The Teacher, the Study, the Students
The idea for this book originated on the evening of September 11, 1989, when I attended the first meeting of the doctoral seminar in English education at New York University, the first course I had taken since receiving my master's degree in 1968. As I left the class that night, I felt excited to be a student again after 15 years as a teacher of developmental writing at the City University of New York. The requirements for the course seemed simple enough: Read a book a week and respond by writing a learning log, or journal, to be shared with the professor and a student partner. The reading list looked demanding but the learning logs would not be graded.
Not many weeks had passed before I realized that the type of writing elicited by these learning logs was different from anything I had produced before. The strong, clear voice that began to emerge in my learning logs seemed to have an opinion on just about everything and wasn't afraid to enter into dialogue and occasionally into disagreement with the likes of Louise Rosenblatt, Howard Gardner, and Jerome Bruner. Although this voice belonged to me, it surprised me with its intensity. It had remained steadfastly silent during my previous academic writing as an undergraduate and master's student in literature. Where did this voice come from? And what could I learn from listening to it?
When I tried to analyze how the learning logs were different from the many formal papers I had written previously, one obvious difference was that the logs were not graded or held up to some unreachable ideal. All my previous academic papers had been evaluated by the professor, who responded with a letter grade and a brief note, usually devoted to justifying the grade. Often, the grades I got on these papers seemed more a reflection