Thursday, November 08, 2007


K is for Key

In trying to understand their frustrations in writing, I often picture my students standing before a huge door labeled “Essay Writing”. They knock and bang on the door, hoping that someone will open it and allow them to see into the mysteries of writing a good high school essay. They’ve been knocking at least since 6th grade, but they are always foiled because the door is securely locked. Doesn’t anyone have a key? they cry out. That’s where I come in, because I think -- or hope -- I do have a key. I hope my teaching can provide them with a perfectly made key that can open that frustrating door, over and over again week after week. I’m guardedly optimistic that my various writing tools can bring them the same joy people feel when they finally unlock a huge, mysterious door. “Ah,” the students might say, “at long last this aggravating door is open and we can see the wonders of essay writing!” What I would like to do is make the key so perfect and fail-safe that writing a school essay will actually become almost an “easy” task for my students. It’s a reasonable aspiration, I think, because writing an essay does not have to be rocket science. It’s simply a question of putting clear thoughts into orderly sentences and coherent paragraphs. Students often make school writing assignments far more complicated and daunting than they need to be, and it’s my hope that my “key” can help them see the relative straightforwardness of their writing tasks. Using my paragraph formulas and other specific tools, perhaps my students can open the door to essay writing with no great difficulty. They may have to bang on it now and then, and maybe jiggle the key a bit, but the door will eventually open ... I hope.

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