Teaching Developmental Writing

This semester has been difficult for many reasons, but it has also been interesting. I have four classes of developmental writing, now about 80 students in all.

It is the first time in my life that I have taught the same class four times in a single day.  I quickly learned that I had to keep them all together or I would never recover!  Fortunately, the first class in pretty much typical of all my classes, so while I have a plan for the day, I use what I get done in that class as the final determiner of what we do in the others.  I am following a fairly prescribed curriculum, and this has worked well so far.   Some days I get a little extra practice in with one class or another, but they all do the same activities every day.

And that means, of course, that I am saying the same thing four times a day.  One good thing is that each class definitely has its own personality, so work we do as a class always ends up taking a different direction in each class.  That makes it a lot more interesting for me.

Unfortunately, the fact that the classes are all on the same page on the same day means I have 80 papers to grade at the same time.  They do weekly in-class writing that I grade.  There are four major writing assignments, each with 2 drafts and a cover letter that I grade.  That means that two out of every three weeks I am grading 160 papers.  That doesn’t count any smaller assignments I give them.  I can usually get through 80 papers in 2 non-teaching days.  160 papers took me 4 non-teaching days over Labor Day.

But I love the students.  Most of them take the class seriously, especially when they can see that they are making progress.  I have one young man who insisted at the beginning of the semester that he wasn’t a writer and never would be.  He is showing signs of being a pretty good writer, and he is starting to even believe it himself.  I have some students whose writing just needs polishing, and they are making real progress, too.  Of course, there are some who have more serious issues, and writing is still largely a mystery for them.  Others, too, aren’t taking it too seriously, and their progress isn’t as dramatic as I know it could be.

All in all, the semester is exhausting but exhilarating.  I teach 3 days a week — unfortunately, three consecutive days — and come home literally ready to collapse, but I am always eager to go back and do it all over again the following day.

After my bad experiences last year, I am happy to discover that I do still love teaching.  I only hope I can find a way to continue teaching after this final year here.


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