don’t listen to the rest of the class. The smart kid who won’t say a peep in class but then complains about their class participation. The student who wants you to tell you exactly how you want the paper. The student who writes that you are impossible to please on the end-of-class evaluations. We all have them. Some educators take the approach of taking pleasure in these students’ failures, saying that these students deserve to fail. And maybe they do. But sometimes they need motivation. Or more importantly, a way to tap into their own motivation and keep it charged. Continue reading ‘Motivating students – when “giving a sh*t” meets the “oh sh*t” moment’




Good Writer, Bad Writer

Good writer, bad writer reflects the philosophy behind the first writing lesson I attempt to teach students. Too many of them come into college believing that their writing abilities are set in stone. The bad writers continue to struggle, and the good writers don't take enough risks in their writing, figuring that any misstep will throw them back into the "bad writer" category.

Good writer, bad writer is my attempt to break the power of that dichotomy. On here, I share the lessons and attitudes that I teach, but I also talk about the attitudes I have towards my own writing since many of those have informed my own teaching. Thanks for visiting.

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