ERIC Number: ED423539
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1998-Apr
Reference Count: N/A
Students Constructing Themselves: Let Them Tell Us How To Teach Them.
The culture of the composition profession has engaged in grossly overgeneralizing the problems students have, and students have bought into teachers' descriptions. Composition teachers need to take responsibility for the ways in which they have diminished students. In a detailed account of the construction of students, Marguerite Helmers identifies "lack" as the central perception of practitioners. Other metaphors are used to characterize students as children, as beasts, as diseased or ill, as foreign or exotic, as savages, as violent. The respectful language composition teachers have become sensitized to use when talking about people of other ethnicities, classes and genders has not spilled over into their talk about students. One reason for this is the dominance of a behavioral model of teaching. Comments from three classes of first-year writing students describe how they view themselves as writers--few of them were able to describe themselves in positive terms, and a number of them used "child" metaphors. Suggestions for giving students opportunities to construct themselves include: have students write at the beginning of the semester about their accomplishments as writers; survey students on what helps them write; use a portfolio; conduct an analysis of error with students; and check in with students frequently to learn about their attitudes and assumptions. Composition teachers need to stop making students objects, placing them in the position of the Other, and allow them to be the subjects of their own stories of who they are, why they write, and how they write. (RS)
Publication Type: Guides - Classroom - Teacher; Opinion Papers; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Conference on College Composition and Communication (49th, Chicago, IL, April 1-4, 1998).