On the first day of all my classes, I usually tell students: “All good writing is really just rewriting.” No matter their backgrounds, experiences, or strengths as writers, all of my students revise their main essays in end-of-semester portfolios. This holds true whether I am teaching first-year writing, creative writing, upper-level composition theory and pedagogy, or literature.
Strong revision practices are at the heart of my pedagogy and my scholarship because I view the subjects I teach—reading and writing—as skills that students must master to be successful communicators beyond the task of a single assignment. And I believe that all writers have more to learn.
In both literature and writing courses, I push students to develop a growth mindset and to cultivate metacognition around reading and writing tasks so that they can ultimately transfer their skills to new contexts outside my classroom. Revision with metacognition in my classrooms means making students aware of their reading and writing choices through discussion and reflective writing. How students read and write is as important as what they write.
Reading and writing involve concrete action steps that can be adjusted. And deep revision—the kind I require—is not a game of shifting a few sentences to maximize points on an assignment or rereading quickly to adjust a key word. Revising in my classes often involves shifting writing to meet the needs of new audiences, or reworking prose in a different genre. Reseeing and redoing are acts of learning.
Using principles of universal design, I aim to create equitable classroom contexts that allow for multiple attempts at doing and redoing, normalizing the idea that getting it wrong often happens many times before we get it right. In my classes, I ask my students to explore (and challenge) what getting it right really means—and how structural injustices and cultural assumptions influence how we see strong academic writing.