into the woods, the time is now*

I cannot express how much joy and entertainment I experience as a writing teacher. [But I’m gonna take a stab at it! :-)]

Currently, my first year composition students are crafting an argumentative essay on the umbrella concept of anthropocentricism (the belief that humans are the most important entity in the world). If you didn’t know what this term meant, don’t worry. I didn’t either until a month ago (my husband “schooled” me and he has a degree in environmental science… it figures!).


Flickr: fr4dd, “IMG_0165,” 8/8/2013

It’s totally natural to view the world from our own perspective.  But I am challenging my students to question anthropocentrism and to write a richer, more complicated discussion on our relationship to the world.




Not easy for an 18 year old. to do, but my students are rising to the occasion with flare!


Here is an excerpt from the introduction paragraph from one student’s essay (rough draft): 

“The giant floating ball that we call home has been around for billions of years, has been host to millions upon millions of species for billions of years, and has flourished for billions of years. Think about that, BILLIONS of years. That is, colloquially speaking, a shit ton of time….”

YES! That just happened — he wrote “a shit ton of time!”

Not exactly the formal tone I’d hoped for, but I must explain — this student captured his voice to a T. I mean perfectly!

So what’s point?

Writing is hard, and it’s even more difficult when we tackle new territory. Our writing actually suffers. Word choice, sentence structure, fluency of thoughts — these all revert to less sophisticated levels. (The research supports this.)

We write to learn. Then we revise to polish. I see this all the time in my writing classes.

So if you notice your writing is really sucking, it might be that you’re tackling something new and difficult. That’s great!

Keep at it. Dig deep. And then dig deeper still. Lower the rope deeper into your well until you pull up a full bucket of water.


As Irish poet/writer Seamus Heaney wrote in Feeling into Words:

“Learning the craft is learning to turn the windlass at the well of poetry. Usually you begin by dropping the bucket halfway down the shaft and winding up a taking of air. You are miming the real thing until one day the chain draws unexpectedly tight and you have dipped into waters that will continue to entice you back. You’ll have broken the skin on the pool of yourself.”


[Believe it or not, I don’t find that excerpt from my student’s essay  irksome. I’ll take sass over apathy any day of the week.]

*Post title excerpted from Into the Woods musical.


11 thoughts on “into the woods, the time is now*

  1. I love how he isn’t afraid to write “shitton” in an academic paper, I’d let it slide just for his gall (and assuming he actually wrote something intelligent.) I’m currently trying to write about stuff I’m not good about writing about to broaden my horizons. Namely, love. I just made an embarrassingly accurate draft of an encounter I had with love. You’ll see the hilariously naive final draft tomorrow! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Gall indeed! I see the full rough draft tomorrow. Can’t wait to see more of your love-focused writing! I read a post on your blog today about love. Is that it? Well done! It ain’t easy capturing these emotions. 🙂

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      • I don’t think it’s the end, no, I’m experimenting with my writing style and love is just something I don’t write about so I’m forcing myself to try

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  2. I’d love to hear more about your experience as a writing teacher! It seems like a wonderful experience. As for the post I think you are absolutely right, the student here has a really good grasp of his own writing voice. I don’t think I would have given him much flack for that, given that the rest of the article is intelligible.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ok it’s not exactly what happened, but it’s pretty close. (I’m so ashamed that I feel I have to explain myself lol.) This is exactly why I need to just schedule the post and turn off my computer already

    Liked by 1 person

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