Reading Student Writing by Lad Tobin. Confessions, Meditations, and
Reading Student Writing
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Reading Student Writing

Confessions, Meditations, and Rants

By Lad Tobin

    There is an exhilarating, go-for-broke quality in this book, a bravado or "attitude" that I don't think can be found in any other writing in the field. And I can think of no other scholar in Composition Studies who uses humor better than Tobin does, who cuts to the quick of an argument more effectively, who can so artistically both argue for and enact various forms of creative nonfiction. Reading Student Writing provides us with a valuable tool when we meet resistance, when we experience boredom and burnout, when our reaction to a student essay cannot be explained by rational and commonly accepted formalisms of composition assessment.
    —Thomas Newkirk, Author of The Performance of Self in Student Writing and Misreading Masculinity

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Full Description

    There is an exhilarating, go-for-broke quality in this book, a bravado or "attitude" that I don't think can be found in any other writing in the field. And I can think of no other scholar in Composition Studies who uses humor better than Tobin does, who cuts to the quick of an argument more effectively, who can so artistically both argue for and enact various forms of creative nonfiction. Reading Student Writing provides us with a valuable tool when we meet resistance, when we experience boredom and burnout, when our reaction to a student essay cannot be explained by rational and commonly accepted formalisms of composition assessment.
    —Thomas Newkirk, Author of The Performance of Self in Student Writing and Misreading Masculinity

Lad Tobin has a decidedly psychological take on life and a characteristically witty point of view on most subjects—especially his own writing and teaching. He also has a great deal of personal insight and story telling skill that make his books, articles, and presentations notable. In Reading Student Writing, he gets to the heart of teaching writing through a blend of humor, memoir, reflection, classroom examples, and student writing. While funny and irreverent, he tackles the serious and complex issues of how to read—really read—student writing and how to read ourselves as teachers.

He organizes his book around three main topics:

  • forms of student writing that we find particularly problematic
  • the ways in which our values, assumptions, and unconscious associations shape our readings of student writing
  • how our assessments of student writing are inseparable from our attitudes toward the discipline of composition as a whole.
But this broad outline barely scratches the surface of what Tobin achieves in his execution. He fills his chapters with stories that read like the best creative nonfiction. And he doesn't hesitate to take on controversial topics, what he calls facing "the elephant in the classroom," the issues we usually avoid—specifically reading and writing personal narratives, our love-hate relationship with emotion, our misplaced anxieties about confessional writing, and our struggles to be fair and unbiased readers.

In the end, Tobin opens up the world of writing, both student writing and teacher scholarship. He invites us into a place that thrives on dialogue, diversity, and hybridity, that is more flexible, nuanced, and realistic. He sets an example for reading our classrooms, for writing—or rewriting—ourselves.

Contents

Ackowledgments
Prologue: You’re Invited to Leave (But I’d Really Rather You Stayed)
Introduction: The Elephant in the Classroom
PART I: Reading Student Writing
1. How Many Writing Teachers Does It Take to Read a Student Essay?
2. Reading and Writing About Death, Disease, and Dysfunction, or How I Spend My Summer Vacations
3. Replacing the Carrot with the Couch: Reading Psychotherapeutically
4. Car Wrecks, Baseball Caps, and Man–to–Man Defense: The Personal Narratives of Adolescent Males
Part II: Reading Ourselves as Writing Teachers
5. Fear and Loathing of Fear and Loathing: Analyzing Our Love–Hate Relationship with Emotion
6. Referring Ourselves to the Counseling Center: Confronting Boredom and Burnout in the Teaching of Writing
7. Teach with a Fake ID
Part III: Slavery: Reading the Teaching of Writing
8. Reading Composition’s Misplaced Anxieties About Personal Writing
9. What We’re Walling In, What We’re Walling Out: Reading (and Rewriting) Our Own Bad Assignments
10. Reading Our Classrooms, Writing Our Selves
Works Cited

Samples