“Persuasive writing is the most important thing you can teach your students.” This was not necessarily the answer I was expecting to hear when asking a former Dublin student, turned scientist, turned Stanford University president, turned editor of Science Magazine, what we should be teaching our students at Dublin School. For Dr. Donald Kennedy, Dublin teacher Bill North taught writing in such a powerful way that he carried his lessons with him throughout his career. Dr. Kennedy read many manuscripts as a professor and as a magazine editor and was shocked by how many smart people struggled to communicate their great ideas in writing.
While Dublin is increasing its focus on programming, robotics, science and math, what I have termed PRSM (I am getting a little tired of all the STEM and STEAM talk!), our teachers at Dublin fortunately spend a great deal of time working with their students on writing. Last week I met with new English Department Chair Alicia Hammond and heard about all the exciting ways her department is teaching and learning about writing. From a class Twitter account, to assignments that focus on sentences and paragraphs, to the development of larger essays, they are fine-tuning their process for building the writing skills of our students. I particularly like how they are assigning readings to match the kind of writing they would like to see from their students. I remember hearing about how Malcolm Gladwell read one hundred New Yorker essays after he was asked to write one himself--he wanted to learn from others. What a simple concept.
I have also been thrilled to see Learning Skills tutor Shelly Farrell develop our Writing Center. Student writers are trained to help other students with their papers and essays and take turns running the Center after dinner during the week. Yes, they help other students, but they would be the first to tell you how much their own writing is improving as they work to build the skills of others. So, what is the lesson? Read the style of writing you wish to emulate, write, and when you get a chance, help others with their writing. Are you persuaded?