Previously: Part One
My first crime was teaching my students to write arguments, which deeply offended the Canadian woman who was running the program.
She wanted me to teach the students to paraphrase the well-meaning essays in the anthology — not that she or anyone else informed me that this was their policy; there were no guidelines of any kind. The first time I met most of the other composition teachers was at the end-of-semester marking meeting, where our students’ final essays were passed around to other teachers. I was looking forward to that meeting, because I was very proud of what I’d done with the demoralized kids who’d been shunted into my “remedial” writing class. At first they’d looked shocked when I’d encouraged them to argue, with each other and the essays in the anthology, but by the end of the semester some of these mute jocks and ESL immigrants could analyze and respond to any of the bland persuasive essays in the book. I’m an idiot in all kinds of ways, but I can get students excited about writing. Now was my chance to show off a little in front of my seldomseen colleagues.
The meeting seemed like all the other marking meetings I’d attended until it was time to review my students’ grades. The elderly hippie assigned to review my courses seemed offended by something he’d seen in the essays. Not that he was going to say so; he wouldn’t even look at me, and kept leaning toward the professor who was running the program, tilting his head toward her as he talked. It hit me, finally, that this guy wanted to fail one of my best students. It made no sense. This student, a huge, inarticulate jock, had come into my course totally phobic about writing, and by the end of the semester he’d turned into a decent writer with a real knack for coming up with surprising but convincing theses. And his last essay, the one this hippie wanted to fail him for, was his best…