Letter: One-on-one writing is vital to RHS curriculum

To the Editor:

I am writing in support of the one-on-one writing conferences that are a vital part of the RHS English curriculum. I hope that the Board of Education will hold this curriculum harmless from any budget cuts.

Many have observed that good writing and clear thinking are one and the same, and the truth of this is plain to me. I see it every day in my work as a novelist, as I saw it in my previous career in banking and software, where writing ability was valued at a premium. If we believe clear thinking is essential to academic and career success (not to mention a functioning democracy), then writing instruction must be an educational priority.

In my experience, writing is best taught one-on-one. Communicating how to construct an argument — examining what makes it fail, succeed or soar — is work done by teacher and student one sentence at a time. It is through this painstaking process that rigor is demonstrated, and its techniques and habits transmitted. The one-on-one aspect of the work is particularly important to young people.  

Sharing one’s writing with a group is often daunting for young writers, who can be hobbled by anxiety and shyness. One-on-one teaching helps students over these hurdles, and makes possible the “Eureka” moments we hope our children will experience once or twice in their educations: the sort that can change how one thinks, and alter the trajectory of one’s life.

We’ve gotten writing instruction right at RHS. Beyond test scores and college acceptances, we can see this success in our children. I’ve seen it in mine, and in their classmates. They are a clear-thinking bunch: engaged, articulate and healthily skeptical. They’ve had their “Eureka” moments, and if the board preserves the writing conferences, future generations of RHS students will have theirs.

Peter Spiegelman

Norrans Ridge Drive, Feb. 13