You know, for most of my time in school I thought that English was the most boring subject in the world. Our grade school books were a series called "Voyages in English," but there was no voyage in any of those books that I wanted to take.
But here's what I missed: all the books I enjoyed -- the Hardy Boys' detective stories, Jules Verne's fantastic journeys -- these were all "English" too. If any of my teachers had explained how the arc of the plot develops in "The Tower Treasure," a favorite Hardy Boys tale, then I might have gotten hooked on English sooner than I did.
But one day a crack appeared in my lack of proper English education: a teacher showed me how to write a paragraph using the principles of unity, coherence, and emphasis.
But what was different about this lesson? For one thing, it was designed with the purpose of making me a better writer. Which is a big part of English class. And it was a small, manageable assignment: one paragraph, repeated three times, each time with a focus on a different principle. It's a lesson I have used dozens of times with my own students, even with the college students.
That lesson on paragraphs came in my sophomore year of high school. Two years later I got to take independent study, and all I had to do was write two essays every week on any topic I wanted! Since I was really into the politics of the day, that's what I wrote about. And in preparing my essays I spent hours in the library so that I could write intelligent essays. So I learned a good deal about my topics, too.
Here was the problem, though: while I got the highest possible grade every quarter -- a 95 -- I never got a word of feedback as to what was so good about my little essays.
Still, it bolstered my confidence, and by the time I got to college I was reading more books than were on all my class syllabuses, and John Steinbeck's 1939 novel of displaced migrant workers, The Grapes of Wrath, made me decide that writing English was definitely for me.
How does all that affect the way I teach? For one thing, I have learned the value of going step by step. And I will not let you move on to the next one until you have understood completely the step we're on currently. And I have seen the difference it makes when the student gets to write about things of interest to him or her, so I tailor my assignments that way as much as possible.
As with so many things in life, it's not about where you start but about where you end up. And I can make you like that place a lot.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: Northern Kentucky University - Bachelor in Arts, English
Graduate Degree: University of Memphis - Master of Arts, English
One of my primary interests is classical music, specifically the piano. Now lest anybody think I'm a huge nerd because I play Beethoven, consider that my first public performance was on a piano in the back room of my Aunt Eva's saloon, where I played my own arrangement of "Alley Cat."
College Level American Literature
GED Reasoning Through Language Arts
High School English
High School Level American Literature
High School Writing
Middle School English
Middle School Writing