Week 2, due Jan. 21

Pre-reading - Joanna Hodges

Any knowledge I already have about this topic--which I am currently assuming is basic writing or, from the subtitle of the book, "America's Educationally Underprepared," comes mostly from Comp Theory, which I took last Spring. We read a few related articles ("Diving In" by Mina Shaughnessy, for example), and had some discussions about the topic. I remember, at the time, using my experiences at the writing center as examples. In Bibliography and Research, my big research topic was about Basic Writers in comparison to ESL writers, but we didn't actually write a paper, so I felt like I didn't get much out of the process. With that in mind, I am glad to have the opportunity to explore the topic more.

In Comp Theory, we also read an article by Mike Rose, "Narrowing the Mind and Page: Remedial Writers and Cognitive Reductionism." In it, he discusses the cognitive aspects of basic/remedial writers, looking at American education and Piaget's stages of cognitive development. Honestly, I don't remember too much else about the article, except that it was kind of dry. I think my facilitation group presented this article to the class in Comp Theory (if I remember correctly), and I・m pretty sure we focused a lot on the developmental/cognitive stages.

My expectations about this reading are hopeful. Dr. Murphy said in class that its readable, and I am taking that to mean it will be more interesting than his article I've read. I peeked at parts of it, just kind of flipping through it, and it seemed like it had a lot of personal experiences/stories in it, which is great. The back of the book sounds pretty good, as if the book offers a lot about how to improve the teaching methods of basic writing, so I'm interested to see what he has to say.

Pre-Reading - Holly Corkill

Do I know anything about this topic?

I am not sure if I have any concrete knowledge on this topic. Any knowledge I have is probably more presumptive than anything. As a high school teacher, I often worry that the type of writing we are having students do in their writing classes is not preparing them for college. It seems that any writing a teacher teaches until a student・s twelfth grade year is geared towards getting the student ready for TAKS. They learn to write open-ended responses for the ninth grade reading test, and then a reflective essay for the writing and exit level tests they will take in tenth and eleventh grade. I am not certain if this type of writing prepares them for college or if it benefits them for any other purpose than passing the TAKS test. From some of the conversations we had in Bibliography and Research with some of the graduate students who were teaching seminar, it seems that the concern I have may be validated. Not all students leaving high school with a diploma come to college ready to write for their professors, and it seems like this problem is becoming more the rule than the exception.

Do I know anything about this author?

I know nothing of Mike Rose as an author. We did not read anything by Mike Rose in Bibliography and Research, so I have not had the opportunity to read any of his work as of yet. A Google search and (gasp!) Wikipedia article says that he is a :nationally recognized American Education scholar...noted for his contribution to the study of literacy;. Googling Mr. Rose also led me to his blog, where he posts regularly about issues in education. His most recent post was made on January 6, 2009 and is titled : :Reform,; Accountability,; and the Absence of Schoolhouse Knowledge in Education Policy;. I skimmed the posting and found the language to be a little technical, but it could prove useful in the future. The link to this blog is: http://mikerosebooks.blogspot.com/2008/03/education-media-and-public-sphere.html .

What preconceived notions do I have about the reading?

From the title of the book and the title of the class I am in, I can assume that this book is probably about the challenges and issues that pertain to students coming out of high school classrooms and entering college writing classrooms with writing deficits. The portion of the title that says :A Moving Account of the Strategies and Achievements of America・s Educationally Unprepared; leads me to believe that this book probably alternates between being an anecdotal account of working with underprepared students and a book written to give basic writing teacher tips on working with underdeveloped writers. The fact that Dr. Murphy says that the book is an easy read further leads me to believe that the book is primarily anecdotal because I find anecdotal discussions of students and teaching strategies to be easy reads.

Liza Trevino・s :Before I Read; Response

When I ordered this book from Amazon, the title Lives on the Boundary made me think back to Summer I and a class that I took with Dr. Etheridge. In this class, we talked a lot about borderlands issues. I don・t know why the word :boundary; forced me to make that connection but I always assumed that was what the book was about. My mind immediately focused on Hispanic serving institutions and previous discussions we have had about students in border towns and how they often populate the basic writing courses, etc. Whether my assumptions were correct or not, they would inevitably tie into the discussions that we have because it has become evident that most of these composition and rhetoric topics tend to inevitably supplement each other. When I received the book, I glanced at the first sentence and Rose does begin by mentioning the Mexican border. Will my preconceived notion prove to be correct? I had to stop myself from reading further because I knew that I needed to complete this :Before I Read; response and, well, it needed to be done before I read.

As far as my knowledge about the author, I know that we read an article of Rose・s in Comp Theory and revisiting the title tells me that it did involve the discussion of basic writing but I am at a loss for more specifics. I would really need to re-read some of it or dive into this new material to talk about it further so I won・t pretend to remember. What I do remember was that he wrote with a very subtle hint of sarcasm - like he had a point to make and he used his writing to do just that.

I am interested in getting started on this reading because the layout of the book does seem to focus on the personal and I am very interested in that at the moment. I have found that reading personal narratives from experienced instructors (as well as struggling students) can be very enlightening.

Jennifer Marciniak

Do I know anything about this topic?

Well, I should know something; I am hoping that my dissertation will encompass some aspect of under-prepared students in Hispanic Serving Institutions, mainly border regions. To be quite honest, I didn・t pay any attention to the title of the book until I picked it up and read the introduction (ok, so I cheated a bit). I am ten times more excited about reading it now than I was before I really thought about because it seems to encompass all types of borders within education and culture.

Do I know anything about this author?

What I know about Mike Rose is mostly from "Narrowing the Mind and Page: Remedial Writers and Cognitive Reductionism." This was about a year ago in Comp Theory, so what I remember is a bit vague.

What preconceived notions do I have about the reading?

Just the impending storytelling aspect reminds me a bit of Luis Alberto Urrea・s Across the Wire, which we read in Borderlands class last semester with Concannon. I am also thinking that it will take in may parallel Peter McLaren?・s Life in Schools. McLaren?・s book uses narratives to describe the life of inner city schools in Baltimore, and how adopting a critical pedagogy can empower students. It is very graphic, and although I don・t think Rose・s take on education will be so radical, the suggestion may still be same.


I feel like I know Mike Rose now. At least up until his early 20s. He・s not just a rhet/comp name to me anymore. His early mindset of unworthiness and confusion reminds me a lot of Dr. Raul Ybarra dissertation :Latino Students and Anglo-Mainstream Instructors: An Ethnographic Study of Classroom Communication.; Rose and Ybarra parallel one another not in ethnicity, but in having to wade through the political mainstream of standardized tests and classifications due to a perceived learning ability (or disability.) In Rose・s case it begins with an administrative hiccup with his name. For Ybarra, it is language and the politics of being a member of a migrant family. Similar still, they are both oppressed in the classroom from a young age, and that oppression follows them into society to some degree. The bright spots in the grey areas of both these scholars・ education are teachers; teachers who pull away from mainstream and cognitive learning styles and utilize a :more humane liberal education; (Rose 48).

I would like to be someone・s Jack McFarland?. Just for the passion he builds in his students. I also believe the Don Johnson・s teaching philosophy of breaking down difficult texts and ideas and then asking students questions about the sections is a formidable teaching philosophy that enables student empowerment. It allows them to figure it out themselves, answering their own questions. And then there was Father Albertson, who :nudges us out into the chatter; (58). It is rather amazing how Rose remembers specifics about all his teachers. The division in teaching ideologies is pretty blatant, and Rose does a good job of illustrating the impact of traditional versus liberal education theories. I particularly cringed at Mr. Wilson・s fill in the blank exercises that were proven to work through :psychological theory.; All it provided was boredom and doodles.

This lack of excitement is where basic writing classrooms need to focus. There is, as Rose says, :no new challenge; (31). These students know they are segregated from the other classes because of a writing difference. I know when I was in remedial math in undergrad (three semesters, have I mentioned that before), it was ridiculous. There was no engagement. It was TAs? up at the board writing problems. I was, and still am, the student that says, :That part of my brain does not work; (31). So I have that in common with my basic writing students in 1301. I tell my classes that at the beginning of the semester because for some it takes the edge off, makes me a little less scary.

I like that Rose is human, that he traces his steps in his enlightenment, from his vocational school episode, to his Wordsworth/Coleridge letter exchange relationships with other writers, his identifiable troubles with the new critical approach to literature, and also the unbelievably relevant decision to give up a fellowship to UCLA because the program was not relevant to what he was looking for. There is a lot going on in the first part of the book, and I am anxious to see where Teacher Corps eventually takes him. One of the greatest realizations he makes, and I sense he initializes throughout the book is the recognition of powerlessness. In his case, South Vermont. Once one realizes how even small things like smells and sights can trigger comfort zones, it is easy to stop your journey and regress. And this, Rose, says is how :errant children; get sucked back in. Those students need influential teachers V like MacFarland?, Coulthers, and Johnson -- to push them forward and rebuild the :decayed images of the possible; (105).

solipsistic - extreme preoccupation with and indulgence of one's feelings, desires, etc.; egoistic self-absorption (dictionary.com)

Edith Delgado

Do I know anything about this topic? Being that I・m fairly new to the program, I have to admit that I am really not familiar with the :struggles and achievements; of the educational system in the United States. However, I do have an idea as to what this book・s topic might be and that is many freshmen do not have the basic writing skills. I have heard about students・ underpreparedness in the First Year Program. Since I started working as a Seminar Instructor and working with other Composition Instructors including Dr. Murphy and Rita, and often in our workshops I・ve learned about the lack of education when it comes to writing or what writing means to each student individually. I have also heard other difficulties that professors have mentioned, none that I can reveal, but simply that students need help in learning the writing process or basics of writing.

Do I know anything about this author? I do not know anything about this author, it・s the first time I see his name.

What preconceived notions do I have about the reading? My preconceived notions about the book have to do with the observations, experiences, including the author's, and maybe other colleagues and what they have learned about the educations system. The :moving account; makes me believe the author has traveled around the nation or schools and has seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of the education system.

Tammy Graham Before reading...

Topic: In 5372 and 5302, we covered some issues regarding Basic Writing. After reading Nancy Sommers・s :Responding to Student Writing,; I became interested in learning more about teacher assessment of student drafts and the revision strategies of students themselves. It seems to me, from reading Sommers・s research and other articles on the subject, one of the best tools that teachers can offer students to improve basic writing skills is the knowledge (and the desire) to assess and revise their own writing. Also, one of the worst things teachers can do is to make writing :rule-based.; This is what intrigues me most about Basic WritingXthe issue of guiding students to find their own voices, methods, and ways of improving their written communication skills without :appropriating their texts; or causing them to look at their writing as being either right or wrong.

Author: I recall reading Rose・s essay :Narrowing the Mind and Page.; I am hoping to learn more about some of the practices and methods of assessment of Basic Writing skills.

Reading thoughts: I think I will have a glimpse into some of the harsh realities of teaching Basic Writing.

Darcy Lewis


As far as this topic goes, the only scholastic background I have is in reading Mina Shaugnessy・s :Diving In: An Introduction to Basic Writing; last semester. However, my mom has taught developmental English for many years at a community college, so I have been regaled/warned/intimidated/annoyed/disconcerted by umpteen stories of her experiences. If I were to have any preconceived notions about basic writing, they would be rooted in her dismay at an imperfect system and its relegation of basic writing to the lowliest of low positions on the proverbial totem pole. There is little incentive for the basic writing students to excel if they are not independently motivated, and most times they feel defeated before they begin because they have been branded :below standard; and shuffled through the system. From what I can tell, that puts the basic writing teacher in a uniquely isolated positionXhe or she is (in many cases) the sole advocate for the student. And taking into account the fact that the reasons for those students being placed in remediation are entirely unique and individualized (ESL, learning disabilities, emotional issues, poor testing skills, etc.), it complicates things that much more for the basic writing teacher, as generalized teaching methods are less useful.

I haven・t read anything by Mike Rose yet, so this is a new author and a fairly new topic for me. I found his blog online and he sums up his philosophy as this: :A deep belief in the ability of the common person, a commitment to educational, occupational, and cultural opportunity to develop that ability, and an affirmation of public institutions and the public sphere as vehicles for nurturing and expressing that ability.; He sounds like he might have some Freirianism (is that even a word?) in his philosophy and background.

Pre-Reading: Andrea Montalvo

Do I know anything about this topic? - To be perfectly honest, I know little about basic writing. But, after grading papers for Seminar and a Western Lit. course, I would say that it's apparent students are entering college without developmental writing. Even the upper class students in the Western Lit. course could not compose coherent sentences. However, there were a few students in my seminar sections last semester that were excellent writers. However, these students were the type to keep journals and write creatively, so because they wrote on their own time, they had extra practice. The majority of students HATED to write, and I'm unsure if it's just their least favorite subject, they had teachers that weren't as devoted to their job as they should be, or because they had bad writing experiences. We touched on this subject last semester in 5302 with Dr. Haswell, but not enough for me to gain a concrete understanding of the topic. I'm currently enrolled in 5372, however because of the date classes began and the MLK Jr holiday, I've yet to attend the class. But, I'm sure the combination of these courses will further my understanding of basic writing.

Do I know anything about this author? - Actually, I do not! But, I'm eager to learn about him.

What preconcieved notions do I have about the reading? - Well, Dr. Murphy said it was an easy read, and my boyfriend read it last semester and said it was good, so I'm pretty optimistic about the reading. I guess the only preconcieved notions I have are that I expect this book to be about his own personal writing experiences as well as those of the students he has taught.

Holly Corkill - Post-Reading # 1- Mike Rose V Preface thru Chapter 5

The definition I believe that Mike Rose is giving a basic writer is a definition that must include the young Mike Rose, as well as many of the students in the classroom. The basic writer Mr. Rose described was one that enjoyed reading on his own, liked to keep to himself, and tended to go unnoticed in class. Adding some assumption to the information I read in the text, I can also assume that the basic writer is not necessarily the most troublesome student in the classroom, and is instead simply one who prefers to keep to himself in the classroom. The basic writer often does not have the support necessary to develop writing skills at home, because the parent is often one who does not have the time, aptitude, or education to assist their basic writer. In the case of Mr. Rose, his parents were both immigrants. English was their second language. Mr. Rose・s mother quit school in the seventh grade and his father attended two years of Italian elementary schools.

The basic writer that Mr. Rose is defining also seems to be one that is not properly encouraged to pursue the writing that appeals to them. In Rose・s narrative, he discusses how his college professor discouraged him from creating writing and encouraged him to restrict himself to analytical and academic writings. When I read this, I cringed. Any writing, even if it is simply a creative or reflective writing piece can help a student to improve their writing skills. I have frequently seen students who claim that they are terrible writers turn around and produce a great piece of creative or reflective writing.

The basic writer that Mr. Rose is talking about also appears to be one who lacks self-esteem when it comes to writing because the nitpicky and unclear marks of a teacher on the page have led the person to believe that their writing does not measure up. In reading the portion of the text where Rose discusses receiving back papers with critiques like :vague;, :wordy;, and :unclear; on the page, I am reminded of a work I read in one of my undergraduate classes. I cannot recall the exact title of the article, but the title spoke about the red pen. The article discussed and condemned English teachers who make student papers bleed and advised against marking for every little thing. According to the author of this article, nitpicking over grammar, spelling, and punctuation all of the time discourages the fragile egos of high school writers. Marking for grammar, spelling, wordiness, and being vague without explanation does nothing for a student beyond giving them a complex about their writing. Yes, grammar is important. However, if a student is having an issue with comma splices or spelling, is it really necessary to mark everycomma splice and every misspelling? Marking the first instance of an error and having them go back to their paper to find the subsequent occurences of the mistake in the paper teaches the student far more. If the student learns how to identify their errors, they can also learn how to prevent the error from occurring in future papers.

In relating all of these definitions to what Rose is attempting to say about solving the problem of a basic writer, the thing I agreed with the most is the subtle argument he makes about labeling students. His labeling as :vocational ed.; Material was detrimental. It set him back academically and probably led to his own condition (for lack of a better word) of being a basic writer. Because his aptitude test got mixed up with another student・s, he ended up losing the high school writing education that would have improved his college writing experience. The idea of labeling a student continues to be a theme when Mr. Rose discusses his experiences as a student teacher. When he receives his group of poor writers, they each come with a label and he is befuddled at how well they perform for him, despite their labels. Labels can be a dangerous thing, especially when you・re talking about a child・s ability. There is a student in one of my classes right now. He・s a great writer. When he writes, he・s clear. His sentence structure is great, and his spelling is generally better. He knows how to spell torture and many other words correctly, but he doesn・t work. He doesn・t put his head down in class. He・s not a troublemaker. He・s quiet. He reads. He just doesn・t work. I asked him once to write something for me, and he said, :I・m not a very good writer.; I don・t know where or how he・s picked up this label, but it・s stuck with him and he really believes that he・s not a good writer.

In the writing classroom in general, Mr. Rose seems to be giving the teacher a large amount of responsibility. In the reading, it seems that the biggest intervention for Rose when he was on the verge of complete and total failure was a good teacher, a teacher that was willing to go the extra mile and give him the extra attention. When he almost sunk at college, it was a combination of his high school English teacher and the positive influence of some of his Loyola professors that made the difference. The role of teachers of basic writers is to intervene in as many ways as possible, be it a phone call or e-mail to another teacher or simply checking on how a student is doing in other areas.

Sean Britt pre-writing

Basic writing is something that did not always appeal to me as a topic of study. I think a combination fo things made that so: writing has always come fairly easy to me, and my mother has taught English in various grades within the K-12 curriculum since I was a young writer. I don't mean that to say that my mom's experiences were not interesting, but that I saw from an early age the kinds of challenges that the writing instructor is faced with in terms of perceptions of writing. Only relatively recently in my life have I been brave enough to want to tackle them!

One of the things that is intimidating to me about "basic writers" is that they seem to all have the opinion that they can't write. While this should be an easy assumption to disprove, it seems to me that many people cannot let go of the idea that they will never achieve more than just mediocrity in their own writing. This trait is something, for me, that really defines the basic writer. I think that it is essential to eradicate that notion in order for a basic writer to keep from regressing in their practices outside the classroom.

Also, I think writing carries a relative lack of importance to the basic writer because of the aforementioned presumption. I hope this is not universally true (and I can't imagine that it is), but as I approach the reading for this class, I feel as though one of the major difficulties of the basic writing instructor is to simply make writing relevant to the functions of everyday life. Making complex concepts from writing accessible to mundane (for lack of a better word) writing tasks seems like one of the most problematic parts of creating a functional and successful basic writing program. I love the fact that our curriculum at TAMUCC is focused on tying together concepts across the curriculum; but in terms of basic writing, it seems that there is an even deeper plumb to be explored. Finding ways to connect, for example, to a student who is studying a vocational trade at Del Mar seems more challenging than getting a student who wants a degree in Marine Biology to investigate research methods or something of that nature. And that is still a college-level example; there are surely some outside programs which face even more resistance.

As for the reading in particular, I am sure that it will address some challenges that I have not even considered, so I am excited to see where the discussion actually takes my initial thoughts. I hope it utilizes specific examples because it would give me some perspective on my own experiences.

...and post-reading

Ok, so I think I was more on target than I thought I would be in my preconceptions about this book. The autobiographical first parts set up a construction of the beginning writer that probably fit a great many situations and scenarios. While Rose decries the emblemacy of his personal narrative, I think that he nonetheless utilizes the details of his experiences to provide places where many students in the modern world of mobile families and decentered communities can latch onto and relate. In that context, there is an underlying legitimacy to the way he asks us to approach students as individuals. While each of us has our own backgrounds and introductions to writing, we all have the ability to make connections that will allow us to develop as writers.

The way Rose uses seemingly disparate examples from chapter 1 to set up a discussion of making writing personal, especially in chapter 5 with the example of Harold, is fantastic. Without first giving us his autobiographical account, the universality of his other examples may not have stuck with me as well, but I can see now how, for every writer, "basic" or not, you cannot leave your personal understandings behind. When approached in this way, writers can see themselves as having a voice, rather than having to adopt a voice that is not theirs; the fear that most people have of writing seems to me to stem from that hesitancy to put themselves into their words and write from their own place without trying to mimic the "correctness" or "quality" of a prescribed doctrine.

Jennifer Guerra - Pre-reading response

Do I know anything about this topic?

I suppose on a professional level I know little to nothing. I do, however, understand how much an education, or lack thereof, can impact ones future. Just looking at the title of the text and the Idea of the educationally unprepared made me think. I had the opportunity for a time to work with some young people at a juvenile lock down facility. The young people were not under arrest, but it was a foster care center for individuals who were in danger from others or from themselves to a point that they needed special care. Many of these young people were severely neglected and their educational level was at early grade school at best. One of the groups I worked with was striving for their GED・s, but given family background and previous education they were still working on the most basic levels. I felt overwhelmed at the idea of trying to get them ready, especially when the director told me they would turn eighteen in 4 months and be released. When I voiced my frustration she commented that I should not get so personally involved because these were Americas future homeless. That has never quite left me. The idea that without even the most basic reading, writing and math skills these quite wonderful individuals, whose lives had already been so hard, were destined to fade into the concrete jungles of society without names or lives, just to become another statistic. It is obvious that something is not working, although these are rather extreme cases I fear they are not isolated to this type of facility.

Do I know anything about the author? Sadly no.

What preconceived notions do I have about the reading? Knowing nothing about the author and little about the topic, I have few if any. I think it will address some of the struggles within the educational system and hopefully shed some light and give hope. I am looking forward to the read.

Garrett's Response-Before

Do I know anything about this topic?

As I wrote in my freewrite on last Wednesday, the only thing I know of basic writing is what I witnessed firsthand growing up in Mathis, Tx, a town whose literacy rate is pretty low by national standards (again, just from what I・ve seen and heard firsthand). TAAS, and to a smaller degree as I was graduating, TAKS, were big deals in my high school, as I・m sure they were at other Texas high schools. Everything we learned seemed to be geared towards these tests, and that・s understandable seeing that the school wouldn・t receive accreditation if our cumulative scores were low. Mathis is frequently in the :at risk; category. That being said, I had friends who struggled as writers but didn・t receive any attention, and I had students in the composition class I taught who were labeled THEA liable, but could write pretty competently.

Do I know anything about this author?

Aside from the Comp Theory reading from Rose that Joanna mentions, I・ve never read anything else by Mike Rose. As she also wrote, I remember his article a little dry and somewhat difficult to get through. However, I can・t seem to pick up a composition book, or read an article dealing with composition, and not have Rose・s name in it somewhere. He seems to be an important figure in composition studies.

What preconceived notions do I have about this reading?

I don・t really have too many preconceived notions, because when I try to define works by composition scholars ahead of time, I・m often taken aback by the result. For instance, when we read Victor Villanueva・s :Bootstraps; in Comp. Theory, I thought it was going to be a didactic, self-important book about overcoming the obstacles. There・s nothing wrong with this kind of book, but it always seems like they・re written in the same style. However, this thing was wild! It was like a freewheeling mixture of autobiography, prose, research, everything, rolled up into one piece. In short, it was exciting to read. I have high hopes for Rose because I heard he writes in a similarly poetic/prose style.


James Hlavik, Pre-reading

Topic Knowledge

I know a little about basic writing from how I learned it at college. Also, I applied what I learned in teaching eighth grade in Robstown. I used the common model of 1) Prewriting, 2) Drafting, 3) Revising, 4) Editing, and 5) Publishing. Prewriting usually consisted of graphic organizers and one on one discussion with students if they had ideas that they wanted to talk about. Drafting was probably the longest part of the process. Revising was the most difficult step to get them to do because many of the students did not seem to think it was worth the time or effort to rewrite something. Common responses/student-teacher dialogues were "Are you crazy?" "I'm done./No you're not./Yes I am/etc." "I'm not writing this shit again." and "My hand hurts." Editing was a little bit easier with the ones who remembered where to put periods, capital letters, etc. With the ones who didn't remember or didn't care, I would comment on their papers and try to reteach them. Publishing was often a matter of having their writing displayed in the class if they were okay with that. Most often, the displayed products were prewriting activities since most were not comfortable with having their finished writing displayed or reading it in front of class. Most of the students were very direct in their "What do I have to do to pass?" attitudes. I was worried that my students were like this, but these were common practices and attitudes throughout the department for many students. Most were content to be just average, a few carried themselves with an attitude of not caring to save face among their peers, and maybe 5% were exceptional in all aspects of the writing process and turned in finished products that were better than much of the college writing I have graded.

In that respect, it seems like the basic writing class is a microcosm of what I have seen of the city of Corpus Christi and its surrounding areas. Most are content to be average citizens, and, although they would like to be above average or exceptional, they are not willing to put forth the effort it requires. Some show an attitude of not caring because it is better to be thought of as bad than to be thought of as ignorant or stupid. A few strive to be exceptional, and a few become exceptional. It seems that it's not so much a matter of people wanting to be poor citizens but that it is a matter of them not wanting to put forth the immense effort that it takes to get to that point of being above average or exceptional ones. The challenge, then, is for the leader to motivate the population to want to do better.

On that note, motivation is probably the single hardest part for a teacher to be good at when there are a million reasons for a student to put off trying to become a better writer. I think of things that were common distractions to my students outside of class, things like iPods, Myspace, Youtube, Guitar Hero, alcohol, sex, drugs, and peer influence just to name a few (mainly the same things that distract most living people), and I sometimes think that it is a wonder that any of them wrote at all outside of class. Then, you figure they were probably thinking about any combination of those things in class, so it is also a wonder that they got much done in class, but they did. Also, I had a fair share of special pops students who had, in addition to all of those outer distractions, built-in distractions. I did resort to telling all of them on many days that they could write about what they liked and what they knew well, so I read a lot about cell phones and video games and ex-boyfriends and such, but that was alright. I told myself, "As long as they are writing, as long as they are practicing, they will get better." The only thing I didn't like reading was the text message response "IDK" to a question about what a student thought, not because it was in Textmessagese but because it means "I don't know" and the question was not about what the student knew but about what the student thought. Of course, maybe they did not know what they thought (at that age, that's possible). I guess the point is that students want to write, but they want to write about the things they care about, and they want to write in the language that best expresses those things.

Author Knowledge

He wrote a book that we are reading in this class. It says on the back of it that he grew up poor. That's all I know so far.


The title "Lives on the Boundary" makes me think of borderlands since boundaries and borders seem to be synonyms. Knowing that it is about basic writing, I would guess that the book might be about teaching basic writing along a border. Another reason I think this might be about borderlands is because it is a degree track, and it seems like there would be a reading in this class that ties in with that track.

Christine Cashion, Response before reading:

Regarding children in the schools, I believe I have some knowledge on the topic. Formerly, I was a child in the schools.I attended parochial schools through middle school. I appreciated my experience - especially later in life. School is necessary if one wishes to receive a formal education.

I believe that not all children enjoy the schooling process; however, at some point in adulthood, they will view the experience more positively. I believe learning is one of the highest achievements in life and the pursuit of it is unending. I am not sure judging by some of the other chapter titles what the author intends to discuss. I like the one about wanting to be average. I think that is the least one can ask to be.

As for knowing anything about the author, I cannot say that I have heard of Rose. It seems that many newspaper book critics have encouraging comments about him though. I respect this. The preconceived notions I have about reading this book are that Rose will have a lot of personal and testimonial type stories relating to the lives of teachers and students. I do not think he could write a book with such a telling title without giving insight into school system reality. I intend to be emotionally stimulated by my reading because the issue of underprepared students is a highly debated topic. Most argue either for or against all involved, including the teacher, the student, the school system, and last but not least V the parents. The roles each of the above aforementioned have in the big picture of education are a contest.

Christine Cashion, Response after reading:

A basic writer is defined as someone who worships the :goddess of grammar;, I guess. Rose used that term in the first chapter of his book. Grammar gets a bad wrap sometimes and I am not happy about that. Grammar is not a big bad monster and that・s my 2 cents. Back to the basic writer V Rose seems to suggest the educational system decides who is a basic to advanced writer. He mentions the grammar drills, punctuation, etc., which are also linked to the politics of basic writing.

Essentially, if one does not understand the rules and exceptions to the rules of writing, then English achievement is not possible. Rose states that we have always had students in the schools who do not meet academic standards. Yikes. It is true and can be such a tough topic to debate. Most teachers claim they do their job and teach. Then, it is up to the students to learn and the parents to make sure their children are following through. That is the politics in a nutshell.

Good writing versus good language is the old chicken and egg question. You speak before you write but obviously, you cannot write the way you speak. Not everyone・s intelligence and desire allows them to have both. I know an attorney that is a self-proclaimed poor student of English but could talk his way out the border mafia. On the other side of the spectrum, I know several people who write very well but struggle with verbal communication. Rose states (page 8) that young people confront and confuse reading and writing daily. It is an issue for most, regardless of age, I believe. Not everyone will excel in both areas simultaneously.

How we learn to write (how we learn) is a multi-faceted linking of memorized facts through the schooling years. Rose discusses remedial learners in his book and of course, they are labeled as such to expect low performance. Remedial learners can overcome. It is thought they will have to work extra hard. This can be compared to the bright students who seem to be naturally smart and who do not have to struggle as much to earn good grades. There is no E for effort on the A V F grading scale system.

Consequently, as Rose aptly describes the classroom as an :oasis of possibility; (page 18), we all can learn or at least have the chance. Rose states on page 23 that he attended a Catholic school V Our Lady of Mercy. He stated that this was a chance for him to receive quality schooling. He speaks about his upbringing as a basis from which to lean against for many of discussions. I find this interesting as he interjects statistics and controversial educational subjects scattered about his recollections. I don・t find Rose・s swearing off vocational learning (page 29) very appropriate. Not all students are academically adept. This is the part in the reading where I found myself becoming confused. My understanding of his point was hazy. I hear him on one hand saying he is inadvertently frustrated with the school system amongst rantings of overly detailed talks about his own school days. Then, I see him offering a light at the end of the tunnel only to be muffled by a bashing of voc. Ed.

I do have to offer Rose kudos for at times offering eloquent stylings of personality learning styles peculiar to the individuals who must all face head first the educational system V like it or not, succeed or not.

Tammy Graham: After readingK

I think that the Basic Writer can be someone who is struggling with any number of issuesXissues not necessarily having anything to do with writing. The struggle may come from their own unwillingness to communicate and share their thoughts or feelings through writing to teachers (or others) who will then judge them. For example, the first student to whom Rose introduces us is a student who・s afraid to write because she doesn・t want to :make lots of mistakes and look stupid; (1). I think that a lot of students probably have the same fear. Such are the :politics of basic writing.; As Rose shows, and as we all know, teachers can be harsh when it comes to assessing and labeling students. And, the students are wise to the fact that they will be sorted out and placed into :smart; classes and :dumb; ones. The catch-22 is that, like Rose and others in the book, the student is labeled from the start based on a few observations and writing samples, perhaps never really having the opportunity to rid themselves of that early assessment. Rose explains, :We test them and assess themKThe? supreme ironyKis that the very meansKand the various remedial procedures that derive from themXcan wreak profound harmK; (127). I noticed that the first thing Rose tells his first group of students is that they will not be graded on their writing. Once that fear of error, and judgment based on error, is relieved, he is able to get them to write. I don・t know that I am qualified to say what is :good writing; and :good language.; I think that being able to communicate one・s thoughts and feelings in a coherent manner is an important part of being a well-rounded individual. I think that those who cannot will feel frustrated in life. That being said, I think we learn to express our needs vocally from an early age: we cry, etc. to let our thoughts and feelings be known. Speaking and writing are different in the regards that writing involves and requires much more effort and coordination from the brain to the hand and then to the page. So, basic writing classes should involve a lot of focus on thinking about what we want to communicate and how we can put those thoughts into writing. The teacher should facilitate that process by providing the student with a safe environment to experiment with such operations. This takes me back to Linguistics because research in the field reveals much about the demands of writing, and the factors involved in writing. I think that we need this kind of research to understand writing processes, but we must remember that these factors may develop differently in individuals; therefore, students should not be judged or labeled or written off simply because thay do not exhibit certain traits at a given age. The first half of Rose's book really tugged at my teacher heart strings; his rhetorical and emotive abilities are strong, and I found myself tearing up more than once :)

John Lamerson Reading Responses #1a V Pre-reading

This first assignment is to read pgs. xi-132 of Mike Rose・s book Lives on the Boundary: A Moving Account of the Struggles and Achievements of America・s Educationally Underprepared.

I do not know anything about this topic, except for what we covered in class last week, and I know nothing of this author. My work history has been in industry, not education. I had normal education K-12, and have never met (to my knowledge) either a developmental student or teacher. My English major did not contain a basic writing class, and I was never a writing tutor.

My preconceived notion of this reading, based only on the title and our first class discussion, is that it is a treatise on how some students are lost in the shuffle due to traditional standards of learning. I have to think that class and race will be touched upon as the primary reasons that traditional teaching methods don・t work. Finally, I think that Mike Rose will endorse more constructivist methods to teach students that have been marginalized by the system.

Darcy Lewis


For starters, this book is a great introduction into basic writing because Rose is tracing his experiences with the topic over the span of his entire educational career, giving a glimpse into what basic writing issues looked like in the sixties and beyond. Presumably, he will be bringing us into the nineties and this decade in next week・s reading. As for what constitutes a basic writer in this week・s reading, generally speaking Rose is talking about the kids on the societal marginsKthose from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Many of these kids have parents that are absent from their education for one reason or another. Perhaps the parent speaks another language with limited or no ability in English and feels intimidated or out of place going to the school to try and communicate with his or her child・s teachers. In other cases, one or more parent is missing from the equation altogether.

For me, the most important take-away from this week・s reading was the cautionary tale Rose tells about how these children can get caught in a cycle of diagnosis that yields no inevitable result other than to make the child believe that he or she is undervalued, and therefore the expectation from both the child and the teachers is low, or even worse, nonexistent. Such was the case for Harold, the kid whose diagnoses went full-circle through the system, pigeonholing him with every possible negatively connoted issue, from psychological problems to medical problems to learning disabilities. In the end, Harold responded best to human interaction and someone taking an interest in him, something that occurred outside of the process of diagnosis. On page 127, Rose writes about such students: :We test them and assess themKin order to determine what they know and don・t know, can and can・t do. The supreme irony, though, is that the very means we use to determine those needsXand the various remedial procedures that derive from themXcan wreak profound harm on our children, usually, but by no means only, those who are already behind the economic and political eight ball.;

As far as how we should then address these basic writing issues within the classroom, Rose hasn・t really gotten that far yet, as best I could tell, at least as far as practical application and implementation into the pedagogy of a classroom or a school. I do think, though, that he is making it clear that the cases of basic writers are unique individuals that cannot be easily reduced or defined into one category. Likewise, he talks about the catch-22 that even the best of schools or teachers find themselves in, a conflict between :two visions; of :individual possibility and :environmental limits and determiners; (114-115). There is what is possible, and then there is what is real. And in Rose・s experience with the Teaching Corps, :the school itself became the stage for playing out this drama, creatingKa place that fostered growth and celebrated possibility, but creating, as well, the social conditions for intensifying the child・s marginality; (115). So how do we get beyond that? I hope that the next half of the book provides some answers.

I think that Rose is working to empower the educators to take notice of these issues and to respond as best as time and the bureaucracy under which they work will allow. For him, it begins with humanity rather than pedagogy. My favorite part of this week・s reading was when he talked about his work with his writing group, his first foray into teaching in the Teaching Corps. :Teaching, I was coming to understand, was a kind of romance. You didn・t just work with words or a chronicle of dates or facts about the suspension of protein in milk. You wooed kids with these things, invited a relationship of sorts, the terms of connection being the narrative, the historical eventKMaybe? nothing was .intrinsically interesting.・ Knowledge gained its meaning, at least initially, through a touch on the shoulder, through a conversation of the kind Jack MacFarland? and Frank Carothers and the others used to have with their students. My first enthusiasm about writing came because I wanted a teacher to like me; (102). With basic writers of any age, I imagine that it・s easy to get lost in the technical aspects, such as assessment, pedagogical practices, etc. I like that Rose prioritizes the human aspect of the teacher-student relationship first.

Edith Delgado After-Reading

Who is a basic writer? The basic writer seems to address almost anyone beginning college, or entering freshmen, who are not familiar with certain writing skills. The basic writer also includes Mike Rose and his experience in high school to the transition into Loyola University and still in grad school. Basic writing tends to lean more towards a process of writing. For example, Rose received a lot of help from Ted Erlandson :who got in there with his pencil and worked on; improving his writing (55). Although Rose had been writing in high school it was different when he was in college. Basically, I think it・s where a student・s starting point to learn a variety of writing techniques.

Error & Role of teachers I think the error begins by categorizing or placing students according to a placement exam, which can result in them feeling out of place. There are many examples Rose gives about seeing how students disengage because they feel that they don・t belong. One example begins with Rose himself; :I was out of my league; (43). By this time he is already attending Loyola University, and he sees that many of his classmates also :come from and lived in a world very different from his own; (Rose 43). The feeling of not belonging can be bring a students・ self esteem down, which is the reason I think Rose includes his own experiences in this book. It is in that moment I think that a teacher・s role is significant. For Rose, Jack MacFarland?, his high school teacher, helped and encouraged him to seek a higher education, but also to believe in himself. The support MacFarland? gives Rose, even during his first college semester, demonstrates the effect a teacher can have on a student. Shortly after, Rose begins to change his attitude and takes college seriously and also begins to build relationships with other professors. I believe the role a teacher plays in a student・s life can be very positive, but it can be very negative as well. In this book, I see how Rose took advantage of all the help from the professors who were willing to help him, understand the reading material and write while attending LU. However, once he entered UCLA, and he began his graduate studies he still found himself going back to LU. Another example of how teachers or professors can be negative is seen in two of Rose・s classmates, Rich McBriar? and Steve Drinkard. Rose had already considered dropping out of grad school to pursue something worth while to him and even when he spoke with Dr. Carothers, his classmates also felt the same about the grad program or professors, :They could GIVE A SHIT; (76). Again this is where teachers, instructors, professors and anyone who is the field of education. Of course there are many other examples, Rose experiences such as his teaching in the community of El Monte working with the younger students. Then Rose went to tutor and teach Veterans

Where does your understanding of the text begin to break down/become confusing? I think my understanding of the text begins to break down as soon as Rose works towards the end of his high school to earn his diploma, and throughout his LU experience. There are a lot of different emotions about the type of student he was, became, and is continuing to be as he explores different teaching/tutoring grounds. It also becomes clear that his undergrad studies helped him become the teacher that he wants to be and that is to help any student understand the reading material, so that they can write a clear thought on paper.


'''John Lamerson Reading Responses #1b V Post-Reading'''

Who is a basic writer?

According to Rose, :basic writers; are students who have been marginalized from the standard education/writing curriculum due to mostly racial and socioeconomic factors.

Politics of basic writing

Rose documents how Americans educators have been, for over a century, documenting how badly the current crop of students are writing, and how a return to basics is necessary. He makes the point that, while things appear to be getting worse, things are actually getting better in the United states educational system, as more and more children are completing high school and receiving higher education. He tried not to downplay problems currently in the school system, but he views calls by politicians to return to basics as at best misguided, and at worst deliberately pandering. He wrote that most people believe that a time existed where standards were higher, and people were better writers, but that is simply not true.

"Good Writing" or "Good Language"

According to Rose, the fact that students read and write is more important than the specific materials they read and write. Rose writes that a student is better served writing a sequel to Rocky Raccoon than he is writing nothing because he is confused by grammatical analyses.

How we learn to write (how we learn)

Rose states that we learn to write by writing. Students whose only goal is to memorize grammatical rules won・t be as good of writers as those students who write for the pleasure of it on subjects they find interesting.

What we should do in basic writing classes

Rose does not believe that basic writing should be taught with the idea that students should have the basic rules of grammar repeatedly hammered into them by diagramming sentences or by memorizing rules.

Goals of a basic writing course or program

According to Rose, the goal of a basic writing class should be to challenge diagnoses like aphasia and speech problem, and to help students learn to write and speak in the way best suited to the students・ background. Specifically, he suggests that students will write best if they write thing that are interesting to them in their own lives, instead of that required by a closed curriculum.

Role of teachers

Rose spends almost a chapter writing about his best teacher, Jack MacFarland?, and he seems to view MacFarland?・s method of teaching as the best. MacFarland? taught basic writing students by building a solid foundation of knowledge using interesting facts, not by pounding on grammar rules. MacFarland? seemed to believe that the two rules of teaching were to: (1) not to dumb down material because a class was termed :basic;; and (2) that non-traditional methods of teaching might be much more effective to reach marginalized students, so long as students remained active and interested.

What theories is the author building the discussion on?

The author is building his discussion on the theory that the educational system is built for some, but not all students. That standardizing a curriculum will inevitably exclude children from poorer and less standardized backgrounds. That the goal of a writing course is to get children to write, not to get them to memorize grammatical rules.

Where does your understanding of the text begin to break down/become confusing?

Not to make light of Rose or his experiences, but a good portion of this reading seemed designed to convince people that he came from poverty and was marginalized by his socioeconomic status and race. This, despite the fact that he went to a private Los Angeles high school and an expensive private university. Although I would readily admit it were I proven wrong, I do not believe that his life was as hardscrabble as he has pretended. I furthermore tend to doubt the veracity of any story that is almost entirely first person, as memories are pretty vague things to base research on. His case studies are interesting, but I think a whole lot more is needed for me to accept what he is writing as true.

Post-Reading (but before class) - Joanna Hodges

From Rose's Lives on the Boundary, the term "basic writer" appears to be used by teachers to categorize students who do not meet the standards as a writer--meaning, usually, that the student is underprepared for the writing required in his or her grade level and is, for some reason or another, unable to produce it. Rose points out some specific groups in his Preface--"working-class children, poorly educated Vietnam veterans, underprepared college students, adults in a literacy program"--who he then labels the "educational underclass" because of their unfortunate circumstances and commonly low level of writing skills (xi).

Placement of students in basic writing, from Rose's description, seems a messy business. From the personal examples he provided, from both his and his students' lives, students are often misplaced into developmental/basic writing classes due to mix-ups or misunderstandings. Rose, for example, was put in vocational tech. courses because of a test score mix-up. His student, Harold, had a thick file with comments from multiple teachers, diagnosticians, etc., yet not much had been done to improve Harold's skills--he was seen by many of his teachers as beyond their limits. Rose, though, discusses how one-on-one attention with these students, especially with Harold, improves the interaction and writing products. Rose tells us that, for these students categorized as basic writers, " judgments about their ability are made at a very young age, and those judgments, accurate or not, affect the curriculum they receive, their place in the school, the way they're defined institutionally" (128). This is true in both Rose's and Harold's cases. They get stuck in this lower level with limited mobility and are rarely given the opportunity to rise above the threshold. In the cases Rose presents, though, breaking out of the institutional definition occurs because one teacher sees something more in the student and is willing to put the effort in pushing the student or attempting to engage the student to interact. I like how Rose presents Harold's case, showing the development of his interaction and writing. The students "gradually internalize the definition the school delivers to them, incorporate a stratifying regularot as powerful as the overt institutional gatekeepers that, in other societies, determine who goes where in the educational system" (128). This concept, of the student believing he or she lacks the necessary skills and uses it as a barrier to developing those skills, reminds me of a student I had last semester in my Composition class. He would often have difficulty writing anything in class (daily writings, etc.) and he self-proclaimed having bad reading and writing skills. When he turned in his Portfolio, though, his reflective overview was well-written and had a lot of depth, and I would constantly try to encourage him, telling him that he can produce good writing. He still didn't seem to think so, though, and never completed a research paper in the class. If the teachers make it aware to the students that they are lacking necessary skills and kind of pass them along without doing much to improve or engage the students, such as with Harold, they just get stuck in the academic rut because they feel like the "educational underclass" (xi).

In the stories Rose has shared so far in the book, I didn't see much about "error," although that is noteable because the lack of it shows the deemphasis on error in his interactions with the kids. In presenting their writing, he sometimes mentions the few spelling errors (such as with Harold), but the focus definitely seems to be more on the ideas generated in the writing or the ability to put pen to paper and produce something. This is a really positive way to produce stronger writing, by not focusing on the minute errors, but by enhancing what the students do well.

At the basic writing stages presented in the book, it seems like good writing is almost any writing that represents ideas or representations of thought. Even a brief description of a picture is good writing in this case because it is a stepping stone to developing writing skills. The concept of learning to write by practice is evident in this book. He doesn't seem to provide many models for students on how to write or on what to write, but focuses on generating ideas from objects...similar to an article we read Dr. Etheridge's class last summer where the teachers used "object-based" writing to teach children to write (by describing objects or scenes in pictures).

From what Rose writes, it appears that basic writing programs or courses should implement one-on-one interaction with the students, positive constructive criticism, and not focus on the grammatical errors as much as the content or ideas being generated. In the Writing Center, many of the students that struggle with Writing seem to struggle because they are afraid to make a mistake, write the wrong word, or write something that doesn't make much sense to anyone else. The teacher needs to promote the idea of academic success and create an engaging atmosphere so the student might see the possibility of breaking through the academic barriers created by the definition of "basic writer." It is the teacher's role to work with the students individually as much as possible to determine what can lead the student to the most success--through observation, kid-watching, etc., the teacher can hopefully see some signs, such as Rose did with Harold, and help the student progress.


James Hlavik, Post-reading

Who is a basic writer?

The reading seems to indicate that a basic writer is someone who is considered to be a below average writer, someone who can not communicate effectively through writing. The examples given are of the students Rose taught in the Teacher Corps, but this classification obviously extends to those who are not special pops as well.

Politics of basic writing

I could not help but notice that Rose talks about the euphemisms used to classify students with the misplaced hope that the students will not tease the slower learners. He states that the children see right through those labels, and it is true; they do. Also, a good deal is given to the system of tests used to determine who is not meeting the standards and what the standards are. It seems like he makes it a point to say that there are a lot of politics involved but not a whole lot of humanity when it comes to the classification process.


There is some discussion about types of errors. One example stood out to me about how his misspellings and lapses in grammar were an indicator of his roots. He compared little slip-ups like that in the university to being the equivalent of having your fly down, and it made me think of how ridiculously elitist the university can be and how intolerant it can be of those from different backgrounds.

"Good Writing" or "Good Language"

Good writing or good language is commonly perceived as, I am getting the idea from this reading, standard English, and, of course, in the academy, academic language or inflated language. It also seems to have an emphasis on proper grammar. I don't think Rose agrees completely with this from some examples he used of student work since the student work was very visual, but lacked from the perspective of the above criteria.

How we learn to write (how we learn)

Rose puts a huge emphasis on our conception of self and how society molds that from an early age. He also emphasizes the importance of a student wanting to impress a teacher in the beginning stages. The teacher motivating the student is key.

What we should do in basic writing classes

Basic writing classes, Rose seems to say, should focus on the students making connections with the things they are writing about. There should be choices involved, and they should cater to a variety of learners.

Goals of a basic writing course or program

The goals are to make students better writers obviously, but the way this is done is sure to be somewhat different for each student. Surely, it is important for the student to have a personal connection to what they are writing, so the basic writing course/program should foster this.

Role of teachers

Teachers need to be motivators above all. Rose even questions whether anything is interesting in and of itself or if it does not all start with a touch on the shoulder or a conversation about something between a teacher and his/her students.

What theories is the author building the discussion on?

I am not familiar at all with comp theory since I am taking it this semester, but it does seem that the literary theory applied by Rose with his students is largely reader response theory or some variation of it since much of the writing was done in response to visual stimuli.

Where does your understanding of the text begin to break down/become confusing?

This book is pretty clearly written. I did not have any problems with it. It also helps that I can relate to quite a lot of the things Rose wrote about his youth and his experiences in college and teaching.

Post-Reading: Andrea Montalvo

Who is a basic writer? - From what I gather, a basic writer is someone who does not have the opportunity to obtain writing skills, either because of their class/neighborhood they come from, or because they are overlooked by teachers. By overlooked I mean children such as Dora, the thirteen year old fifth grader, who "missed a year when her parents emigrated from Mexico, and was later held back another grade so that her low test scores would match her grade level" (100). Also, many students just don't feel confident writing, so teachers assume they are "behind."

Politics of basic writing - I think that Rose feels the politics of basic writing overpower actual learning. In other words, if a student does not meet certain requirements, they are held back or put in the "dumb group" rather than being placed in tutoring or supplemental instruction. One example Rose mentions about "scholastic folkways" is when he shoots hoops with a fourth grader. Rose asks him about school work and the boy replies, "I used to be in the dumb math group, but then, um, my teacher found out is was too easy for me. So now I'm in with the smart kids" (91). Also, I think Rose feels teachers have so much material to cover that they just can't devote as much time as they'd like. I'm sure many, if not all, teachers today are fed up with standardized test material invading their daily plans and preventing them from teaching what they want rather than what they are forced to.

Error - Of course error is unavoidable at any grade level, but I think Rose felt he should get his students to come out of their shell and gain confidence as a writer by just letting them write first, and then focusing on correct grammar and sentence structure.

"Good Writing"/"Good Language" - As I said before, Rose did not address "good" writing until after he allowed his students to simply write their little hearts out. But, from what I gather, "good" writing and language are taught not only to help students prepare coherent and cohesive essays, but I think it also provides a solid rubric for many teachers. However, each student will have their own unique method of getting their point across, so I don't think they should be severely penalized for it. Also, if students are constantly hammered with grammar and sentence structure they may lose confidence in their writing, or worse yet, they may begin to hate the process altogether.

Role of teachers - Rose, in my opinion, was an excellent teacher because he introduced various ways of getting his students to write, he was creative and inventive. For instance, I thought it was interesting for him to use a picture of the Grateful Dead's Pig Pen and let the students write what comes to their minds about this person, rather than telling them to write a specific number of sentences or about something specific in the picture. I think teachers should of course teach, but they also need to be aware of their students' strengths as well as their weaknesses. Rose realized this when he tried to get Dora to read her story, he notes, "I felt terrible. I had been paying a lot of attention to the childrens' writing and had been avoiding the full meaning of the rest" (101).

Where does your understanding of the text begin to break down/become confusing?

I don't think this text was confusing at all, I found it very interesting and conversational. However, I think Rose is implying that some children, either because of their backgrounds or lack of devoted teachers, will never be reached or taught basic writing skills.

Jennifer Guerra Post-Reading

This book, well through chapter 5 anyway, is fantastic. I think the authors background lends a great deal of credibility to his addressing this topic. This text covers so much ground though that I find I am trying to process it into pieces small enough to assess fit it into an entry without going off on tangets.

Who is the basic writer?

I feel that the text leads us to individuals who have been assessed and pushes aside, as well as poorly educated and labeled. However, does that mean that their writing skills are not at a what is currently considered a basic level? Not really. Most of them are :behind; in writing, but what is important to note, is that the students are not inferior, nor are they defective, as rose points out with the examples of his elementary students as well as the teacher early on who seeks to find her students strengths. This leads us from the basic writers (those who are at an early point in their development) to the politics.

Politics of Basic writing:

Rose points out one of the things that frustrates many educators, as well as myself, and that is this cycle and this rut that we are all in. There is so much that needs to be done, the educators are not as valued as they should be, the educational system is very underfunded, and the problems continue to grow. What do you do? Find the ones you think you can save from drowning and place them a float, the rest are casualties of a system that is ill equipped to handle them.

It is a case of not enough man power to handle the emotional, socioeconomical, cultural, language, and other problems that plague many of the students. There is apathy, but I think Rose pointed out that for the most part teachers care they are just so entrenched in a system that caters to bench marks and test scores that children that need more may fall through, or children that are improperly scored may fall behind. The personal touches are being substituted for assessments that can prove harmful, especially when accompanied by labels that brand a child for life.

Errors/good writing or good language?

I have combined these because I felt like he clumped these together somewhat. The errors and the good language were something that he struggled with as he was working through school as well as the good writing. It is also what he saw as a primary factor in labeling the student he worked with. He turned his focus when working with them from good language to simply writing and then to improving their writing. I think from there the focus would have turned more towards the good language, however he does note the tension. How we learn and what we should teach is also grouped. I think in an upper level basic writing course one of the things the author pointed out is there is a great deal of ego and damage control that needs to be done. So unlike teaching first graders sentence structure, first you must reinforce and acknowledge the intelligence and the knowledge that is already there. From there you start where you can with the individuals and move forward. I saw the personal and mental effects of labeling as the largest obstacle faced in getting the students to move forward. I also found the part about the defense mechanisms of apathy built up against failure intriguing. So what are the goals of the program and what are the roles of teacher? This is where it gets difficult. I think it is to get students to open up and find out that they know more than they think and they are skilled in something and it will just take some time before they can convey that in written form, but every step will lead them towards their goals. The teachers role at that point must be more of a guide than an instructor as the damage of self esteem is only going to be enhanced if goddess of grammatica takes over.

What theories is the author building the discussion on?

He focuses a great deal on Maslow and most people have seen his hierarchy of need and the idea that without the basics needs being addressed the others fall to wayside. How can someone focus on school when their security and social needs are not being met, or their basic shelter and sustenance needs. He points out very clearly that we often assume that a student is an empty shell that is here for the instructor, but we often forget that they are people who fall into Maslow・s categories and cannot be expected to take one thing seriously when everything else in their lives are in chaos.

Where does your understanding of the text begin to break down/become confusing?

I guess my frustration, as probably with many, is that there is no quick fix. This looks so overwhelming that there is very little one person can do. I realize that it is not a frustration with the text, as much as with the situations voiced by the author.

Liza's Post Reading

:I just want to be average; (Rose 28) How many students just want to be average? How many are happy with just :getting by?; I don・t really know what to do with that statement. I just had something similar happen in my class. On the first day of class, I ask my students to give me a contact sheet listing their name, email address, major, activities/jobs/responsibilities, one interesting or unusual thing about themselves, special interests AND what learning skill they would most like to improve this semester. The answers varied from writing related skills to time management but only one of my students responded by saying that she did not have any skills she planned on improving. What does she mean? Is she secure in her writing or does she not plan on even trying? One sentence is not enough. The homework for that night was a mini literacy autobiography where I provided specific prompts pertaining to their history with writing, likes and dislikes, etc. so I am hoping that through the use of personal essay I will be able to understand more about this student.

It is obvious that Rose views biography as a vital part of a student and a teacher・s life. As he mentions cultural barriers on the first page and then goes on to share his own autobiography, it becomes clear that :knowing; and :acknowledging; one another in the classroom are desperately necessary. He seems very interested in people and as he said on page 78 :the study of human growth.; Although he didn・t pursue his graduate work in psychology, he must still integrate that interest in his coursework and the way he views the academic world. Rather than distancing himself from the work, he immersed himself in it and discovered the role of the teacher through observation of his fellow teachers. Even if he didn・t like what he saw, it was helping him. We might learn from this.

Rose gives different examples of one teacher making a difference in one student・s life. That may be all that it takes for that student to come out of the shadow of feeling that he or she is not a good enough writer or not worthy of learning anything new in life. Allowing students to discover that they do, in fact, have something interesting to contribute can potentially open many doors for them. Basic writing classes should be structured so that the teacher is giving the students enough information and assistance to get started with an idea but then try to let them work it out for themselves and add a little here and there when necessary. It seems that Rose is really pushing the idea that not everyone learns the same way V that is why we must be personally aware of each other.

He mentions that it is easy to forget what a strange place college is V as instructors, we can become complacent but we need to remember that the students are new and probably feeling very insecure in their lives. When he discusses that the basic writers at UCLA were good enough to get in but not literate enough to be in the regular writing classes, I realized that they must be feeling an additional burden. They are not :normal; students in the eyes of their peers. The way Rose describes them, Basic Writer does not mean low intelligence. Although they might have trouble getting their actual words down on paper, he does a good job of portraying the teacher/student interaction in order to display his point V they are literate and very perceptive but they just need some additional help. This is where good writing and good language comes into play. These students might have really good ideas but are reluctant to put them on paper. Are not sure how to organize their thoughts, or even just need constant prodding throughout the writing process. I wonder if placing them in a separate class helps or hinders their progress. Although it is a little more difficult for us to determine who needs more one on one help, at least our students are not weighed down by being placed in a developmental class. On the other hand, if they are not getting one on one help, some students might not try at all. There is a balance in the role of the teacher and it can become very demanding.

Because all of these students will have a different set of skills, group work becomes very important. Some students might have had the early preparation outside of school and can help those who did not. The instructor would not tell the students what is happening but could try to make sure that the basic writers end up in groups with stronger writers and also make sure that the situation would not be embarrassing for the basic writer. There is always a way to explain why you are doing a certain activity.

Garrett's Post-Read

Rose seems to reaffirm my beliefs about what classifies a basic writer: a student that is overlooked and often from a poor, working class background. Rose writes that :there is much talk these days about the value of a classical humanistic education...[but] these appeals raise lots of suspicions, for such curricula have traditionally served to exclude working-class people from the classroom; (48).

At first, when reading Rose, I thought the work was getting too dense with details from his personal life and upbringing, leaving me wondering when he would get to real discussion. But with that last quote, along with the notion that :the teachers that fate and Jack MacFarland?・s crisis intervention sent my way worked at making the humanities truly human; (48). His personal narrative is humanizing the experience, just as his teachers would, of the life of a working class, :developmental; learner. He・s using himself as an example, and at the same time, defining what it means to be developmental, painting a picture of students that :open their textbooks and see once again the familiar and impenetrable formulas that have stumped them for years. There is no excitement here; (31). If anything, he・s showing what it means to be a good teacher: you have to make your subject real for the students, tying it back to their life, in order for them to make meaningful connections.

With this, he knows that such students need extra encouragement, as the :journey up through the top levels of the American educational system will call for support and guidance at many, many points along the way,; just as Jack MacFarland? offered him guidance, and gave him a swift kick in the ass when he needed it. He also makes the point that the psyche of these kids, given their backgrounds, is a little different from others: :There is, rather, embarrassment and frustration and, not surprisingly, some anger in being reminded once again of long-standing inadequacies. No wonder so many students finally attribute their difficulties to something inborn, organic...given the troubling histories many of these students have, it・s miraculous that any of them can life the shroud of hopelessness;(31). Understanding that it is :an unfortunate fact of our psychic lives that the images that surround us as we grow up...give shape to our deepest needs and longings,; these students have to have some meaningful connection to what they are studying (45). There has to be a connection to their world, the place they grew up.

Ben Howard V Post Reading

Coming into all of this, I had no real consideration of how basic, a basic writer is considered to be. Rose considers the basic writer to be the :disadvantaged; writer. Not necessarily a writer who has less ability, but a writer who・s potential has not been explored due to any of a variety of causes (bad home life, retardation, shy/antisocial behavior). He doesn・t ever say that any of these kids can・t write, he talks about getting them to write, as if it・s something they can do, but aren・t for whatever reason.

Rose shows that what we should be doing in a basic writing course is focusing more on simply getting students to write at all, and helping with the thought creation process, more by being muses and saying :hey what if you did this; than by :you should write like this,; by giving them broad topics to write about with no :right answer; simply to make them write and learn how to put their thoughts on paper. The goals of basic writing should be to actually make kids enjoy writing, rather than be afraid of it, regardless of their inherent writing :skill.;

I like the fact that Rose bases this all on a narrative of his own experience, rather than saying :numbers prove,; because as he discusses, numbers never account for the personal lives of the children, the methods of the teacher, or whether or not the kids feel like taking a test. As he puts it, all a test does is :test how willing they are to play the game.; Tests don・t apply to the children・s little worlds in any way shape or form. It goes on their permanent record but they have no perspective of what this could possibly mean. Honestly, I didn・t even know what :while I was an undergrad; meant when my teachers said it in high-school. I had no way to put that into perspective, so how can a kid whose sole functions in life revolve around :play,; :ooo pretty,; :hungry,; and :more play.;

I connect with this a lot and I don・t really feel like there is a place where my understanding :breaks down.; I・ve kind of gone through the same kind of experiences in my academic career, but with significantly less finding dead guys. MacFarlund? and the other professors/teachers reminded me a lot of Dr. Robb・s open door policy and hanging out in Dr. E・s office because he・s always kind of been that :mentor; to me, as much as anybody can be anyway. Overall it reminds me a lot of some of the narratives we read in Comp History, but it・s got a much more K in depth? Look into the lives of the children and Rose・s own thoughts throughout the interactions. It doesn・t feel pretentious, and it・s actually entertaining to read.

On that note: I was in Mexico for the weekend. I went there to visit my mother. When I came back home, the whole town was burned! I went through all the houses and hotels, but no one was there.

I walked to Los Angeles because the cars were all burned, and even L.A. was burned. I saw something. It was in the street. It looked like a girl. It was. She was still alive! I took her to a hotel. She was lucky, there was some medicine, I was the medicine!

Post-Discussion - Joanna Hodges

From the discussion in class on Wednesday, I gained more insight about the educational processes of placement and tracking from those in the class who have experience in various levels of education, such as high school. Also, from hearing other people's perspectives, thought about the reliability of Rose as a narrator. From what was said in class, especially by Frances, about the emphasis on work ethic and saving for your childen's education during the time period Rose grew up, I think the story he presents is believable. Of course, just like any type of memoir or autobiography, there are naturally certain elements that are presented in a specific way because of his perspective--for example, as a kid, he might have perceived something that might have really had more depth or happened slightly differently than he remembers. Despite this, I still feel like I can trust him and his story and that he is credible.

Another point that I felt came out of the class discussion was his choice of what to include in the book. So far, it seems like he is only showing success stories, which makes it look like he can do no wrong. But, really, he is human after all, so it would be good to see in the second half of the book some of the experiences that were not as successful.

Since I am planning on becoming a high school teacher, I think that hearing stories from other levels of education besides college is beneficial. Especially when we get to discuss the readings in class and hear many different perspectives.

By the way, I'm not really sure if the post-discussion goes here, but I wasn't sure where else to put it.. :)

Holly Corkill - Post Discussion

As a newer teacher trying to be subversive amidst the constant :push to pass the TAKS;, it is often difficult for me to not simply place the entire problem with the education system and, more specifically, with the teaching of writing at the doorstep of standardized testing and the compartmentalizing and labeling of children. These things, created to help improve things within the education system, have certainly made things worse. However, for the purpose of this response, I will try to control myself. Believe me, I could go on and on about how teaching to the TAKS is hurting the teaching of writing, grammar, and literature, but I won・t.

The discussion we had in class on Wednesday has not changed my perceptions on the readings that much. We all seem to be mostly on the same page about most of what the author has to say, with the exception of some questions about the author・s past. On that issue, all I can add is that my dad was one of five children. My grandparents raised them on a police officer・s salary in the late fifties through the early seventies. I don・t think it was much and my dad says that they always were giving him the late tuition notices, because he was the oldest. My mother says that my dad・s old house, at least by the time they met, was pretty bad. It・s since been condemned and torn down. The other houses on the street are still there and look pretty good, assuming that the neighborhood hasn・t been refurbished all that much. So, I guess I don・t know. At the very least, I believe that Mike Rose believes his upbringing took place in dismal surroundings, but I・ve got students in my classrooms that don・t have running water, that sleep in garages, and that share one bedroom houses with eleven other people, so I think the best thing to say in that respect is that we all perceive our upbringings differently.

The other thing I really took from the class discussion was a reinforcement of the idea that there is an illusion surrounding the idea of what good grammar really is. As Rose said, and I・m paraphrasing here, everyone is teaching based on the idea that somewhere, in someplace, long ago, there was an actual definition of :good grammar;, and that good grammar has declined. I feel, as Mike Rose is asserting, that this push for what English teachers believe is good grammar and good writing in high school can really mess up a student for college writing. If the only style a student learns to write in is the style of writing that a teacher feels they need to learn to pass a certain standardized test that shall remain nameless, then that student will not know any other type of writing in college. Speaking from personal experience, this is certainly what the case was for me. All I wrote my first two years of college were five paragraph essays, because that・s all I・d learned in high school. When I got into the second half of my education and my professors wanted me to think outside of that five paragraph box, I was totally at a loss. I had to fight against years of training to lose the instinct to write that way.

Darcy Lewis


One of the things that was brought up in class that I had not yet thought about myself was how all of the stories in Rose・s account are of the inspirational teacher varietyKthe kind where the heroic instructor swoops in and :rescues; the poor, struggling student. Now that I think about it, I can see where the people that mentioned that in class and found it irritating were right. I think that the book would・ve been just as strong (if not stronger) to put in some cases where he was not able to be helpful and to explain what he thought was the breakdown or error in his judgment. For myself, lessons learned from doing something wrong as opposed to doing things right the first time generally leave a greater impression and are much more tangible.

Other than that, I found it interesting in the class discussion when talking about the political aspect of remediation and assessment. If things were as simple as finding the best solution for the issues of basic writers, implementing that solution, and monitoring its success (regardless of the length of time it took, free from bureaucratic meddling, and with a general sense of the remediation program fitting into the larger picture of education and being embraced by the rest of the faculty), then the results of that remediation would be more easily identifiable and able to be quantified and justified. With standardized state tests breathing down teachers・ necks and the politics of administrations changing the dynamic, it robs the basic writing teacher of being creative and listening and responding to students・ needs on an individualized basis.

Post-Class: Andrea Montalvo

I thought our class discussion over the text was quite interesting. I found the book to be enjoyable because he singled out certain students and wrote about the struggles they had. Of course, he mentioned most of the cases where he was able to successfully help the students, and I feel he should've included instances where students could not be reached, or perhaps it took more time for them to develop their skills.

The discussion also made me think about some of the teachers I had when I was in school. I had a few bad apples, but there were some, like my senior English teacher for instance, that loved their job and did everything in their power to help us understand material and make class fun. I also thought it helped when those who currently teach writing in middle/high school spoke about how they have so much material to cover that they just can't teach everything they would like to. Those dreaded standardized tests also get in the way!

I think I have more of an understanding of basic writing now, however, it is still a bit fuzzy. I think Rose's account has definately helped, but hearing my classmates' opinions about the text also helped because we are all so different, and therefore interpret things differently.

Ben's Post Class Response

The thing that hit me the most about class discussion was John's point about Mike Rose's background. I hadn't even thought about it, because I didn't think it really made that much difference, and it was brought up that it affects his whole credibility and "ethos." I don't really know that I think it applies much because it's an inspirational story more than it is some kind of instructional novel. This could all be made up for all I care but the points it makes are still valid because they don't rely that heavily on the whole "truthiness" aspect. At least that's how I saw it.

Herein lies the problem: Either you already agree with what Mike Rose is saying, or you're coming into it skeptical, in which case Rose obviously isn't going to change your mind. So in this aspect, I think his whole "ethos" stems from preaching to the choir, and that's something that hadn't really occured to me until class discussion. I might as well have been reading a novel.

Personally, I think a lot of what he's doing as "innovative" is great because it gets students to write, theoretically, but like I said in class, he doesn't really account for what happens when the students don't want to do what you want them to. You can probably keep 5th graders in check, but I can't imagine a bunch of basic writers in highschool not getting angry if you said "cut out newspaper clippings" or pretty much anything other than "do whatever you want." I've got a friend who's a choir director at one of the highschools in town and she's lucky if she can even convince her kids to sing. Then you've got a whole new problem. You can send the kids to the office, call the principal, but there's only so much you can do. You can't have an entire class in in school suspension, and eventually the princicpal says "quit sending kids to me." You end up with glorified day care.

So to me, the real question is, when dealing with basic writers, who just by chance, often happen to be the less fortunate kids with the desperate home lives, how do you keep them in check? All of Rose's kids seem willing, at least by this point in the book.

Edith Delgado- After Discussion

The discussion in class reminded me about the discussions many of us, Seminar, Composition, Writing Tutors, and Grammar Tutors often gripe about. The conversations are often on students・ inability to write academically. In connection to the text, Rose mentions several points that were also brought up in class, such as working with students closely to help them improve their writing skills, making that extra effort to help students understand the process of writing and the basic skills of writing. Often I heard more about the political aspect of the text and other issues that still exist today like the standardized testing.

Then, the discussion took a different direction, an interesting turn at that, when John said he didn・t believe Mike Rose・s story entirely. His statement might have shaken up some classmates, but I think it brought up something we could have missed and that is the fact that we should always consider a students・ background. Where do they come from? What do they know about the process of writing? Their high school experience could have been good or it could have been the worst, but overall, understanding their background is really important. Also in the same discussion, I learned about different anecdotes such as Frances, again, when others were trying to explain to John that underprivileged people can actually go to a private school.

Another discussion was the role that every English teacher, instructor, and/or professor play in a student・s life. There are many things to learn from Rose・s success stories, but as it was mentioned in class, it would have helped if he gave some kind of conclusion of each program he worked in from the Veterans program to the small community. Lastly, I think the highlight of the discussion, next to John・s argument, was that those who teach Composition and Seminar find many of the same patterns that Rose writes about in this book. There is much work to be done, and as long as people such as tutors and English teachers keep working together the way Rose did in many different programs can students actually gain knowledge on basic writing.

James H, post-discussion

The class discussion mostly confirmed the thoughts that I had while reading. Certainly, the aspect I had not thought about was the truthfulness of Rose's life story as John pointed out. I still disagree on the notion that this man's story is not truthful because there are some people who do not simply repeat the cycle of poverty and ignorance; they are few, but they are out there. I think that it is perfectly possible that a man could persevere in the way Rose did to do what he did. He lucked out a few times and had a lot of help along the way which he acknowledges, and I think that happens to people a lot whether they realize it or not (often they take those blessings for granted). His is an inspirational story, the kind which you don't often hear, but, when you do, you take a great deal from it and begin to ask yourself questions like "What more can I do?" and "How can I improve what I am already doing?"

As to Rose's notions on the teaching of writing, they do seem to conflict with the concept of standardized testing which is now what makes or breaks students, teachers, and schools (in public schools anyway). There is the necessity to teach toward the test because of those stakes. The test is an obstacle that your students must overcome, so you train them to overcome the obstacle through mock scenarios.

Does that make students good writers? Absolutely not, but it does ensure that they will pass and get a high school diploma, something that they will be better off with than without when applying to colleges.

We ask ourselves how students forget to write coherent sentences or continue to make simple spelling or grammatical mistakes, but, for an an analogy, how often do we ask ourselves if we have forgotten some basic concepts of algebra, geometry, biology or chemistry. Do some of us still make errors in arithmetic when doing mental math? I would venture to say that perhaps because we are above average in terms of reading and writing ability, we take for granted the fact that everyone else ought to be. This prompts me to wonder if other subject areas call standardized testing into question because there are English majors forgot the math or science that they had to know to pass the TAKS. Then I wonder, in the long run, does it really matter that a best-selling author has forgotten or never truly learned the Pythagorean theorem or that an astronaut has forgotten or never truly learned how to vary his sentence structure when writing in order to maintain reader interest.

In education, our job is to do our best to see that students gain whatever subject it is that we teach and to, if we are equally good at what we do and lucky, foster a love for that subject in the student. If that happens, good, but if it fails to happen, my point is that all is not lost. Just ask yourself if you feel like you suffer daily because you don't remember all of your postulates from geometry class, and you will know the reason why students who are going to be math teachers often don't care that the only forms of writing they are very good at are text messages, emails, lesson plans, and grocery lists. There are many ways to success, well-being, and, yes Rose, even self-actualization, but not all of them go through a writing class.

Post in class discussion J-Guerra:

This could get long, but I am going to try to keep it focused. After class I began thinking about my take on the text and the impact of some of the things that were discussed in class. I would first of all like to note that I like the text, and that I have a tendency to get swept away with the authors enthusiasm about things. Having said that I feel it is important to note that the in class discussion often has a bit of a grounding effect.

Not having taught writing I found the interjections of those who had important. I kept asking people who had what they thought. Personally some of the ideas that were presented within the text sounded a bit fantastical and unrealistic, but I also noticed that he rarely mentioned the regulations that controlled or constrained his creative and unorthodox methods. Teachers face more than children on a regular basis and it is important to remember that many teacher left unregulated could come up with some very imaginative ways to teach, but they key is often to figure that out within the regulations.

I left the discussion with the impression that the text was a valuable read and there was still much more that I could gain, but it should be looked at with the understanding that not every element is covered and some of his ideas are not possible, so it is important not to overwhelm ones self trying to save the world, however never trying anything could be equally damaging. (Its a balancing act)

Post In-Class Discussion 1 - John Lamerson:

Mike Rose・s approach to basic writing V that basic writing is an inherently individual task V seems logical and well-thought out. Rose believes that teaching students from poor socioeconomic backgrounds needs to be non-traditional. That only drumming the rules of grammar into these basic writers is a waste of time. Rose believes that divisions of basic v. advanced writers are made far too early in a child・s life, before a child can even know the importance of IQ tests and other standardized tests. He believes that the act of writing is more important than the mechanics of what is written for basic writers.

What we did not discuss in class, and what Rose didn・t seem to touch on, was whether basic writing classes should even exist. While we briefly stated in class that classes for ADHD, blind, deaf, and other physically impaired students have very good reason to exist, we did not discuss whether basic writing classes should exist for students who score badly on standardized testing. If basic writing classes are to exist, who should be given the say on who the students are that are designated to them? If not, won・t some students be left behind in the classroom?

By the way, not to restart any debate as to the truthfulness (or lack thereof) of Rose・s childhood, but in reference to other people・s comments, I was not suggesting that underprivileged people can・t attend a private school. I was stating that a one-income family, when that income is from a waitress working the night shift in an all-night diner, could not send their son to a prep school in Los Angeles. Likewise, I did not doubt Rose・s story because he did not simply repeat the cycle of poverty and ignorance. I doubted it because he said he went, out-of-state, to one of the most expensive private schools in the nation and did not have to work while there on the basis of a loan guaranteed by a high school teacher.

While Rose・s truthfulness doesn・t necessarily impact his studies or point, the fact is that Rose spent a great deal of this first portion of his book writing about his childhood in order to demonstrate that he has the necessary perspective to tackle the subject of basic writing. If that perspective is circumspect, so is a good portion of his book.

Tammy Graham After class discussion...

Sorry for the tardiness of this posting. I am a little slow:) Seriously though, after the class discussion, I remember thinking about quite a few issues that really nagged at me. The first thought is still on assessment. It seems like there needs to be a better way. The teachers in our class who teach at the middle/high school levels, like Jennifer/Holly and others, express frustration over having to spend so much time preparing for the TAKS (?) tests. It seems that the tests are out of sync with what the teachers think is best for their students. That makes me think about the freedom/demands on teachers at different levels. The definition of a "basic writer" remains a complex issue. Basic writers are characterized by labels, lack of desire, language barriers, and home environment. As far as skills and abilities, I think the basic writer probably lacks writing experience and/or grammatical knowledge. I have to say that I think Rose is totally dedicated and believable, although he does present things in a somewhat idealized/polished way, as if he is holding back the bad stuff. I do think that some students lack desire or have self-destructive attitudes, but sometimes a good teacher can reach them for whatever reason and turn the student's life around. Maybe that is just my idealism. It is like the story about the starfish, you might not be able to save them all, but you can try to save some.