Tuesday, April 26, 2011

How Has the Writing Project Influenced You?  
A narrative response from Jim Schafer

For this edition of eMuse, we asked for your narratives about the writing project – a brief narrative that would show how the EMWP has impacted you. Please enjoy the narrative below from Jim Schafer, TC 2004:

My involvement with the Eastern Michigan Writing Project, including my training as a Teacher Consultant at the 2004 Summer Institute, has had a profound impact on my teaching over the years. This semester, I have an older ex-Marine who enrolled in college because the place where he was working went bankrupt. At first, he had a really negative attitude and was quite difficult to deal with, but as I used my EMWP training to try and understand him as a person and to encourage him to write about what he was interested in, he gradually relaxed.

I must admit that at first, the task of working with him was rather time-consuming, but as my relationship with him evolved, his writing about remodeling his home and getting his boat out of winter storage has proven to be quite interesting. I also learned that his negative attitude was out of his fear of not doing well, but now that attitude is not necessary because he's developing some very competent writing skills.
All this was possible because of what I have learned from my training and involvement with the Writing Project.
I've taken the student's name off this message, but the help that she mentions receiving from me was the direct result of my involvement with the Writing Project. I remember this student, and when she says she was "scared to death", that was quite literally true. But she overcame that as she persisted in her struggle to master the craft of writing.

-----Original Message-----

Hi Professor!

I'm not sure if you will remember me, but I was in your Fall Semester class of English 119. I was scared to death to take your class because I have not been in school for 30 years. I did not have the confidence to write a letter properly let alone a report or essay. Anyway whether you remember me or not, I just wanted to tell you, "Thank you" so much for everything that you did for me in the English class. I know it is just a beginner's course, but you helped me with my confidence and proper structure for writing a
paper so much, I just can not tell you thanks enough.

I have had to write a few reports for some of my classes but never a full blown essay yet. Anyway, for this one class I had to write a detailed summary, a detailed report, and a full blown essay. I received 100% out of 100% on my project, and I owe it all to you. If you did not make me write my paper on Restless Leg Syndrome that I gave to you, I would have never, ever had been able to do the great job on this project. Doing that essay and you reviewing it with me till I got the structure down properly made it so easy for me to write those papers for this class. This grade for this project was a big portion of my grade, and my teacher even commented to me on how well written the paper was, and that the presentation and structure were "Awesome."

I just wanted to tell you because you should know what an impact you have on us students. You are an awesome teacher.

Thank you for sharing this, Jim! We would welcome anyone else’s narrative about the writing project to be included in upcoming editions of eMuse!


Bill said...


This is just the kind of story that shows the lasting impact of the Writing Project. Thanks for sharing it. The letter from your former student is a wonderful testimony to your care and involvement as a teacher.

Bill Tucker

Jim said...

Thank you, but the way I teach reflects the wise and careful guidance that I have received from my EMWP collegues, including you, Rebecca Sipe, Doug Baker, and Cathy Fleischer. There are so many in our community that I cannot even name them all.
The current funding challenges in education caused by the political turmoil at the local, state, and federal levels are difficult enough, but my own concern has always been for the heart-wrenching impact on my students as they struggle to develop the skills that they need so they can survive. Somehow we must all still do our work and hope for a better future. In the meantime, we can create a sense of peace within our own teaching space and hope that it helps our students find their voices and use them.