First Time Up
An Insider'S Guide For New Composition Teachers
Publication Year: 2005
Published by: Utah State University Press
Download PDF (245.2 KB)
Download PDF (223.4 KB)
This book distills much of what I’ve learned about teaching writing since I first graded a student paper thirty years ago. A thorough acknowledgments page would include every student and colleague I’ve worked with during that time. Without the memory required to create such a list, I will mention only those people directly involved in bringing this book to print ...
Download PDF (235.2 KB)
This book is for people about to teach college composition for the first time ever . . . or for the first time at a particular school . . . or for the first time with the greater independence generally given to adjuncts. It doesn’t assume anything about readers or their knowledge of composition— except that they have an interest in teaching well and with enjoyment. ...
1. Why You've Made the Right Choice
Download PDF (306.1 KB)
I know, it’s pretty cheesy to start a book with a line stolen from someone else’s opener. You may think I’m just being lazy, but that isn’t my only motivation. As a new composition teacher, you need to get used to borrowing, whether from veterans like me, founding fathers like Murray, or your officemate whose class ends just before yours begins. If you think ...
Download PDF (300.4 KB)
Some people postpone worry and stress by simply not thinking about upcoming tasks until they absolutely have to, then running around frantically trying to get everything done, hoping that nothing breaks or goes awry and that they’ve accurately predicted how much time they will need. This chapter, and indeed much of this book, is not for such people. It’s ...
Download PDF (285.5 KB)
I am a self-sufficient loner. I hike alone, I ski alone, I play music by myself. I change my own flat tires, I read maps rather than ask for directions, I’d rather drive by myself for days than play elbow hockey with boorish cell phoners in germ-drenched airplanes. But I don’t teach alone. Yes, I’m usually the only “professor” in the ...
4. The First Day
Download PDF (267.0 KB)
First days are the worst days. A good mantra if you have a bad first class. Amid the inevitable confusion and chaos, we have little chance to make real contact or get the grateful feedback that sustains us. Foul-ups with the roll, the room, or the equipment eat up time, and even veterans often feel frazzled. I fear only experience can bring the alternative view of first days—to ...
5. Grading, Attendance, and Other Pains-in-the-Butt
Download PDF (302.2 KB)
Teaching in the age of litigation sometimes becomes a defensive game. We have to establish rules and policies not for the one hundred students each year who act like reasonable, civil human beings but for the one per year (or decade) who acts like a bad lawyer on steroids, tries to get away with dereliction in your class, and then searches your syllabus with a magnifier ...
6. What You Need to Know About Theory (For Now)
Download PDF (285.0 KB)
I suppose as an undergrad I heard the word “theory” and perhaps fretted that I didn’t know enough about it. But I wasn’t forced to confront theory’s haughty stare until my first semester of graduate school, when I took a course in theory taught by E. D. Hirsch, Jr., later to achieve national notoriety for his books about cultural literacy. Hirsch assumed ...
7. Confident and Humble: And Other Contradictions We Live By
Download PDF (277.7 KB)
Composition is a world of contradictions. Perhaps our most popular formula for good writing—“clear and concise”—wars with itself: clear usually means more detail, more length. Teachers who don’t recognize the paradoxical nature of our work may get frustrated listening to (or giving) conflicting advice: “Meet with your students as often as possible ...
8. Avoiding Stress
Download PDF (309.9 KB)
Stress is like pain tolerance or writing speed: we’ll never know whether we feel and react exactly the way others do, or whether by the world’s standards we’re unique, over- or under-reacting. Is my job more or less stressful than an air traffic controller’s or a wine taster’s? I’m clueless. But I wouldn’t trade. ...
Download PDF (292.9 KB)
Think twice before reading this chapter. I’ll probably bring up some frightening scenarios that you haven’t imagined yet. And I can tell you right now that I don’t have fast, sure solutions to any of these nightmares— they wouldn’t be nightmares if they were easy to solve or avoid. You might want to skip this chapter and return only when you actually ...
10. Outside the Classroom
Download PDF (259.9 KB)
At first, most novice teachers focus on their hours in the classroom; they’re the newest, most intense aspect of teaching, the part that may resemble nothing else in the young teacher’s life. But as the teacher gains experience and the hours in the classroom become more routine, life outside the classroom becomes more important until, for long-term veterans ...
11. Building Your Future
Download PDF (267.4 KB)
Immersed in a semester of teaching composition, you’ll find it almost impossible to think about the future, especially a future beyond turning in your last grades of the semester. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’m not going to urge you to raise your periscope every few days, look at the Big Picture, and adjust your daily activities. In this chapter, I want to get you to ...
The Last Word
Download PDF (247.0 KB)
Ok, this is not a game show. You don’t have to guess: the word isprofessional. Stinging put-down on a student evaluation: “The teacher was unprofessional.” Worse than wrong. Below boring. Violator of the quasi-legal contract between teacher and student. You can write great stuff without being professional. You can fascinate ...
APPENDIX A: Yes, You May
Download PDF (261.4 KB)
APPENDIX B: Motivation Through Metaphor
Download PDF (262.6 KB)
APPENDIX C: Another Obnoxious Questionnaire
Download PDF (230.5 KB)
APPENDIX D: In Defense of Subjective Grading
Download PDF (267.5 KB)
APPENDIX E: Teaching Academic Integrity
Download PDF (292.5 KB)
Download PDF (256.1 KB)
Download PDF (249.2 KB)
Publication Year: 2005