Professor / English
"Life happens. But, whatever comes your way. Don't give up. It's your life, your education, and that means it's your responsibility."
How do you help students develop more confidence in their writing skills?
I'm honest with students about my own struggles as a writer- both when I was a student and even now. I often tell students about an experience I had in 6th grade when I was put into "remedial writing" and had to leave class with several other students to learn about writing while the rest of the class got to watch movies. Then, in junior high, I failed my 7th grade English class because I refused to turn any work in. It wasn't that I didn't want to do the work- I did complete all of it- it was that I didn't have the confidence to turn it in. My experience the previous year made me so uncertain about my abilities as a writer, that I didn't want to take the risk of letting someone else read it. Fast forward twenty-something years, and here I am, a college English professor, and I still feel that lack of confidence almost every time I have a writing task. An email, a poem, a writing assignment prompt- all of these still require several drafts before I'm comfortable sharing them. I won't even tell you how many times I rewrote my answers to these questions!
My philosophy is that there is little I can really do to help students develop confidence except to show them, by example, that writing is difficult for everyone. Beyond that, all I can do is offer honest feedback.
What advice would you give to a new college student?
Don't give up. I failed or dropped 3 out of my first 4 college classes when I started as a student at American River College. It was my fault completely- I took on too much, and I didn't devote the time I should have to the courses. That, and life happened! I had other priorities, and school had to take a back seat. I almost didn't come back to school, but I finally decided to give it one more shot. Thank God I did.
I know my story isn't typical of many college students, but all of us deal with outside pressures- family, work, etc.- and school, though it's important to us, can't always be our number one priority. My advice: give yourself permission to make other things your priority. That might mean you earn a C on a paper because you had to make a cake for your child's birthday. Or you didn't do well on a test because you had to work overtime to pay your rent. Life happens. But, whatever comes your way. Don't give up. It's your life, your education, and that means it's your responsibility.
What's the favorite part of your job?
Making connections with people I would otherwise never get a chance to meet. Think about it, every semester, I'm surrounded by hundreds of new students. I can only think of a handful of them over my 7 years of teaching that I would have taken the time to get to know if they hadn't enrolled in one of my classes. And, more times than not, I'm so glad to have made their acquaintance.
What was your proudest moment working with students?
My proudest moment happens every time I see students at the beginning of the semester who have little or no confidence in their writing, but, by the end of the semester, they recognize that their words have value. Most people aren't what I would call "good writers," but most everyone can produce a "good" paper, at least sometimes.
Also, can you include a list of any awards you may have won or published papers you have authored.
My creative work has appeared in ZYZZYVA, Fugue, Poetry Now, Calaveras Station, The American River Review, and other journals. I won a number of awards when I was a student, including a Bazzanella Award from Sacramento State.
Tina Royer has her B.A. and M.A. from CSU, Sacramento.
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