It is a stirring experience to encounter adult learners who have less than basic writing skills. Sometimes, to my own disappointment I have forgotten that people exist who do not understand how to write. Even I lack some skills that could be considered “basic” to writers much more advanced than me. A deeper lack of understanding about the field is exposed when one forgets about composition.
While reading the student sample of passage-b I was jarred and immediately taken back to one of my first times encountering an adult semi-literate person that I was partly responsible for the growth of in writing and reading at least. Mina Shaughnessy’s article captured my attention when she stated that “College English teachers who encounter passage-b type writers for the first time are not likely to know where to begin or whether to begin (2),” and for sure I was one of these teachers. Although not college-level, encountering a college age or older learner who writes similar to the student of passage-b does cause a slight panic within me.
Panic begins to set in as questions start to dart through my mind: What aspect of language arts suits this student best? Should I start with modifiers, syntax, nouns, capitalization, spelling, what went wrong in this person’s life that they missed out on learning these things? Am I capable of ensuring their writing and reading development? To what degree are they responsible for this? The institution? While I understand the college professor has the freedom to overlook, in a way, that student, I do not. So I wondered when reading this particular article how a composition instructor alters the method of delivery for the other types of lower functioning students.
Luckily, a fellow classmate (for privacy reasons I will call her Skem Fleafer) mentioned that she is in “a constant state of revision” as a composition instructor and that “some errors in writing have the potential to make it a richer experience for the reader.” Now, I thought about what enrichment could be found in the errors and I concluded that the growth comes from the mutual exchange of knowledge between both teacher and student. Somehow, in the exchange of error and correcting we discover new information about students and develop innovative ways to address those errors quickly or have them be avoided all together.
The stage of student and pupil is laid out to produce learning for all parties involved in the play. So, I suppose the richness is in the vast amount of learning a reader can get from jolting errors and minute mistakes because once they are recognized, teachers are again called to the mission of seeking out methods of correction, lesson delivery, and constructive feedback. The art of teaching really gets to spread its wings in the light of error and I agree that that is pretty enriching.