Teachers as Writers and Students as Writers: Writing, Publishing, and Monday-Morning Agendas

Eng, Joseph


That the "teacher-writer" exists or "teacher-modeling" works is familiar to readers of professional literature in composition studies. Parallel to the field's interest in the writing context during the entire 1980s, philosophical and theoretical discussions of positioning have also popularized the term "student-writers," which, together with "teacher-writers," were eclectically used and generally understood as participants of writing workshops. Reflecting on the expressivists' works by Ken Macrorie, James Moffett, Donald Murray, Mike Rose, and others, Peter Elbow (himself as a teacher who writes) problematizes the identity with "a conflict in [teaching and writing] goals" (72-83), and Wendy Bishop (as a creative writer when she first taught) further complicates the twin, "circulative" identity constituted by the teacher-writer and the writer-teacher roles (9-31). At the level of practical application, positioning the writerly self in the composition classroom underscores the process paradigm and the writing-intensive curriculum. It would be interesting, then, to reconsider pedagogy by focusing on the relationship or relatedness among the identities of teacher-writers and student-writers, the work they do, and the composition curriculum.

Since the 1970s, composition researchers and practitioners have generally agreed that, as effective "facilitators" in the process classroom, writing teachers need to engage themselves in writing activities for two reasons. First, as teachers of writing, they should practice what they preach, among others, the rhetorical, cognitive, and mechanical skills required in different writing situations. Second, if they seek opportunities for writing with their students, they will, logically, develop better insights into the "processes"—including challenges and values—their student-writers find within the context of a particular writing assignment in a composition class. With an interest in composition pedagogy as engagement in writing activities, I am most interested in the positionings of teacher-writers and student-writers and the potential articulation between the two locations. The classroom reality, however, is a bit complex.

Addressing his English Journal readership, Bruce Robbins summed up in 1992 three apparent reasons why secondary teachers should be writers: "(1) to ground one's authority in actual experience as a writer, (2) to expand one's repertoire of useful responses to students, and (3) to demonstrate one's professionalism 'to our pupils, to their parents, and the taxpaying citizenry'" (73). Championed by the National Writing Project, these compelling perspectives at the secondary level were indeed consistent with the call to write in the process model influencing writing instruction generally and extensively. At the college level, one might position the teacher-writer by asking the question in a similar vein: "Just what constitutes the teacher-scholar who is already an expert in her or his field, expected to write and is writing as a member of the Burkean Parlor, while working with college-writers on their longer, usually expository, pieces preparing, broadly, for their writing needs in the majors?"

Many compositionists do not necessarily perceive themselves as "writers" because they don't usually write or publish in the creative genre; with like hesitation, creative writers teaching composition do not usually share their works, according to some, for the apparent fear of imposing on students or even pursuing an instructor's ego trip in class. In reality, as composition instructors, we do write and receive feedback to our writing often. Many of us, for instance, participate in academic and professional dialogues by contributing to a variety of online or hardcopy newsletters and journals; others produce rhetorical discussion critiquing theories or reports of empirical studies. It would be ideal, then, to share some of our commitment in writing as we role-model for student-writers. It would also be expedient, as an articulation, to capitalize on our writing efforts in a more immediate world, the very class we teach Monday morning.

Teacher-modeling, despite its generality as a label, is perhaps most consistent with current research in which the ideal writing class is presented as a discourse community underscoring multivocality and multiculturalism, therefore encompassing and fostering different sociopolitical, socioeconomic, and cultural texts and voices. The class as a discourse community is often facilitated by specific rhetorical situations found in challenging assignments. Today, an occasional composition teacher would write with his/her students, on assignments ranging from brief warmup exercises, to responses to readings or works in progress, and to full-length papers. Since Fall, 1998, for instance, many participating in the NCTE listserv "On the Net" have described their trials and tribulations regarding this "writing-with-students" practice as a "regular" teaching technique. Implicit in many postings, it seems, is the notion that as composition teachers we do not share our writing enough, especially during class time when we explain what writing is or how it should be done. Despite positive feedback and overall enthusiasm reflected in most narratives posted, what is not fully explored is a more comprehensive list of possibilities of what we, as college instructors, might do in order to blur, I would presume, the fine lines between the teacher-writer and the student-writer, and between classroom writing and real-world writing/publishing. And the list could be endless as long as instructors position themselves meaningfully in the 21st Century classroom where, as community text and the technology occupy central roles, the teacher's text can exist alongside the student's.

Positioning the Teacher-Writer: Writing with Students

For some composition instructors, writing with students is a worthy and familiar practice because it answers the call for an active, committed pedagogy that encourages teachers to write frequently for both personal and professional purposes. NCTE's Commission on Composition published "A Position Statement" in College English in 1984 (612-14), specifying under the heading of "The Teacher of Writing" that "Writing teachers should themselves be writers." Related to the writerly call or position would be the field's emerging interest in conceptualizing the composition classroom as a writers' community, in which the instructor, I believe, could or should be an active member. As facilitator or contributor in such a scene, place, or community of writing, the teacher might write in class logs or journals, brainstorm with students, or even complete assignments traditionally and exclusively given to students. Such a perspective gradually became limited as compositionists developed a more complex role as teacher-writers in the classroom.

In the past several years, the sites of college composition have been characterized as "Contact Zones" where people of unequal power may interact under conditions that allow for sharing and understanding (Mary Louise Pratt) or as "borderlands"/la frontera, as places of cultural, geographical, and linguistic differences where shifting and multiple identities exist in face of discomfort and conflict (Gloria Anzaldua). Composing therefore connotes sharing, understanding, negotiating, and indeed debating among ideas and voices represented in a diverse student body in terms of race, gender, and cultural backgrounds. Further, composing today also means researching online and participating in class or community dialogues facilitated by discussion lists modeled through MUDs and MOOs on the Internet. Issues of gender, ethnicity, and identity perhaps occupy more cyberspace in what has been called postmodern discourse in professional literature. Many researchers and scholars have noted online conversation, when monitored effectively, as fundamentally important as an alternative class space in which participants extend and expand off-line knowledge, discourse, and communities. (See, for instance, specific chapters such as Marilyn Cooper's and Susan Romano's in Passions, Pedagogies, and 21st Century Technologies.)

Teachers who write regularly with their students, then, share the following rationales or beliefs based on a fundamental interest in building dialogues among texts and participants in a class community:

  1. Pursuing teacher-modeling, practically as students' guidance or theoretically as a response to research in collaborative/cooperative learning; in reading/writing connection; and in the sociopolitical location of the writing teacher.
  2. Knowing the writing assignments by doing them (from inventing, to revising, to finishing).
  3. Knowing the reading assignments by responding to themit (from annotating, to summarizing, to journaling).
  4. Adopting a cultural role by doing and sharing writing.
  5. Augmenting student-teacher conferences on assignments now "shared" by instructor.
  6. Assuming the teacher-scholar role by speaking as students' writing peer or expert.

These perspectives, self-explanatory as they may be, point to apparent benefits in a composition classroom where workshopping highlights dialogues and discourse conventions in the context of specific writing forums or publications. Imagine, for instance, how our class became a Contact Zone or la frontera: A student successfully argued with me, a middle-age, middle-class Asian male instructor, about how the subtopic of having and raising children did belong to her topic of interracial dating, for which we brainstormed and did first drafts together. Picture, as well, how another student taught me about the readership of Working Mother Magazine, and how her article might fit the forum. (I had not known such a magazine existeds prior to the assignment or that her writing might be publishable in that sense. See typical annotations of public forums listed in such annual guides as Writer's Market, which is frequently used in my lower-division classes.) When enhancing the writing experience traditionally limited to the classroom, the real challenge is to reconsider the Monday-morning agenda, including the when, what, and how, while situating aforementioned perspectives in the composing curriculum.

Positioning the Student-Writers: Writing Beyond the Classroom

A. Writing for Publication in English 101 (or in the lower-division). Composition students seldom imagine how writing might function outside the general education sequence. As instructors, we ask them to consider how and why writing is required beyond composition; and, what type of writing is required in a specific academic field. Many of us often teach by encouraging majors-related topics in order to underscore the relationship among discourse communities, writing in the majors, and research methodologies. Nonetheless, most college students don't seem to imagine how different academic majors tend to communicate differently and how their papers need to address specific readerships within their fields (Blair 383-89). From this perspective, students developing themselves into writers may learn much from the process of real-world publication.

Papers done for class assignments, in theory, may be considered as insiders' talk, either as assignments tailored for different academic majors or as authors' manuscripts for different publications. In practice, I have adopted a writing-for-publication assignment in three different courses, thus positioning the student-writer by strengthening the concept of a composing community supporting publication goals. Most students seem to write more seriously and effectively by targeting readerships represented by potential publications. In a sense, these student authors own their assignments by conceiving discourse demands beyond the classroom. As facilitators, teachers role-play interested readers or friendly editors, thus contributing collaboratively and meaningfully to students' writing processes adapted from the world of publication.

For an assignment titled "Feature Article" (Appendix I), my students learned to develop their personal experiences into writings relevant to their areas of expertise or majors, which, in turn, became manuscripts tailored for potential publication. The two excerpted pieces to follow, respectively written by Laura Doerr and Jodi Gurnoe, were published within a year after their composition courses. We will see, in the following, how their individual experiences are richly presented for their intended forums/publications:

"A Song of Happiness" by Laura Doerr (Published in Around the River Region: A Newsletter):

When my grandfather died, no one knew that grandma was dying also. At first we rationalized her confusion and despondence as extended grief. Married for 58 years, grandma was lost without grandpa. She was elderly and grandpa's sudden death had been a shock. It was understandable that it would require time and patience for grandma to return to a "normal" life.

My mom and I visited grandma daily. Initially our visits were social. We talked, shared rolls and coffee and extended love and companionship. Within a few weeks, it was evident that grandma was not doing as well as she claimed. Thyroid medication was not being taken, meals were not eaten, and bills were not paid….

Alzheimer's Disease is the leading cause of severe mental impairment in older people. It is an organic brain disearse that destroys the brain cells….

The decision for nursing home placement was made with many years. We had fought hard to keep grandma at home and to admit we could no longer continue to do so left us feeling like failures. Had we betrayed grandma?

Our visits to grandma are once again enjoyable. She lives in the Alzheimer's Unit at the Seminary Home. Knowing that she is well cared for and safe brings us peace of mind. She has gained weight, wanders about with her new friends and enjoys the scheduled activities. The proof of contentment is her smile and song. My mom and I did not betray grandma. We recognized our own limitations. We found the courage to seek help and admit we could no longer manage grandma's life. Grandma was changing and we had to let go.

With Alzheimer's there is no return to a "normal" life. Learning to accept the progression of the disease continues to be a lesson for us. Grandma is who she is now. Unable to call me by name, she smiles and her eyes twinkle at the sight of me. She maintains her sense of humor, although there are times I have no idea what wer are laughing about. We hold hands and together sing all the songs she can remember. These treasured visits are highlights of my life.

I love you Grandma!

Laura's story was particularly memorable to me for interesting reasons. I remember telling her how I thought that we had done a similar paper for the Turning-Point assignment, and how, for the Feature Article, we should tell less of a story and invest more in the expository form. She gave me an answer that both surprised and pleased me. My response to her draft had affected her much, she said, where I described my experience of having a mother dying of cervical cancer my first semester away from home (another one of my personal stories); as a result, she wanted to write about caring for her grandmother and could foresee a readership interest in Around the River Region. (Imagining the needed humane voice in the profession, I had approved it with reservation.) Again, my student proved herself right—especially when I was handed the published article the quarter after the class. I was simply elated to see it in print.

From another class, "The Fine Blue Line" by Jodi Gurnoe presents a different subject matter (published in Show-Up: Official Publication of The Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis):

Imagine a world without police. "Great!" You say while smiling. "No more speeding ticket!" Not just that, but no one to call for help. No one to mediate the problems we humans usually find ourselves embroiled in. No one to protect us from those who will break into our homes, steal our cars, rape our women, beat up our men, and sell our children crack. Do we, as a society, realize how much we really need police?

No. Most people distrust police. Some truly hate them. Few really like them, or at least appreciate them. Why? Because they have always been there. They are easy to take for granted.... Now what is a day in the life of a cop like? I had the privilege of spending a day with Officer Wells of the Minneapolis Police force. As a silent observer, I saw some most startling aspects of human nature….

This morning, the first call was an "unwant." Officer Wells uses his radio to talk to the dispatcher regarding this call…. The woman explained that she was through partying and she wanted to go to bed but the men wouldn't get out. We looked at the men and Wells asked if they would now be willing to leave, or if they had to be physcially removed. They didn't answer. Glazed eyes stared back at us, while spittle dripped from their mouths. Silver irridescent paint was stuck to their faces. He asked again. Finally one of them answered. "Yeah," he said but failed to move. I turned to look at another cop who had come to assist….

The following call was to go to a shelter to take a report about abuse that one of their residents had suffered at the hands of her boyfriend. The woman had a puffy eye, lip, and nose…. I wanted to ask why she had given it to him in the first place but decided against it. The woman said she would identify him if she saw him but she was obvious about not wanting to press charges…. Wells explained to me later that most women don't want to press charges; they just want to be left alone; or in some cases, to return to the abusive man. Usually, however, the victim wants to talk to someone; they want to know that someone cares. Officer Wells was sensitive and showed her some much needed compassion. We left to go look for the goon anyway so that he could spend a much needed night in jail….

Later on that day he handled assaults, burglaries, shopliftings, and personal injury calls…. I watched him struggle with a man armed with a knife, and I saw him comfort a child that had gotten separated from his mother….

I wondered what the world would be like if we did not have police, someone to call when we need help. Pure chaos. Cops are the fine blue line between anarchy and a semblance of order…. Yet people take them for granted. But who do they call for help? Cops. Cops who would lay down their life for them if necessary.

Like "A Song of Happiness," "A Fine Blue Line" was published unchanged from its final draft. I had, for instance, discussed with Jodi about the word choices (such as "goon") and the purpose of the expository piece; we both agreed that the language was appropriate and in fact the final draft was "audience-based."

For the Feature Article assignments, Laura and Jodi began with their personal experiences about something they knew firsthand, if not as experts within their professional contexts. In class we talked about our experiences and explored the connections between experience and our academic majors or intended majors. (Laura was a major in Nursing and Jodi in Law Enforcement.) As both student writers came up with their first drafts, we talked about audience as target readership and how different majors or professions communicate differently. We adopted an Audience Analysis worksheet (Appendix II), which really helped class members further revise their papers for certain publications as they, directly or indirectly, showed us what and how academic or professional fields communicated in terms of topical issues, language convention, and types of experience or knowledge. We finalized the process by getting feedback from student review boards, which were composed of class members role-playing different editors representing selected publications we brought to class. Certainly the writing experience itself asks all writers to consider the worlds outside the class and beyond composition. I, too, as their instructor have learned much about my students' interests in relation to their majors and acknowledged the genuine need to assess their writing more contextually and flexibly with a real-world interest.

B. Writing for Publication in the Upper Division and Graduate Courses. In rhetoric and composition, upper-division and MA-level courses usually solicit topics in pedagogy and research perhaps typical in the methodology and theory-based curricula. For different courses, I have adapted the writing-for-publication assignment for the more advanced students as a professional article (Appendix III). Focusing on the needs of emerging professional teachers, I introduce accessible forums that publish experiential pieces about classroom strategies, lesson plans, or issues about application including, most importantly, the state English or English Arts journals listed in the Call for Paper in the NCTE Council Chronicle. For graduate students, their forums or markets would further include, in addition to the regional journals, such titles as Exercise Exchange, English Journal, and Teaching English in the Two-year College. To fulfill program requirements, they participate in seminars and colloquia in which the range of professional publications is explained and sampled as a variety including both experiential and research-based forums. (Among others, Chris Anson had maintained lists of composition journals periodically until 1995; the CCCC Annotated Bibliography regularly offers research directions; currently, Richard Haswell's CompPile, available at <http://comppile.tamucc.edu> is most helpful as a clearinghouse.)

Over the past few years, upper-division students have sent articles such as the following:

  • "For Richer or Poorer: Funding Formula for Public Schools" for Educational Digest
  • "A Successful Business Speaks Another Language" for International Management
  • "Ebonics: Heaven-sent or A Can of Worms?" for English Journal
  • "Teaching the Concept of Audience in Writing Courses" for the Adjunct Mentor

Graduate students have sent articles titled as the following:

  • "Making It Real: The Role of Voice in Composition" for TETYC
  • "Philia: On-going relatedness between Professors and Students" for Washington English Journal.
  • "Teacher as Text: Identity-Formation in the Composition Classroom" for TETYC
  • "Basic Writers and Non-Standard English Users: A Critique of Current Pedagogy" for Journal of Basic Writing
  • "Radical Teaching: The Social Activist in the Composition Classroom" for Washington English Journal.
  • "Integrating On-line Projects into the Composition Classroom" for English Journal

While the lengths of these papers prevent me from excerpting from them here, their projects have gone beyond my classes for two apparent reasons. First, these students were given an overview of a process leading to my very first publication in Exercise Exchange in 1990, for which I had successfully revised a graduate class paper on workshop strategies explaining the use of manuscript facsimiles by classic authors. These graduate students, seeing examples of drafts and editorial correspondence, began to understand what and how I could publish as their former peer; right then and there, their writing experiences and mine were connected, as we could see manuscript possibilities for class papers. Second, they are encouraged to position themsleves as emerging professionals, with much of their writing addressing forums of pedagogy, theory, or research. Third, as reported in MLA's Profession and other publications, many more academic job seekers, including MA holders, now have article publications (when their counterparts only had presentation records two decades ago). As their mentors, we could share what we know, including the publishing process. My emphasis, then, is to locate those few occasions in which the teacher-writer meets the student-writer as a mutual process.

Monday-Morning Possibilities

A. The Mutual Occasion: How Teachers Need to Create the Same Stakes for Themselves. Mike Steiner, an English teacher in Idaho, complains about the phrase "We should be writers" because 'should' is a heavy word and 'writer' is always defined as 'Writer'" (9). His conundrum seems to deal with what constitutes the teacher-writer:

I may be a writer, but I am not a Writer. There is a substantial difference, and when I hear or read one of the [Teachers as Writers advocates], I hear or see that W slide into the upper case. [. . .] One thing that our professional lives lack is anything outside of ourselves that might encourage us to continue writing. (10)

At the college level, many hesitate to adopt the teacher-writer's position because, like Steiner, they seem to have a narrow definition of what a teacher-writer can write or write about. Having theorized writer-teacher's and teacher-writer's works as two different, though related, discourses, Wendy Bishop argues that CCC or other similar discourse communities "do not look with favor on the writing teacher writing with, for, or to his writing students (25)." Toby Fulwiler reflects further in the following:

It is clear to me that I write from within and, at the same time, from without an identifiable discourse community. Though this community almost always determines the topic of my writing, it does not necessarily determine its stance and style. Lately, these features of my voice seem to be at odds with the norm within my own community—which, like all academic communities, has adopted a specialized discourse that makes it difficult for eighteen-year-olds to enter and participate. (Qtd. in Bishop 25)

As an instructor of writing who writes on the tenure-track, I must admit that this kind of positioning sounds a little harsh on those of us who are teachers first, and writers second. In fact, I would suggest, instead of emphasizing whether writing creatively (i.e. poetry, fiction, etc.) or non-creatively (i.e. memos, newsletter or professional articles, etc.), we underscore the opportunity or occasion that we can write primarily to and with our students. As teacher-writer-facilitators during these occasions, we will become sensitized by the process of doing what students do at the same time—and this is already an admirable achievement given the paper load we typically have.

The teacher-writer is a very appropriate and general identity, since anyone who cares to write and to do so regularly with one's students should be supported and encouraged These writings may of course include already scheduled activities commonly found in a writing class, including creating assignments; brainstorming, discovering and arranging ideas; and reviewing and revising. Publication, especially conceived in the context of real-world writing markets, would finally offer the class opportunities for discussions on forums and conventions.

As teacher-models, compositionists could write alongside their students as follows:

  1. Getting the class started during brainstorming and/or freewriting periods.
  2. Responding to class texts, including conversation, writing, and reading, by writing in hardcopy journals or through e-mail and/or Internet forums.
  3. Writing and sharing class assignments.
  4. Writing and sharing personal stories.
  5. Sharing professional drafts and editorial correspondence leading to publication.
  6. Writing as a humanist teacher.
  7. Identifying possible forums/publications for student writers

Publication and its process, being the ultimate goal of most academic and professional writings, is also a most challenging concept new to many students. It would be important to suggest potential markets for specific class levels, class discussion, and possible student contributions. The challenge in a conventional class setting, it seems, lies in the discovery of relevant forums. While I may have lists of particular journals to consider for different classes, based on my experience, as teacher-writers compositionists, we should seek to discover (or even to create as founding editors) possible local and national markets for our students and for themselves.

Encouraged by positive student feedback from the beginning when I started writing with my students, I have been tempted to adopt all mentioned opportunities and in fact to position myself more aggressively as an active writer in the classroom.

B. The Instructor Portfolio: How Teachers Could Share Their Professional Processes. Recently in my composition and research courses, I have, in addition to writing with my students on assignments of variable lengths, shown them a portfolio of manuscript drafts tailored for a professional journal.

I began by retrieving all phases of my writing leading to a recent manuscript submission by reproducing copies of pieces from freewrites to later drafts, to be finally sorted out as a portfolio of manuscript facsimiles. As an author's work in progress, these facsimiles were copies of original drafts with revisional or editorial markings of every kind. In a sense, it was a systematic collection of otherwise messy papers documenting tentative decisions typical of writers. Gradually and more importantly, as the draft became a potential manuscript responding to a certain call for papers, the folder reflected collectively a navigation of thoughts throughout the transactive, negotiative process of addressing a professional audience not traditionally found in a classroom. Quite strategically and interestingly, the instructor's portfolio presents a discursive picture rarely made available for student writers.

In order to maximize the opportunity of a show-and-tell, the portfolio I bring to classes now contains various materials regarding the drafting, revising, and professional editing processes. As a pedagogy, the drafts, correspondence, and final versions of my writing together explain and explore the stages of completing a professional research project by scheduling—on the course calendar—writing, showing, and telling sessions throughout the term. The demonstration, ideally, should be done during the weeks when students pursue their own research topics. For instance, I made public my topic of choice and freewrote on it. I would then show them what I had produced impromptu (if possible) and discuss with them my thoughts and intentions as a preliminary attempt for a research paper. Small group discussion on portfolio contents could logically lead to further writing or revision as each student developed his or her own research project based on specific forums or publications. By focusing on the variations they identified as manuscript changes, students had the opportunity to visualize my revising as a negotiative, decision-making process; they discussed the drafting process as rhetorical inquiry, discourse convention as forum analysis, and evaluation as professional reviews, among other subjects. In addition to peer reviews commonly done in class workshops, my students seem to be able to develop a more critical and crucial sense of research by examining the changes I make between drafts, the process of getting accepted (or rejected sometimes) in a writing forum, and the nature of academic and professional discourse. And, finally, almost all of them have admitted finding the research writing class an exciting, eye-opening experience, especially when the instructor writes with them and discusses publication regularly. (See "Voices from Students" in this article.) In this scenario, the instructor seeks to adopt the multiple roles of an active teacher-writer who treats all works, student's or teacher's, systematically and seriously as professional manuscripts and who writes and shares his or her writing as a major class agenda.

C. Teacher-Modeling and Ethnicity: How Teachers Write Themselves into the Class. As a result of fast-changing demographics and a continued growth of English graduate programs in many institutions, departments of English and English Studies face an interesting reality as a workplace—the coexistence of mainstream faculty of English and the nonwhite professor as "other." Within composition studies, discussions of identity theory and identity politics are nothing new. Modern and postmodern rhetoricians—including Kenneth Burke, Linda Brodkey, Roland Barthes, and feminist academics Diana Fuss, Gesa Kirsch, Joy Ritchie, Gayatri Spivak—have written respectively and extensively on sociopolitics and theories of location, problematizing the nature of and relationships among self-identity, audience, and textuality. More specifically on race and composition, recent scholarship has posed new questions based on the field's research interest in "subject positions" (Romano, Chiang, Yee, and others) and the practical interest in "work conditions" (Holbrook, Miller, Horner, and others) from the teacher-scholar perspective. Particularly, many have argued that while nontraditional, nonwhite English faculty struggle to "locate" themselves, their counterparts remain skeptical of any values these new faculty might have (Chiang; Sciachitano; Johnson; Prendergast). Parallel to their colleagues’ indifference, some nontraditional professors encounter a similar degree of skepticism from their own students—especially when they openly express surprises, doubts, or resentment based on their instructors' nonwhite and/or nonnative identities (Chiang "In the World of English" 25). The increasing number of nonwhite, nonnative students most noticeable in the 1990s does not improve the situation either. What seems surprising is that nonwhite students do not necessarily accept their nonwhite English professors as their legitimate teachers; these instructors are still regarded as not native, trained, or reliable enough to be teaching them English (Chiang "Insider/ Outsider/ Other?" 159). Simply, their roles are "unimagined" (Mura). Such a phenomenon becomes interestingly complex in writing instruction.

Since the early 1980s, student text has been characterized as marginal or marginalized discourse for its technical errors, inarticulate voices, and personal subject matters which are not affiliated with or sanctioned by the convention of academic discourse. In fact, since Bartholomae's study on developmental or basic writers, many in the late 1990s still argued that one of the major teaching challenges was assisting beginning college students to make the shift from the personal to the academic.

As an Asian male teaching English, my writerly role has helped me position more effectively in the classroom where all ethnicities get to participate in the discourse community. In this perspective, nonnative, nonwhite writing professors might occupy a rather crucial position that, at the same time they negotiate their nontraditional identities or unimagined roles as English faculty, their own reading and writing could in turn help students develop their marginal voices and further engage their learning interest. As I negotiate with my social and professional identities through the manuscript process, my students begin to view me as an actual writer who plays with words, targets specific forums, and presents products on due dates. To many of my students, my appearance or demeanor (which seemed unconventional, ethnic, or even foreign to many; see Yuet-Sim. D. Chiang's discussion, for example) has finally come across to them as a writer who pursues the decision-making process, which is negotiative and sustaining. As fellow writers we have common challenges when a writing task is upon us; we need to make physical as well as intellectual efforts, attend to due dates, and learn from critiques gathered through rigorous writing workshops.

For instance, I brainstormed with students and made anonymous copies of my drafts for class workshops. As peers we mark up one another's writing during workshops and the class in turn uses these comments as a springboard for further discussion. As a nonnative English instructor, I have had my writing challenges resulting from culture clashes (including such issues faced by parents having or raising children out of wedlock, U.S. public policies, and pop culture, among others) and idiomatic and stylistic challenges unique to ESL writers. In addition, peer reviewers pay particular attention to audience needs by role-playing interested readers, as they are asked to examine particular forums in which class drafts are situated. Like students' writing, my work therefore benefits from the process as student reviewers do their jobs rhetorically, editorially, and indeed reflectively.

Instead of dwelling in the seemingly usual surprises as they found an Asian instructor in their English classes, within a short period of time they would know me as a fellow writer who contributed frequently and conscientiously to class workshops and whose writing was well publicized. Steadily and surely my writerly self balances my ethnic self; and, combined, I have become a legitimate, effective teacher of composition.

If teacher-modeling seems to address issues of ethnicity effectively, such as in my case, might it also address issues of gender, age, the physically challenged, and, in fact, positioning in general? Teacher-modeling as a theory should warrant further research and reflection.

More Challenges: Problems and Promises

Some teachers continue to see writing with students as a problematic or even impossible challenge, perhaps for apparent reasons:

  1. Teachers, school or college levels, do not have time for it.
  2. If creative writing faculty are not doing it, why should I?
  3. Students get intimidated.
  4. Some teachers take ego trips with the approach.
  5. Colleagues are not that supportive.

In addition to these critical views, there is a controversial perspective less often mentioned but quite obvious—it tends to create more labor, which, in most cases, is not visible and therefore not acknowledged for retention, promotion, and tenure as typical rewards. While these and similar claims may seem valid in imaginable circumstances, writing with students presents important pedagogical perspectives too good to miss.

Robert Root, a leader of summer writing workshops involving Michigan teachers, stresses that the teacher-writer's approach fosters several conditions essential to both successful learning and successful writing, arguing fundamentally that teachers need to develop both an awareness of themselves as writers and also a willingness to take a writer's approach to the teaching of writing (18). The essential conditions, according to literacy scholar Brian Cambourne, include engagement or personal commitment, immersion, demonstration, approximation, expectation, and responsibility (185-87). In the composition classroom, Root explains, teacher-writers who have their own experiences to draw on are more likely to recognize the lack of engagement and immersion (and are therefore more likely to seek ways to address the problems). Based on workshopper’s reflections, Root further observes the intricate relationship between a teacher's writing commitment and teaching commitment:

Teacher-writers who have grappled with their own composing processes are more likely to be flexible in helping students with theirs; they are more apt to reject lockstep prescriptive procedures; they are more inclined to help students individualize composing strategies according to the nature of their own works-in-progress. (18)

Such teacher-writers' practices, Root explains, further satisfy Cambourne's remaining conditions because by struggling with their own manuscripts, teachers recognize the similarities and differences between their students' difficulties as writers and their own as writers. Through teacher-writers' own processes of demonstration and approximation, as well, their works-in- progress have themselves demonstrated how difficult writing can be even with sound advice and noble intentions, a challenge students face every day (19). And finally, in a climate of trust reinforced by participation and collaboration, these teachers incorporate expectation and responsibility, Cambourne's last two conditions, as they continue to encourage student-initiated discussion based on their chosen writing forums or markets. Root's workshopper Maryalice summed it well as a teacher-writer:

I cannot teach writing unless I stay in touch with the writing process on a regular basis myself. . . . I just don't feel I would be very effective in my job if I didn't exercise my pen on paper frequently. There has to be what [Harvey] Kail calls "the community of writers" and that becomes of necessity a very intimate, supportive entity in the classroom. I have no right to be a part of that community unless I contribute. To sit back and be a red-penned judge makes me removed from the process and frankly, if I were a student in that situation, I'd be wary of sharing much of anything with the teacher! (Qtd. in Root 20)

In addition to Root's teachers' concerns and strategies, writing with students frequently and systematically responds to current research interest in discourse community and textuality by potentially merging student text and teacher text, encouraging multivocality, and building a community text not usually found in the student-writing-only classes. (For a detailed discussion and demonstration on merging texts, see Ng's "Engaging Students in the Literature Classroom: Reflections of A Compositionist.") Practically, writing with students encompasses a variety of means and goals, therefore reaping the many benefits including improved assignments, student-teacher dialogues, and effective teacher-modeling.

Voices from Student-Writers

Excerpted comments in course evaluation from previous courses suggest that most students are very excited about the idea of publication and have therefore developed a positive attitude toward their coursework. Some may even imply further work and publication commitment long after the academic term. The following categories will provide us with a glimpse into what seem to have worked for them:

Getting constructive feedback (From English 101, 106, 201, and 315):

I wanted to experience readings and writing of different disciplines that’s what we did for the paper. My expectations were fulfilled. Since I liked to target business journals, more business readings/discussions would help.

My expectation for this course was to learn about writing in different forums. I think I have a better understanding through the assignment where we learned to revise based on target readerships.

The course was fun, but a little difficult at times. I'm more worried about fulfilling his expectations. Overall, he did a great job helping to improve skills. I never thought about publishing my writing and I feel I know something about it.

I expected this to be a very boring class with lots of reading but I enjoyed learning about the different disciplines as we did for the publication exercises and how to write towards them.

More job orientated.

The publication paper taught me something I never thought about—i.e. audience, forums, topics, revision, etc. are all choices we learn to make and stick to….

The course actually began like any course you would expect, until the writing of publication paper which I learned to see drafts as manuscripts. It actually encouraged to look at my writing differently now…. I took my group comments very seriously…. I am keeping what I have written just in case . . . I get published.

Getting published as a writer:

Dr. __, do you know that Sally said A Song of Happiness would make it in the next issue of Around the River Region. I hope it's okay that I sent a copy with your comments on it. . . . The paper meant so much to me and my grandmother.

This is the best—as I gave you a copy of my publication in Show Up. . . . I have already begun my second piece.

I have never thought about getting sending anything to anywhere for publication, and that included the campus paper. Now I know so much about the possibilities as found in the Writer's Market index book.

I want to be published!

I think I can do the same thing with my students in the future. They might begin with something local and then I will ask them to try sending things out.

So far so good.

I feel like a professional writer now.

The paper prepared me for advanced study in English…. Don't graduate papers have to meet publication qualities? . . . I have learned much about discourse communities in a concrete sense.

This is a great class, period. I have found the academic discussion great and I know that I have learned a lot especially about how writing teachers think and write. . . . And how we can teach more effectively by joining the group.

Getting connected with the teacher

I liked it! You have proved that writing can be fun! I showed my mother the piece I finally sent to Family Life and she was surprised about publication. I have told my friends about this class.

You showed us what you learned and that is awesome. . . .I liked it a lot.

I really appreciated the assignment, which allowed me to write whatever I wanted as long as I saw fit with the audience sheet.

Great concept. . . . I like the way you present it as a sequence beginning with your lecture first, and then the analysis. I target English Journal and have benefited from your comments.

Getting confused: Repositioning?

I hated the publication paper—I am here to learn English and I am not a journalism major.

I think that a little emphasis on publication is good, but not too much. Despite what you said, I felt that I had to publish in order to get an A. . . . .I know that you wanted us to learn so much about audience which we did.

Please read the catalog descriptions, this class had nothing to do with publication. . . . But we only did one paper so it's good. . . . Sometimes you are not clear about expectations.

While the negative comments belong to the scarce minority of responses, they do alert me, once again, for the possibility of imposing on them my views and an overemphasis on real-world publishing. Over the years, I have learned, among many things, to teach with concrete examples and outcomes (including statements from NCTE and the WPA Council). Undergraduate classes, especially, have benefited from their interests in pop culture, local and national issues, together with topics in the majors from a few students. Graduate-level classes, including a composing curriculum class and a research methodology class, have always been interested in the publication process. Many graduate students, in fact, have found Washington English Journal, TETYC, and English Journals to be familiar forums. Over the years, some have published their pieces. This quarter a beginning MA student, Dan, just sent his term paper to TETYC; his Audience Analysis has become an example for others to follow.


The effort of writing with students pays off when we see results not traditionally seen on campus. On different occasions my students have inquired about collaboration with me, and some got published by carefully revising for their markets of choice. Not unlike experienced academic and professional writers, these students treat their assignments as works-in-progress, tailor their pieces for the markets based on careful rhetorical and stylistic analyses, and—upon voluntary manuscript submission—will further address concerns raised by editors. As Karen Feathers argues in a seminal book, Teacher as Writer, the NCTE project edited by Karen Dahl and the Committee on Professional Writing Networks for Teachers and Supervisors, "editor-initiated" revision (following author-initiated revision and reader/peer-initiated revision) as the "third cycle" of revision occurs only after submission. In other words, students never could benefit from the third cycle if their writing remained class assignments exclusively assessed by their instructors. As well, my students and I would have known far less about the processes of writing and learning had I only given assignments without writing and sharing with them. I suppose I have become their friendly editor and indeed fellow writer in the class community and beyond.

Works Cited

Anzaldua, Gloria. Borderlands/La Frontera. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books, 1987.

Bishop, Wendy. "Places to Stand: The Reflective Writer-Teacher-Writer in Composition." College Composition and Communication 51.1 (1999): 9-31.

Blair, Catherine Pastore. "Only One of the Voices: Dialogic Writing Across the Curriculum." College English 50 (1988): 383-89.

Cambourne, Brian. "Toward an Educationally Relevant Theory of Literacy Learning: Twenty Years of Inquiry." The Reading Teacher 49.3 (1995): 182-90.

Chiang, Yuet-Sim D. "In the World of English Tradition, I Was Unimagined." Illinois English Bulletin 80.4 (1993): 22-27.

—. "Insider/Outsider/Other? Confronting the Centeredness of Race, Class, Color and Ethnicity in Composition Research." Under Construction: Working in the Intersections of Composition Theory, Research, and Practice. Ed. Christine Farris and Chris M. Anson. Logan: Utah State UP, 1998.

Cooper, Marilyn. "Postmodern Pedagogy in Electronic Conversations." Passions, Pedagogy, and 21st Century Technologies. Ed. Gail E. Hawisher and Cynthia L. Selfe. Logan: Utah State UP, 1999.

Elbow, Peter. "Being a Writer vs. Being an Academic: A Conflict in Goals." College Composition and Communication 46.1 (1995): 72-83.

Feathers, Karen M. "Revision: The Heart of Writing." Teacher as Writer: Entering The Professional Conversation. Ed. Karin L. Dahl. Urbana, IL: NCTE, 1992.

NCTE Commission on Composition. "Teaching Composition: A Position Statement." College English 46 (1984): 612-614. Also available http://www.ncte.org/positions/teaching_composition.shtml.

Ng, Joseph. "Engaging Students in the Literature Classroom: Reflections of a Compositionist." Teaching English in the Two-Year College 27 (2000): 416-24.

Pratt, Mary Louise. "Arts of the Contact Zone." Profession 91 (1991): 33-40.

Robbins, Bruce. "It's Not That Simple." English Journal 81 (1992): 72-74.

Romano, Susan. "On Becoming a Woman: Pedagogies of the Self." Passions, Pedagogy, and 21st Century Technologies. Ed.Gail Hawisher and Cynthia Selfe. Logan: Utah State, 1999.

Root, Robert. "Becoming Those Who Do: Teachers Writing, Writers Teaching." Inland: A Journal for Teachers of English Language Arts 21.1 (1998): 17-20.

Steiner, Mark. "Through a Cynic's Eyes: The Teacher as Writer." Inland: A Journal for Teachers of English Language Arts 21.1 (1998): 9-11.

Yee, Marian. "Are You the Teacher?" Composition and Resistence. Ed. C. Mark Hurlbert and Michael Blitz. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook, 1991. 23-31.

Appendix I: Feature Article

Be a professional writer! For this paper you will write an article explaining a particular issue, topic, consumer product, or process to a specific audience. As we have discussed in class, one way to consider audience is to think of it as a target readership of a certain publication. As a feature article your essay may inform as well as entertain; but, your primary goal is explanatory, which is to be pursued in clear, effective language, supported with good examples appealing to your target readers. You might consider your drafts as manuscripts for potential publication; information about real-world publications can be found in the annual edition of Writer's Market (from which I have prepared a couple of handouts today). We will discuss more on the publication process as you finish your first draft. Following are some topics and their target readerships students attempted last quarter:

1. "The Fine Blue Line" targeting Show-Up, an Official Publication of The Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis. Published copies available for your review.

2. "A Song of Happiness" targeting Around The River Region, a newsletter about the members of River Region Health Services. Published copies available.

3. "Building A Home Theatre System under $300" for Popular Mechanics, a consumer magazine. Manuscript copies available.

4. "Coping with School, Jobs, and Children: Confessions of An Overworked Parent" targeting Family Life, a consumer magazine. Manuscript copies available. Attached also find the latest call for papers—"Share your best advice."

Your own ideas are just as good as the above, especially when you start thinking about what you are saying might be particularly meaningful or helpful for a specific audience. When you consider who should read your essay, you might want to remember things such as their prior knowledge or attitude towards the subject matter, the technicality of your language, your style of writing in general, etc. We should also look up a couple of published articles in your target magazine or professional journal. An Audience Analysis sheet is also attached.

Specific Instructions and Process:

1. Freewrite today on topical possibilities—results of freewrite will be shared with group members.

2. Develop a rough draft on a topic of your choice, with a tentative target readership in mind.

3. Workshop on Monday, be prepared with a copy of a sample article from your target publication.

4. Based on your Audience Analysis, share some thoughts about your draft and any revision needed.

5. A second draft is due for peer review, with Audience Analysis and Sample attached.

6. A third draft is due for instructor feedback, with all required materials attached.

7. A final draft is due for Portfolio evaluation by _________

We will begin the process today. Please let me know if you have any question. E-mail me at ________ Good luck and have fun.

Appendix II

Audience Analysis: A Worksheet to be attached to your draft

The Concept of Audience as a Forum: 1. Target readership

2.Discourse Convention

3.Editorial/ Manuscript Policies, where applicable

Your name: ______________________________

Title of your sample article (for language style, formatting, etc., this could also be one of your secondary sources):

Instructions: Fill out this form as completely as you can by answering the following questions. Cite examples from your Sample to support your observations. (Use additional paper if needed.)

1. Target readership of your Sample: Which pop-cultural/academic/professional field? Who exactly are they? (E.g. academic discipline, profession, expertise level, etc.)

2. What should be their specific knowledge background—in order to understand what your Sample is saying? What might be the attitude or assumption this readership has regarding the topic?

3. What is the Author’s relation (based on your Sample) to the reader? Check one:

___ i. expert to expert

___ ii. peer to equals

___ iii. expert to novice

___ iv. novice to expert

4. What are the target reader’s needs? Circle all applicable.

i. information

ii. understanding

iii. evaluation

iv. guidance

v. entertainment

vi. other (specify)

5. Does the Sample have a secondary readership? Is so, describe it.

6. Discourse/ Language Convention—Describe all, based on your Sample article, features of language convention such as level of vocabulary, language style, formatting issues:

7. If applicable, describe any editorial/ manuscript policies you find. Copy here information you might find on the Manuscript Guidelines/Call for Paper pages from an academic journal, sections soliciting readers' contributions from a popular magazine, or entries from Writer's Market. Based on the Sample’s original publication, for instance, what seem to be the kind of topics/ writings acceptable for their considerations?

8. Based on your responses to all of the above, how might you go about tailoring your own paper for the same publication in which you found the sample article? What are the important issues/features your response group should know in order to help you revise your manuscript effectively?

Appendix III: A Professional Article (Upper-Division Version)

Be an academic writer! As an upper-division English or English Education major, you certainly have written several research papers for different classes. As you are about to write another source-based paper on an English pedagogical issue, you might want to reconsider the process as an entry point into academia; that is, what you are about to say is a part of an ongoing conversation involving an interested audience as fellow majors, teachers, or published scholars in English Studies.

For this paper you will write an article exploring a general educational issue or a particular composition pedagogy targeting a specific audience. As we have discussed, one way to consider audience is to think of it as forum represented by a professional journal. As a professional essay your work may inform, argue, or reflect; but, your primary goal is explore and share a worthy curriculum-related topic or concept, appealing to the specific readership of your choice. You might consider your final draft as a manuscript for potential publication; accessible forums/ academic journal titles can be found in the class bibliography you received at the beginning of the term. We will discuss more on this publication process as you finish your first draft. At this level, the following are selected topics and their target readerships—pursued by my former English 315 students, together with one of my past papers:

  1. For Richer or Poorer" for Educational Digest. Manuscript copies available.
  2. A Successful Business Speaks Another Language" for International Education.
  3. "Ebonics: Heaven-Sent or A Can of Worms?" for Instructor Magazine or English Journal.
  4. "Teaching the Concept of Audience in Writing Courses" for The Adjunct Mentor. Published copies available.
  5. "The Sister Carrie Manuscript and Authorial Intentions" for Exercise Exchange. Published copies available.

When you consider who should read your essay, you might want to focus on the readership's prior knowledge or attitude towards the subject matter, your research, the technicality and style of your language, etc. Using a published article in your target journal as sample, we will also complete an Audience Analysis sheet, which is to be attached to your final draft.


Brainstorming and Freewrite: Today

First Draft workshop:

Second Draft:

Final Draft:

E-mail me with questions. Good luck.

This text was accepted for publication after an anonymous peer review process.
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