Mary Verbout sent the following letter (response sent from redirected to Web page).

Dear Tommy,

I am also a college professor. I teach at a community college, so I have quite the variety of students. I have some really motivated re-entry students who have been out working at deadend jobs and grab onto college like it is a lifeboat.

But I also have a lot of students who are 18 years old, already know everything, and have the "I dare you to try to teach me anything" attitude. Since it is against school policy to administer a medicinal dope slap to these students, I find that I am part teacher, part stand up comic. I have to work really hard to getting them to relax so that they might accidentally learn something.

I'm really cogitating on your idea about starting with a problem. I think I'm just going to dream up a bunch of problems -- maybe make THEM dream them up -- and then see what will happen.

Thanks for the interesting dissertation.

p.s. -- please forgive any misspellings. I teach developmental English, and after a month of reading my students' papers, I lose the ability to spell.

If you have any suggestions about motivating developmental writing students -- ANYTHING -- I'll take it.

OH, I'll pass this on. A bumper sticker in CA:

I'm as confused as a baby in a topless bar.


Tom's response:

What is developmental writing? I know a couple of the world's greatest writing teachers (both from Brookline High School in Our Fair State -- MA). Should I pass on your note to them? Also, the key--as you figured out--is having the STUDENTS decide what the problems are. THEY have to be the ones interested in the problem--not you.

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