Tiny Teaching Stories: Every Year, I Flunk a Decent Person

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Today's Tiny Teaching Story is by Kelle Alden, an Assistant Professor of English and Director of the Writing Center at the University of Tennessee at Martin.


Every Year, I Flunk a Decent Person

During our conference, I showed my student the math. Regardless of his excellent attendance and participation, without his missing homework and essays, he would fail English. My student looked sheepish, gave excuses, promised to catch up.

I no longer take it personally when students lie to me.

I try to teach in the moment, to appreciate how my student smiles and greets me every day. Seeing the whole of him will help after finals, when I have to deliver my most difficult lesson. I will still smile for him next semester, even if he cannot return the gesture right away.


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About the Author
Nancy Sommers, who has taught composition and directed writing programs for more than thirty years, now teaches in Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. A two-time Braddock Award winner, Sommers is well known for her research and publications on student writing. Her articles “Revision Strategies of Student and Experienced Writers” and “Responding to Student Writing” are two of the most widely read and anthologized articles in the field of composition. She has also created three films—Shaped by Writing, Across the Drafts, and Beyond the Red Ink—to bring the voices of student writers into a larger discussion about writing instruction. Nancy Sommers is currently the coauthor of Diana Hacker’s best-selling handbooks: The Bedford Handbook, A Writer’s Reference, Rules for Writers, A Pocket Style Manual, and Writer’s Help (see hackerhandbooks.com). Her newest instructor resource, Responding to Student Writers, offers a model for thinking about response as a dialogue between students and teachers.