A Guiding Hand

A group of aspiring secondary English teachers from Rider earned some valuable experience this semester through a neighborly and educational writing partnership between the University and freshmen from nearby Notre Dame High School.
Thursday, December 15, 2011

Some Secondary Education majors from Rider got a firsthand look at what it will be like in the classroom editing their own students’ papers.

For the second year in a row, the Rider students, who plan to teach English after graduating, got to work with 9th graders at Notre Dame High School in Lawrence, revising and editing their writing, through a partnership program between the two institutions.

The Notre Dame students wrote three pieces: a narrative, a poem and an “I Believe” essay, over the course of the semester, and were identified simply by number. Each piece was sent back and forth between the high school and the University. Once Rider students edited the work, Notre Dame students would revise and return it, continuing until each piece was final. Both sets of students were finally able to meet each other on Monday December 12.

Dr. Kathleen Pierce, associate professor in the School of Education, and Mari Ann Blemings, an English teacher at Notre Dame, began the program last year after deciding it would be a good way for their students to gain professional development.

“We came up with this idea that we would have my students write, and the Rider students would revise and edit, but there would be no grading involved,” Blemings said.

The program also gave Rider students a chance to get a look at students’ writing firsthand instead of seeing it in a textbook, according to Blemings.

Pierce said this will help her students when they go into student teaching, which most of them will do in the spring.

Mary Ann Liptak, chair of the English and World Language department at the high school, said she thinks it’s an excellent program.

“I think that this program is just a wonderful opportunity,” she said. “It’s very affirming. Our students get to be critiqued by an outside source and it just makes them better.”

Kelly Fleagle ’12, a Secondary Education and English major, said it was fun to see the students’ writing develop over the semester.

“They’re just learning,” she said. “It was definitely different not being able to talk to them. Sometimes I just wanted to be able to explain something to them face-to-face, but we had to learn how to explain it through writing.”

Stephanie Seymour ’12, also a Secondary Education and English major, said the opportunity gave her a hands-on chance to see what kinds of things will be appropriate to say to her future students.

“I’m always nervous thinking ahead about what I’m going to say to students,” she said. “How am I going to critique them and how I’m going to help them.”

Sarah Levandowski ’12, a third Secondary Education and English major, also said she liked witnessing the growth in the students.

“To see how much they grew over one semester, just in their writing, was really cool,” she said. “It kind of taught us how to be concise in helping students, not spending a lot of time on any one problem, and how to tackle the overall feeling of their writing instead of just little things.” 

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Secondary Education majors had the chance to work with some freshmen from Notre Dame H.S. on their writing this semester.