April 2016

As a graduate teaching assistant, I strive to provide the best possible learning environment and experience for my students. My priority is to foster true learning in (and real engagement from) my students. The material may not be exciting, or groundbreaking, or easy to understand, but all I ask from my students is consistent effort and a commitment to put some effort into the material and the class. It is through this approach that I can help my students grow their abilities to read, write and think critically. Critical thinking skills carry across disciplines, making the acquisition of such a skill highly valuable. I recognize that value, and I focus on encouraging students to push themselves past the easy answers, and to explain why they believe in their thoughts or answers. With regards to assessment, I have come to understand that student grades are not just performance assessments, but rather another form of instruction. I can use feedback on student assignments to show students how to improve and progress as learners and writers. Often, writing proficiency is defined by the absence of error in the text; however, I believe a better assessment of student writing considers the content presented first, and the grammar and mechanics do not always indicate proficiency in writing.

The act of writing follows a process, but unlike other activities that follow processes, there are no set formulas to follow to create the perfect piece of writing. Unlike cooking, which follows specific steps, writing takes place in the mind, where thinking and composing occur simultaneously. Therefore, the best writing instruction takes into account the formative process and teaches students models as opposed to formulas. One of the best ways to learn writing is to read great writing by others, as this teaches students how others formulate (compose) their thoughts into writing. I sincerely believe that to learn writing skills, students must also learn how to read what others have written, and from those writings students must be able to critically analyze and create new thoughts.

Students learn best when they take responsibility for their own education. When working to teach students how to write, I firmly believe in the ability of each and every student to already write before they become a part of my class. Each student knows how to communicate their ideas effectively and understandably to an audience; this holds true especially now as writing continues to gain ascendency in literacy development, and as students are more likely to write more outside the classroom than within it. I think an effective approach to encourage student learning recognizes the reality of extracurricular writing and the existing abilities of students, and encourages students to learn from their literacy experiences gained within and outside the classroom. Providing students with assignments that respect these experiences encourages individuals to take their education into their own hands.