Behind the Textbook: Readings Are Easy, Writings Are Hard

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We’re nearing the end of class testing for potential new readings. That also means that we’re nearing the end of the fun part. Finding interesting, challenging, quirky essays, and thinking about how they might fit into larger constellations of assignments and courses is of course intellectual labor, but an enjoyable kind. In the next couple of weeks, we’ll know what’s in and what’s out. That’s when the real work begins. I’ll admit it: I had no idea what I was getting into when I first signed on to produce a freshman reader. Apparently I just thought about that first, fun part. I didn’t think about the work that came after—specifically, building the apparatus. That comes next, and that’s what’s hard. Each new reading needs a headnote to contextualize the essay, as well as a set of prereading questions, a set of post-reading questions, and a set of writing assignments. Alone, each is a manageable task, but when eighteen new readings are involved I get a little dizzy. And all of this on a very tight production schedule. Oy. Yes, the writing’s the hard part. I can identify with my students there. The course I teach has a relentless pace, with writing due each week. I see students struggle and try to help them before they fall even a little behind. I’m about to step up to that pace myself but it’s my commitment to this project that will see me through.
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About the Author
Barclay Barrios is an Associate Professor of English and Director of Writing Programs at Florida Atlantic University, where he teaches freshman composition and graduate courses in composition methodology and theory, rhetorics of the world wide web, and composing digital identities. He was Director of Instructional Technology at Rutgers University and currently serves on the board of Pedagogy. Barrios is a frequent presenter at professional conferences, and the author of Emerging.