Teaching required courses at either the high school or college level is often a thankless job.
The classes are usually large.
Student interest is usually modest, as in “I hate [subject goes here].”
Often the course content is prescribed to fit the administration’s desire to make the required course serve the rest of the institution.
At the high school level, required courses are often assigned to the less experienced teachers, as if teaching required courses demands less practice than teaching electives.
At the college level, required courses often are taught by adjuncts who lack resources — time, supportive colleagues, professional development, office space — to teach as well as they’d like.
All those negatives were on my mind when I decided to create a new website, PenPrompts.
PenPrompts is now live.
Many readers of this blog knew me when I operated a website called you-can-teach-writing.com, a website for people who teach writing to teens and adults. PenPrompts recycles a small part of that content for a different audience.
PenPrompts is designed for teachers who are looking for help teaching high school or college required courses. On the PenPrompts site, I call these folks liberal arts teachers, which isn’t entirely accurate but serves to distinguish them from teachers of career-specific courses.
Liberal arts teachers’ general education courses are supposed to teach “every student” about something, such as art, rather than to teach a few students to be something, such as an artist.
Regardless of what subjects these liberal arts teachers teach, their central task is to help students develop the knowledge and skills for thinking critically and for continuing to learn after their exit from formal education. They use their subject as a tool for accomplishing that task.
If they help a few students discover they are interested in the course subject as a career or avocation, that’s a like getting a free upgrade to the Ritz-Carlton from Motel 6.
PenPrompts’ mission is to help those teachers do their job.
The solution I propose to help these teachers fill their supporting role well is instructor-crafted expository writing prompts that:
- Ask students to explain something in writing, and
- Include all the information students need to start and to finish writing, having meet all the requirements.
In preparing PenPrompts, I envision its users as classroom veterans — most visitors to my old site had 15 or more years’ teaching experience — who are unhappy with the results they are getting but remain convinced that students need to have a basic understanding of their discipline.
I’ve tried to provide teachers with the least information they need to know to craft and deploy writing prompts.
I haven’t figured out how to get submissions to the newsletter signup to populate the subscriber list automatically, but the contact form works, so if you visit the site you can say hello.