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No one expects the President of the United States to write his own speeches. He wants to get re-elected, so he uses the services of a ghost writer. Undoubtedly the President has some input, but the speech is still ghost written. Similarly, a student who wants to pass a class with a high grade, sometimes wants to hire the services of a tutor, one who may be short of money and is willing to be a ghost writer. When a student asks me to write his paper for him, I think about what he really needs, not the short term goals of a grade but the long term goal of mastery: the student is in a process of learning, and what will serve the learning most is for him to practice, to receive coaching, and to feel for himself the joy of accomplishment. Next time, or twenty times later, the student will be able to write independently, with satisfaction of a skill learned. Ideally, the student and teacher meet, at least a couple of times, to discuss the assignment, brainstorm ideas for it, get... read more

When you ask me to help you with study skills, here's what I will do for you: I will find out what you are curious about. I will find out what you already do well. I will find the places in your life, big or little, where you are already motivated, passionate, curious, amused, delighted. Where are you totally alive? That is our starting point. My goal is to transfer some of those skills and some of that emotional investment into the area of your studies. I will give you a deeper enjoyment of learning than you have had for a long time, ever since, perhaps, you were a kid poking into odd corners of life to find out what was there. Secondly, I will interview you in depth to find out your goals: where do you see yourself in 5 years? Where are you going? I have a variety of creative ways to draw that out of you. So now we are fueled up with the curiosity about learning, the pleasure of learning, and we have a map to where you want to go. And, when you make your first big success, I will... read more

May I introduce myself. My name is Michael S. I taught writing, grammar and literature at a community college for many years as a full-time instructor. I am now totally comfortable in front of a class. But how did I become so comfortable? I too was nervous in my first days of teaching. My hands would shake, I would sweat. I was afraid I would forget my train of thought in the middle, and there I was standing alone in the front. I was afraid I would say something embarrassing and they would laugh. What do I do with my hands!? But eventually I learned to connect with the listeners. I learned how to turn the adrenaline into excitement, not nervousness. I learned to enjoy the pauses, where they sit up and want more. I could relish the silences, feeling myself centering for the next idea that would come forth. I learned that making a mistake is part of the process; people can even love you for your mistakes. I wish the same for you. You could develop the confidence that... read more

In fifth grade it was spelling bees and the teacher's ruler on our outstretched hands when we would misbehave. The combination of competitive victory and escape of pain made me take an interest in the letters that make up words. I was not going to be defeated by the wildly unruly ways of spelling English words. Nor was I about to let anybody hit me, just because they were the authority. By eighth grade I had become more willingly the "good student." My grammar teacher used to walk up and down the aisles between our desks, and when someone would give the wrong answer, she would grab his ear and pull him up to his feet - by his ear! It would hurt (they don't let teachers do that anymore), and I wanted to learn grammar so she wouldn't pull my ear. So I did. Somehow I knew there was freedom, if I could just master this game of grammar. The next year I had a totally different teacher. She would invite us to write freely. She took an interest in our lives, our imagination... read more

Dear ESL student: Perhaps you would like my help to improve your English. You have learned to read and write English in your home country. Perhaps you have a solid foundation with a good knowledge of English grammar and vocabulary. I am guessing that you want to be able to speak more naturally and be understood easily in your daily life in America. I am guessing that you would like to "fit in," and enjoy the easy give and take of casual conversation. Is that so? I would like to help you achieve that. One aspect of this is what I call "fluency," that there is a flow in what you say, that the words seem part of a stream of ideas and feelings. I would like to help bring you closer to that flow of meaning, where we are listening less with our minds than our hearts and our imaginations. With your prior knowledge of grammar and with my help, you can think and speak more in phrases instead of individual words. The words begin to flow together. There are verb... read more

Students often come to us with expectations that we will teach them how to write and speak correctly. Why correctly? Because they know it produces rewards: money, jobs, status. Although the scientific linguist says that correctness is just based on the preferences of the cultural group with the most status, and has no intrinsic merit by itself, still the popular attitude has it right: Correctness works to help you get ahead. Similarly, poor spellers have a lid on their success (unless they are musicians or star athletes). Admittedly, there is little correlation of either correctness or spelling ability with heart, or character, or intelligence, or spiritual development. The real reason for correctness is that it works, in certain social and professional situations. It brings rewards. It is not more moral or beautiful by itself. Correct language is just what the power elite says is correct. You need to make a choice: would you like to achieve certain financial and social... read more

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