I was thinking about something today during physics (which had nothing to do with physics) that I thought I would bring up on PeerCentered. This "something" goes beyond writing centers and into the realm of teaching. I realize that we have lots of English Comp. teachers (and other teachers), so, anyone, feel free to chime in.

This now very vague thing that I was thinking about during physics was the extent to which we (being teachers, consultants, friends, etc.) influence the writing of others (being the students we teach, work with, or are friends with).

I think that I would be safe to say that by now in our educational careers we have all developed a very unique way of writing (and thus reading). Sometimes when I am reading articles, essays, or books I get hung up certain sentences, transitions, or styles because they feel entirely different than something I would write. It is like walking into an entirely new place; your eyes stutter a few times before becoming familiar with the area. This problem can carry over into working with students (and usually does). I have to stop myself constantly from suggesting changes to a student's paper that is simply composed in a different style than mine (that style being theirs). This can get rather frustrating as the line between how much I help the student's paper and how much I change the paper to the way I would like to see it becomes very blurred.

I think that this is especially the case with ESL students. Just today an ESL student asked that I re-write one of her sentences to the way I would write it; she wanted it to sound professional and native. Of course in today's example the student ASKED me to re-write something, but what about the days that we do this unintentionally?

I mentioned earlier that this problem pertains to teachers as well as consultants. I suppose the fact that I am a history major and will be doing lots of writing with and for professors in the future spurred my thoughts about this topic. One of my current history professors is eager to inform the class about the absolute right and wrong ways to write a paper, which I sometimes disagree with. But, is there irony in that eagerness and my disagreement with it? Do I do the same thing to the students I work with?

What do you think?


  1. I think you bring up a lot of valid points, Ian. I, too, find it difficult sometimes to not over step my boundries when in a consultation. But, then again, what exactly are the boundries? As you said, sometimes things become blurred...

    I really liked your idea of the "eyes stuttering.' It's a nice image to illustrate coming into a completely foreign style. Sometimes, as I am reading through a student's paper, I stumble and stumble through their sentences. At the end, I have a whole list inside my head that I'm ready to go through with the student.

    As I begin to go through that list, I realize that many of the "issues" that I thought I saw were, in fact, nonexistant. The reason I was stumbling was just because their style was so different from my own.

    Sometimes I have to stop, look at their sentences objectively, and then make a decison on what REALLY needs to be discussed.

    Thank for the insight, Ian.


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