So what does a good writing teacher look like? If you talk to the experts, they are likely to tell you that you have a better chance of landing a good writing teacher in elementary school, less of a chance in middle school, even less in high school and least in colleges and universities (and don't get me started on graduate and professional schools).
Don't take it from me. Listen to Derek Bok , former president of Harvard University, in his recent study " Our Underachieving Colleges ."
"Real proficiency," writes Bok, "requires sustained practice … . Undergraduates will never learn to write with clarity, precision, and grace unless they have repeated opportunities to keep on writing and get prompt feedback from the faculty."
While some college writing programs are outstanding, writes Bok, "the field as a whole suffers from widespread neglect."
So what is a student to do? Here is a checklist of behaviors practiced by the best teachers I know. I learned them from some of the nation's greatest writing teachers, the likes of Donald Murray, Donald Graves, Lucy Calkins, James Slevin and many others. Feel free to examine these standards, discuss them with other students and share your opinions with parents and teachers.
The best writing teachers:
Ask students for documentation. If a student’s work raises suspicions, talk with him or her about your concerns. Ask students to show you their in-process work (such as sources, summaries, and drafts) and walk you through their research process, describing how it led to the production of their draft. If they are unable to do this, discuss with them the consequences of plagiarism described in your syllabus (and, perhaps, by your institution). If you have talked with a student and want to pursue your own investigation of his or her work, turn to sources that the student is likely to have used and look for evidence of replication.