“It’s not only that writing teachers should be aware of developmental constraints for successful teaching; they should be aware that every time they are successful in teaching they have helped create a developmental constraint. This is the final turn where development spirals back upon itself in order to transcend itself. A teacher of writing faithful to human development will help students alter and thereby escape that very development” (147). Wow! This is heavy stuff but wonderful! There were times during this reading when I found myself reading the black ink on the page with zero synthesis. Of the 150 pages, page 147 was the location of the “a-ha,” of the “ooh,” of the “Yes!” Normally my reading responses are written after I have completed the entire reading; however, after the first two chapters of this reading, my brain was spinning with information and thoughts.
Chapter 3: “Maturing”
Pure learning is change (65). I would like to add that pure learning is painful as well. When students (young and old) learn something new, it is challenging already established beliefs and knowledge; sometimes the known information is broadened and sometimes it is replaced. As Gademer states in a later chapter, the“...lack of understanding would occur only if we ``had no`` prejudgments. Only by what we already know do we know that we need to know something new. In it most radical form: it is ``by`` prejudices that we learn” (125).
A lot of the success we, as teachers, experience depends on the acceptance of the new knowledge. He briefly discusses the nature versus nurture argument which feeds into the acceptance of the new knowledge. A lot of the problems we experience are because of the apathy students have. I don't think apathy is natural; I think it is nurtured by cultures. If a culture does not value education, the individual will not either.
On the conversation of maturational constraints: I have, ashamedly, not considered the maturation of students when grading or planning; I must have subconsciously because my expectations are framed by their developmental stage(s). Haswell writes, “…the frame of maturing has to overlay it with the actual performance of another…” (71). If we use what we can do as the frame or if we use the belletristic essays in which to frame others’ writings, we will always be disappointed. “It demands that before we condemn the writing as below our expectations, we first ask if perhaps our standards are not elitist or unworkable” (74).
Chapter 4: “Interpretive Tales of Maturing”
I appreciated the metaphor of childe/knight, neophyte/enlightened, and apprentice/master (93). (It would speak to how a teacher sees him/herself by which metaphor he/she chooses.) I often use published authors' writings to show my students how it's done. However, I do not expect them to be able to deconstruct the sentence, find value in the syntax, and then copy it; that is unrealistic. As the knight, the enlightened, the master, we are supposed to lead them through the deconstruction, the value, and the imitation to see the power. The students are afraid of failure and lack the confidence to play with writing. "[T]he discovery of ideas has little to do with outside circumstances and everything to do with inner conditions" (93). The students have to 'want' to see in order to see.
An old, excuse me…a seasoned teacher once told me that every student deserves the high octane teaching honors kids receive; they may not think as fast, and they may not think as deep, but they are thinking. The ‘how to’ will follow the ‘want to.’ If you have students who desire the knowledge, it is there for the taking. The eight steps to successful imitating were spot on, but not as difficult as the reading makes it sound if we deconstruct the writing far enough for the students to see the power. Without the desire to learn, "[e]ven if it is achieved, it will not be retained" (117).I, also, agree with the three maturing perspectives: the mentor, the student, and the culture. They all need to understand one another to have a successful relationship.
Chapter 5: “A Transformative Tale of Developing”
(In Literary Criticism and Theory last fall, I found the discussion of Freud and Lacan to be the most difficult and the most intriguing!) First and foremost, we NEVER see ourselves the way others see us. It is trite, but we are our worst critics. I agree with Gadamer, that “no reflection by the self about the self will ever fully enlighten the forces that operate unconsciously there…” (124). The conversation about the power of opinion fascinated me; I never thought of judging/grading/critiquing as being a fact versus opinion issue, but it is completely a matter of opinion. Critique is non-factual…critique is opinion…opinion is not fact. Self-critiquing is extremely difficult to possess.Gadamer’s step one, “Openness,” reflects the ‘want’ that is necessary to students’ successes. If the student is not “open” to learning, the teacher must fight against the students’ apathy. In my experience, the teacher never wins the war. There are battles won, but in the end, the war is lost.
Chapter 6: "Tales of Style Nomothetic and Idiographic"
There are guides and there are gate keepers, but the journey through education is truly an intrinsic journey. “To help students develop a genuine undr, teachers can only encourage them to set out on their own" (162).
“[N]obody can teach anything…you will have to find it yourself” (161). “…human change in a framework of individual within culture yet each of whom tries to respect the integrity of individuals and cultures…” (165). Another reason I use published authors' writings, is “to encourage students…to practice different styles and learn to choose between different language options and adapt to different registers, jargons, and formats required by the conventions of different groups” (167). In Dr. J. Haswell’s course last fall, we looked briefly at papers written by different students, some male and some female. We were charged to identify which was which. I was wrong every time. I discovered my sexism. I looked solely at diction and not at syntax. As R. Haswell points out, there are more variables and constraints that judgers and graders of student writing need to take into account. “…to rive student style from its foundation in some very complex social realities” (175).
"Chapter 7: Solecisms: Mistakes and Errors"
This chapter reminds me of the teachers who grade with extremely heavy hands. “Measures of error—usually misspellings—usually end up among the top three predictors of quality judgments by teachers of student writing, along with vocabulary and essay length” (193). I spend the first few writings looking at voice and organization. I do not correct any mistakes in writing. I slowly transition to specific 'good' writing traits: subject/verb relationships, pronoun/antecedent agreement, complex sentences, etc. I teach 15 year olds, so my approach is much different to college instructors/teachers. “[I]f teachers truly wish to help the student gain ground in writing, they will…absent themselves from felicity awhile and deliberately flip the Necker cube of solecism from its correctness face to its learning face” (205).