Writing classes: How they harm and help

“I haven’t written for two years,” the woman told me over the phone. She’d called to ask for information about my upcoming writing class. “I’m so discouraged,” she said. Turns out, a previous writing teacher had ripped her writing apart.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the first time a writer told me she/he stopped writing because of a teacher’s caustic remark. I’m a writer and a writing instructor, so I know what it’s like to be both. I understand what works in the classroom and what doesn’t.

Ripping a student or her writing apart doesn’t work. Why? Because, in my experience, most writing problems are solved by writing. If an instructor’s remark stops a writer from writing, chances are, that student will never improve.

The solution isn’t to avoid pointing out aspects of a student’s writing that isn’t working. The solution is to point out what works and what doesn’t in a classroom environment in which the student feels safe to do both.

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