I can remember very little about the way writing was taught when I was in school. Teachers gave assignments and we tried to satisfy them. When we were done, we handed in the papers; later, the teacher handed them back with the grammatical errors marked and a letter grade penciled in at the end. The better teachers wrote some comments below the grade. By the time we saw these papers the class had moved on to something else, so few of us paid much attention to anything besides the grade. That had been recorded in the grade book; the assignment was over.
All that seemed very natural at the time, though now -- looking back on it as a teacher of writing -- it seems rather odd. Why was it that my teachers seemed to look on writing assignments more as tests than opportunities to learn something? Why was I left so much on my own, cudgeling my brains for things to write about? And why was I never (not until my dissertation!) asked to rewrite anything? I am not suggesting that my teachers were ineffective, for somehow along the way I learned something about writing. But I am struck by the fact that they hardly seemed to teach writing at all.
Nowadays, when I look around at English teachers whom I admire, I see something else going on. They are teaching another way, looking on students as real writers, alert to their purposes and needs.