It’s that time again for me to begin preparing for my presentation at our faculty development symposium. My university began holding this event two years ago, and each year I, a writing center director and composition instructor, am invited to talk about writing. Needless to say, I don’t draw a big crowd.
The first year, I talked about how our writing center can help students and faculty. . . to about six colleagues. Last year, I gave a presentation entitled “Alleviating the Fear of Writing in First-Year Students.”* That sexy topic doubled my audience.
Such disinterest really drives home for me the paradoxical place writing instruction holds in an institution that demands writing output by students and faculty: it’s required but marginalized. I imagine my colleagues, upon reading the title of my presentation in the program, putting their fingers in their ears and la-la-la-la-ing until the word writing is stricken from their consciousness.
Probably all of us who teach writing have heard complaints from our colleagues in other disciplines about the abysmal quality of their students’ writing–a passive laying of blame. Some of us have experienced direct blame. I have experienced both. Yet the majority of my colleagues do not attend my faculty development presentations. The consensus is that writing instruction is solely the responsibility of the English department–no matter how many other courses require essays and research papers. News flash: two semesters of writing instruction simply cannot fully prepare students, many under-prepared to begin with, for the diverse writing demands that they will encounter for the next three or more years.
So why don’t all faculty who assign writing engage in the teaching of writing–at least to the extent that it’s useful to their assignments? I’ll tell you why. Because it’s damn hard work.
This year, my presentation will be about painless ways to be writing-intensive. We’ll see just how many of my colleagues are willing to embrace the challenge–a challenge required by our new core curriculum mandates. Hmmm. . . writing mandates. . .
No amount of metaphorical fingers in metaphorical ears can tune me out now.
*Related post about writing fears.