“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.