My first teaching job many years ago was at a high school just outside San Jose, California. I taught six writing classes and monitored the rest rooms during lunch hours while trying to understand why my students couldn't write. In spite of my English degree and credential, nothing I did seemed to help, perhaps because I really had not been prepared to teach writing. It just wasn't part of the education curriculum in those days. Overwhelmed by how much I didn't know, I began reading everything I could about teaching writing, which wasn't much because there wasn't much available.
Over the next decade, that situation changed. Rhetoric and composition emerged as a field of study, and eventually I completed a PhD in that field. My first university position was at UCLA, where I was asked to teach, among other things, a class in composition theory and methods for young people seeking their teaching credentials. This course determined the direction of my career, and I have been training teachers, with only a few interruptions, ever since. That summer, I reflected on my experiences as a teacher and began planning the course. I quickly realized that most of the materials I had used for my graduate work were inappropriate for prospective elementary and high school teachers, and I started looking for a text or two that covered all the topics that I thought were important for these students. A couple of titles looked promising until I reviewed them. They were either too deep or too shallow. I finally resorted to profligate photocopying, putting together a “course pack” that was expensive and hard to use.
By the end of my first year at UCLA, I decided that I would write my own book that would include all the topics and information that beginning teachers need if they are going to teach writing effectively. Pre-