Monday, February 12, 2018

Writing Well--It Comes From Good Teaching

In part, I attribute my writing ability to my high school teachers.  The English department at my school required us to write, and write, and write.  They also taught us grammar and punctuation--dry, even for them, but so critical.  Teachers do a disservice to students when they insist that "they should already know grammar before they get here" to high school, and then sit in amazement when articles such as this appear:
In the global workplace, good writing is crucial for professional success in any career. Today, employers want to hire college graduates who can write coherently and many of them ask for writing skills in their job advertisements. But the problem is that many students enter colleges with poor writing skills and graduate without making much improvement.

A lot of today’s students fail to write decently and even have to contact a professional paper writing service for ordering well-written academic papers. College professors complain that students struggle to write even at a basic level and experts in education are worried that even after years of instruction, many students show no significant improvement in complex reasoning, critical thinking, and writing. Students arrive and leave college without skill(s) they will need in the real world.

There are multiple causes of the decline of writing abilities in students. One of them is that colleges admit students who can’t write well because of inadequate writing instruction in their high school courses. Many educators believe that the root of the problem is that many teachers are unconfident (sic) writers themselves and lack training in how to teach writing. Many experts also point out that high schools mostly focus on improving skills that are tested in state exams such as reading, science, and math and don’t provide enough writing instructions...

Most students admit they don’t read books except those assigned for class and you can become a good writer only if you are exposed to good writing which can be found in works of literature and traditional media that modern students try to avoid.
Ah, yes. My teachers required us to read, and read, and read, as well.

My high school wasn't in the best part of town--not a bad part of town, but nowhere near the best part--but the education I received there was stellar.  I am truly thankful for that education and for the teachers who provided it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I attended a small-town 1-12 school, starting in the 50s. My first 4 teachers were normal-school grads, with decades of experience and a solid grounding in the basics of all subjects, including art, architectural and music history. As soon as we could write our names and were reading (phonics) we were started on copywork, from the board ( Full Name, Wednesday, November 22, 1955/ Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.), with appropriate instruction on the rules for capitalization, punctuation, spelling, parts of speech and the composition of sentences. From there, we progress to writing from dictation, and only then to free composition - all of which was corrected by our teachers.

That explicit instruction in spelling, grammar and composition was continued, with increasing complexity, through all grades and we had lots of practice. By HS entry, we could all write correct English; sufficient for practical usage, including outline notes from class lectures. In 7-8th grade, I remember composing a letter to the local paper to place an advertisement, a letter to apply for a summer or part-time job, engagement and wedding announcements and obituaries. The writing standards for entry into the HS secretarial program (with good jobs waiting at graduation) and the college-prep program were high; needing only polishing and instruction in business or academic (including college-standard term papers) writing conventions. We also were required to read good literature. In HS, the college-prep program required a large amount of at-home reading, across all subjects, and also essays.

I had to put a lot of red pencil on my kids’ work, because their teachers did not routinely correct it and did not spend much time on grammar. It was not always fun for any of us, but they thanked me for it when they hit college. It takes at least 10 years to become a decent writer, and usually more, and explicit instruction.