Last week I had a conversation with one of my students who writes pretty well for an introductory course. I was surprised when he came to me after class and said, “Ms. McCloskey, I’m completely lost.”
I couldn’t believe my ears. Surely, I had done my best to reach all of my writing novices with my superior teaching skills. Didn’t I? I had worked up a sweat teaching this stuff! Had I not explained subjects, verbs and prepositions with clarity? But right here in front of me was evidence that I had not. I was shocked.
Not only was I flabbergasted by his confession, but I was also puzzled how I could help him. I thought I had broke down the above mentioned parts of speech as far as they could go. I even showed a “Schoolhouse Rock” video I found on YouTube! What more could I do?
On the spot, the best thing I could think of was to steer my student to the Internet where there is a wealth of lessons to learn the basics. I also encouraged him to go to the student center for some tutoring. After he left, I thought, “Boy that advice was really lame!” I felt deficient, and went home with my teaching tale between my legs.
So the next morning, I decided to pull out one of my “teacher” lifelines and called a teacher friend of mine. She was not a writing teacher or even a tutor on campus; she was an elementary teacher. That’s right. I was heading for ground zero to try to help this young man understand the parts of speech he missed in elementary school.
I explained my dilemma and she gave me this advice: Make the students own their work. Now it was my turn to be confused, but when she told me what she meant, I got it. Her advice was to have the class write sentences of their own and identify the subjects, verbs and prepositions in their own work.
So tonight my class will have an assignment to write ten sentences. I can hear the moaning now. But Lord, so help me, I will teach these people the grammar lessons that they should have gotten so long ago. If any of you are elementary teachers now, please don’t pass along students who don’t “get it” because at some point, these children will grow up and have to face the grammar lessons in front of a teacher like me to realize their adult dreams. Please help them at a young age. They deserve it.