Amy's Philosophy


"I can't do it. I have never been very good at writing; actually, I hate it. So why try to make me like it?" Similar words greet me every semester as I step into a writing classroom. Anxious faces and paralyzed pens express that writing is foreign; it is not a place to discover delight and confidence. Because I believe that discovery and confidence are essential to learning, my approach in the writing classroom is at the heart of my teaching, regardless of the class.

Journeys of discovery often begin with the self, and my initial writing assignments ask students to explore the ways their writing process reflects their identity. Allowing students to ground their writing in the familiar transforms them from frightened pessimists to smiling skeptics. My charge in the classroom is to move students to acknowledge their writing ability and to provide the necessary skills, tool, and jolt of enthusiasm.

Over the years, I have learned the importance of integrating students' experience into their writing because building on the personal helps students feel validated, ultimately building communication and trust. Fostering a community of writers also creates trust. When discussing difficulties in writing and previous "baggage" that obstructs the process, I share my horrendous experiences of teachers that told me "you can't write." I discuss how I experienced and internalized the words and share how they still can affect and threaten my own writing. I encourage students to talk with each other in small groups and in large ones during all their writing processes, so fellow writers observe their struggles and triumphs, and become part coach, part instructor, part editor, and part friend through the passage from "I can't write" to "I did write."

Students do not miraculously get to the satisfaction that "I did write;" it is sometimes a crawl from initial thoughts to a final product. The need for patience and trust in this process of writing discovery is evident whether students are generating ideas, writing drafts, giving feedback, or calling it "done." Often, my role is to foster all these approaches, directly engaging with groups and individuals as they create and struggle and sometimes standing back asking questions, so students find their own way through this confusion. When students complete the class, they take away the knowledge that their first attempt is never their best, and no writer brilliantly spills prose onto the page.

As an instructor, it is my job not only to invest each student with the power of discovery and knowledge but also to bring my own enthusiasm, struggles, and triumphs. My hope is that students do not see writing as an isolated talent only mournful poets and brilliant academics possess. They must be invited to join the community as valued individuals with their own unique set of ideas, approaches, and problems. When my teaching is successful, their initial words of "I can’t write" become "I don’t hate writing so much." They might even say, "I like it a little." Then I smile.