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Humanising Language Teaching
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Humanising Language Teaching

From the author
My Mom is always the number 1. Thanks for being a great mother. Two men helped me feel the pride of success. Thanks to my father and my husband. The text was inspired by Dr Claude Hurlbert.

Through the Eyes of a Writer: A Journey of Learning, Discovering, and Transforming: Part 3

Entisar Elsherif, Libya

Entisar Elsherif comes from Libya. She is currently a doctoral candidate at the Composition and TESOL program at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, US. She is almost completing her coursework, almost an ABD. E-mail:

“Dedicated to all second language writers, especially Libyan ladies, who fought for their lives, their existence, and for the taste of success.”


Living war and taking tests
My journey of poetry writing: self-discovery
Writing a book review
Writing a foreword

Living war and taking tests

To be honest, I was dying to go to the UK and study there again. I wasn’t thinking of any other country especially after I got accepted from four highly accredited universities. When I was forced by the Libyan ministry to choose USA as the country of study, I was shocked by the fact that I had to take the GRE test along with IELTS/TOEFL. Since I was in Libya, I tried to understand this test. GRE is the abbreviation for Graduate Record Examination. This test is one of most of the US universities’ requirements for PhD programs. Since there were two different kinds of GRE, GRE General Test and GRE Subject Test, I needed to understand which one was required by the programs that I decided to apply to. After a while, I found out that I had to take the GRE General Test. It was supposed to measure my verbal, analytical, and quantitative skills.

When I took the enrolment test at the English Language Center (ELC) in Denver, my score showed that I was higher than their highest level. After attending several classes, I decided to leave ELC and register in a GRE test preparation course because of my high scores in the test. At that time, my priority was to be prepared for the GRE. Thus, I was transferred to Bridge to prepare for the GRE test. After a few weeks, I was advised to register for the test and I did it online.

My First and Final GRE Test

The test was on the 8th of April 2011. It was a warm day. That bright sun in the sky did not brighten my day. On that day, it had been nearly two months from the start of the opposition. On the 17th of February, Libyans in Benghazi had protested peacefully, asking for a better Life. But Qaddafi, as usual, had decided to kill whoever spoke against him. He had sent mercenaries to kill people. Watching videos on YouTube were scary. Women were screaming for their lives while they were attacked by those mercenaries. For some reason, I was able to relate to their fear and pain. It was clear that those women and children’s lives did not matter as long as they spoke against him. After that, the second day, the up-rise became all over Libya.

That month, Qaddafi continued to bombard Misrata. Children were being killed while playing in front of their houses. Women were being kidnapped, raped, killed, or left naked in the trash bins. Many burnt bodies were found. Since the 19th of March, 2011, air strikes against the Libyan regime were performed by NATO. NATO’s attacks were heavy on Libya’s military. One of the attacks killed a group of the Libyan freedom fighters which made me scared to death. What if they bombed my parents’ house by mistake? They were bombing Tajoura as it was surrounded by places filled with the regime’s military and weapons. At that time, nothing was certain.

Our sponsor kept sending us emails that made our misery worse than it was. The 4th of April, 2013, update made me more worried about our status. Some of the sentences were in bold just to make me more anxious. These words said: “we still only have enough money to pay the April and May MLA, health insurance until May 31, as well as tuition fees for the current academic term.” I anticipated that we were going to face more trouble. All Libyan students were living hell at that time. They were neither sure about their country’s future, nor about theirs. Staying in the US with no funds meant starvation and homelessness.

I had promised myself not to watch the news on the test day. But, without awareness, as usual, as soon as I woke up from a three hour sleep I got to my PC and started checking the news about my country. I was shaking like a leaf after watching a video of people who were killed in a barbaric way. Then, I found Sandy’s (pseudonym) email, which was informing me what she heard that IUP and all the US universities knew about our scholarship’s conflict and we might not be able to get acceptance from IUP or any US university because of our country’s situation. She was worried and reflected my worries. Our concerns were similar, and our dream was threatened. So far, we had worked hard to realize our dreams, get our degrees and go back to our country. We were in danger of not achieving our goals, and we felt a deep sense of helplessness and hopelessness. Our worries about going back, worries about ourselves and our families were also similar. What would happen to our husbands? What would happen to our sons? And for me loads of other worries were making me restless. What if they kill us? What if they rape us? What if they force my husband and sons to fight for this murderer? Those questions were hanging in there, in my mind, without answers sending fearful messages to my body. They had the effect of being struck by electricity; you can’t think of a way of getting out, yet you cannot bear the pain.

I didn’t want to go to the test but I had to. I had paid for it and my sponsors knew that I was taking the test this day. They didn’t understand, and I don’t think they wanted to. They weren’t able to understand that we were living through hell due to our fear about our families. They were pushing us to keep our progress without noticing that our entire world was cracking! We didn’t know what was going on there and how this conflict was going to end. I was so worried about my families, relatives, neighbors and friends. Stories of brutal rape and killings made me pray every minute not to hear similar stories about anyone I knew.

That grim day, I was supposed to take the GRE test and get a high score that would enable me to get acceptance letters from any of the US universities. I wasn’t able to prepare for the test. I couldn’t force myself. What was going in my mind was: “I’m dead.” Saif, Qaddafi’s son, was threatening that he was going to destroy all Libyan students’ lives by stopping their scholarships and their monthly allowances. He was threatening us with being homeless and having no Libyan identity. The US government was suspicious about the Libyan students’ status and Qaddafi’s speech about having sent people to destroy anyone against him made the situation worse. What’s more, there was a car explosion somewhere in Colorado that pointed fingers to Libyan students as being terrorists.

I felt like my body did not belong to me. I didn’t know how I prepared myself to go out. I cannot remember what I was wearing. I was shaking all the way. My husband encouraged me and told me to forget about everything and take the test, do my best. I didn’t listen as he talked, instead, I silently thought: “how on earth am I going to do that?” He continued to explain to me how to get to the building where I was going to take the test. I was lost in my own thoughts, looking at a distance. Nothing was clear to me. I only caught his gestures and nothing more. Nonverbal communication was more successful than words in that situation.

Immediately he left me in front of the parking of Community College of Denver, I asked myself: “where do I go?” I then remembered his hand’s movement gesturing how I first I had to go straight and then turn to the right. I decided to do that. Although I knew that I was in the wrong building, there was no one to help me. Suddenly, someone came. Do you know that feeling of praying to God to send you someone to help you and suddenly you feel that God has answered your prayers? That was my feeling at that moment. I approached the man telling him politely that I was going to take the GRE test and that I was lost. I asked him whether he minded showing me where to go. He was willing to assist me. He told me that he had a lecture but he could take me first. I was astonished how a Doctor, a university professor, would take time to take me personally to the building saying that: “People always get lost because the buildings are attached to each other.” As he was taking me through the building he asked me why I was taking the test and wished me good luck. I was thinking how lucky his students were. Such a friendly teacher, no doubt, has a friendly classroom environment that would make the students want to achieve what they thought as unachievable, “mission impossible.” When we reached the building, after crossing many halls and doors, somehow like getting through a maze, we were in front of a tall building. He pointed to the building and left, wishing me good luck.

Because I’m not good at following directions I got lost in that building, too. I was on the right floor, the third floor. But, there was no sign of the right room. I felt as if I was in a trap. Then I heard a lady ask me, “Are you ok?” her smile brought me relief. I told her that I needed to take the test and she took me to the right place. When I got there, I found two Americans waiting to take tests that people who want to be teachers take. I forgot what it was called. They noticed how nervous I was and tried to calm me down. They thought I was nervous because of the test since they did not know about my country’s conflict. The registrar left us with some papers to fill out. As soon as we completed, the first lady went inside to take her test. I got more worried. The man who was sitting near me noticed what I was going through and said: “Calm down, take a deep breath. You’ll be fine, don’t worry.” I was thinking; “I’m lucky today. All the people I met were nice to me.” I didn’t know that the hardest part was still to come. The procedure before the test made me even more afraid than before. I could not understand why I wasn’t allowed to take anything inside, even the candy I had brought to help me calm down.

I couldn’t resist thinking about my families and whether they had been killed or whether something bad had happened to them. I hadn’t been able to reach them. There was no internet connection. No cell phones. No landlines. I thought that it was unfair for me to be taking the test that day, but I went into the glassed room and sat in front of the PC. A lady was explaining something, but I could not understand what I wasn’t able to hear. I shook my head not knowing for what reason, and then I started the test. At that moment, the whole universe stopped. It was like being deaf. No sounds. I can’t even remember the topics. If you ask me about the first IELTS test I took in the UK or the second one that I took before the up-rise, I can tell you exactly what I did. But, this test was a mess because I wasn’t there. My body was in front of the PC screen; my hands were clicking the keyboard or the mouse. But, my existence was back in my house, in front of my own PC, watching the news and trying to get to my family members. I was trying to do my best. But, it was so difficult to concentrate on the questions while my mind was in Libya. Time went fast, as usual. Whenever you think you need more time, it ends without a warning. By the time I finished the test, I felt like I was going to explode. When I went out, the cold air hit my burning face and seemed to cool what was burning me inside.

When I wrote a poem about this experience, I lived all this again. Even now, when I’m telling you my story, I feel the burning tears fall through my cheeks. After living the uprise in my country and seeing how my people were killed just because they wanted a better life, I appreciate the moment that I decided to write about those feeling. One day, when my memories are hard to be reconstructed, this poem will be the evidence that is left. I might be able to tell one of my grand-children that I wasn’t in my country. I wasn’t able to fight for freedom, to protect those innocent people who died, but at that time, I also lived through a different kind of fight.

Now that I’m evaluating this experience as a learner, I know that I came across different barriers that hindered my success in scoring high in the GRE test. They weren’t language learning barriers. They were learning barriers that I faced while preparing for the GRE test. These obstacles were a result of Libya’s unrest. Stress, depression, uncertainty, and feeling unsafe, had made me lack motivation during preparation for the test. I also found difficulty in memorizing vocabulary and remembering what I had already memorized. This made me conclude that students’ moral and emotional stability play a great role in their learning. Students’ countries’ political instability inhibits their learning as well. Finally, as a teacher, I’m sure now that lack of confidence has a major influence on learners. This further hampers their improvement and can become a great burden.

GRE, My Nightmare

My country is living hell
        People are being killed
        Nothing heard about my family
And I’m here..
        Sitting in front of the computer
        Looking at the screen..
        Trying to understand
                                                What’s the point?
I have to answer
The timer is running.. Really fast
I read again
My mind is busy.. Not with the question
        With Libya’s conflict..
                        The horrifying news
But, I have to concentrate
        I have to take the test
Why GRE? I kept asking myself
Clicking on the choices without concentration
        Just to get it done..
I didn’t know what I was doing
        Until the cold air slapped my face
        I realized the test was over
That moment,
        I felt the burns of tears
        Cried without tears.

My journey of poetry writing: self-discovery

In Fall 2011, during the first semester of my PhD studies at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP), I took three courses. One of these courses was Second Language Literacy. It was on Wednesdays from 5:15pm to 8:00 pm. Dr David Hanauer taught the course. He is known as the toughest professor but the most knowledgeable. Believe me, in the first days of his class, you’ll feel as if you were as small as an insect, knowing nothing, even what you thought you knew. As a result, you might lose some of your confidence. Don’t panic and drop the course. As he progresses in building the course’s foundations, you’ll notice how you grow academically. You’ll start to appreciate him and enjoy the class by the fourth lecture. All those fears of not knowing the field would eventually evaporate by his love to help his students learn. As a result of his passion for teaching, you’ll learn how to write publishable papers.

As one of the course’s requirements, we were supposed to write 20 poems. This made me live a new literacy experience that had a significant role in my life. Writing about my experience through writing poetry in English was a way of turning a precious moment into a life memory. This book I’m writing in Dr Hurlbert’s class will help me memorize and record this moment in my life, my history, to be able to ‘reconstruct’ it one day in the future. My ‘memory reconstruction’ at that time will be successful because of this book. I would like to see my parents reading this as well. They were the first people who taught me the value of creative writing.

My first poem / Write a Poem

During one class, Dr Hanauer was helping us explore the glories of the field as his every lecture would be. He told us how Dr Patrick Bizzaro considered the type of poetry Dr Hanauer taught us as ‘academic poetry.’ At that time, I didn’t know who Dr Bizzaro was. All I knew was that he was one of our department’s praised faculty. But, what Dr Hanauer said made me so grateful to Dr Bizzaro and so excited. “Academic poetry”. Yes. “Academic”. This was the magic word. Yes it was. It took me from the lost island to the land of discovery. “Why didn’t I think about this mission as an academic assignment?” I questioned myself. Deep inside, I felt a sigh of relief. Before hearing this expression, I was struggling to write. All I was thinking about was “how could I write poetry in a second language!” Since I used to read and write poetry in Arabic and read poetry in English, I knew what poetry is.

I heard a rigorous voice from deep within, saying: “Listen Entisar. This is poetry that you’re talking about, being creative, playing with words, figurative language, rhyming. You write poetry in English! How come! You failed an academic assignment. You got a B. come on. Be real.” I was in despair. I was sure that I cannot write poetry in English.

The blank white papers were in front of me. I was sitting there, staring at the blank papers and waiting for an inspiration to strike, what we call “ilhamالهام” in Arabic. Silly me. I was waiting for the magic fairy to come and write those poems for me. It did not happen.

When I thought of writing “academic poetry,” I don’t know what happened. Instead of seeing the poet’s fairy, I visualized Dr Hanauer. I could see him standing near the platform. Behind him was his eye-catching PowerPoint, with his smile that scared me many times and made me wonder about its meaning to others. His smile was behind the first two lines of my first poem in English. As soon as I forgot about how I was not able to be poetic, I found that I was able to write.

Smiling, he says

“Write 10 poems.”

The memory itself made me live the same experience again and again. I felt cold, as if an earthquake was active at the same moment. He smiled and said that we were going to write ten poems for our first paper. I found myself looking at the dictionary. I was looking for a word that would describe what I had been through. At that moment, I was writing my poem mentally, and in Arabic, like I used to do when I wrote poems in Arabic. I wasn’t thinking in English. The poem was already constructed in Arabic in my mind. Unconsciously (or is it consciously?), I was also writing it in English. So, it was like instant translation. The final product was rewarding and satisfactory. I was so happy with my first poem.

Write a poem

Smiling, he says
        “Write 20 poems”
Perplexed.. Howled with pain
        What! Write a poem!
Deep inside
I could hear…
                        Screams and cries
I could feel…
                        Earthquakes and burning fires
How on earth?
I couldn’t in Arabic!
How come in English?
        Never read ones.. Never tried once
A voice from my youth urged…
Thought about it..
                Once.. Twice.. All the week
Matters were settled
        “Speak your mind”
        You might end up with a poem.

My second poem / Birth

I remember myself sneaking into my father’s office, secretly reading his handwritten poems. I used to ask my mom “Why would you keep them for him when you know they weren’t about you? He wrote them about another woman!” She would reply by simply saying: “I respect the birth of words as I respected your birth. You should learn to admire how people write no matter what they write about.” She described the process of generating ideas and then writing with pregnancy and delivery. This was the idea behind my second poem. My mom kept dad’s notebooks that included his poems until he decided to burn them himself one day.

I don’t know if he knew that I read those poems or not. But that day, when I didn’t find that notebook, I felt sorry and blamed myself for not saving every page of that notebook. I couldn’t.

As parents usually do, they destroyed those poems secretly. I missed the joy of reading those poems since that day.

So, I decided to try and write another poem. This time, I decided to write about how I wrote the first one. It was about how I felt while looking at those white papers the first day. I love blank papers. I love writing on blank papers, especially white blank papers. When I used to write my poems and stories in Arabic and I was forced to write on lined papers, I used to write between the lines. At that time computers weren’t even in our dreams. All my teachers and editors of the newspapers and magazines I used to contact to publish my work commented on that. Those lines were like borders. They made me feel like I was being forced to follow something, like being in a prison. I hated the line! So, I broke the rules and wrote between the lines, even during exams. They said that I wanted to be different. But for me, it was having freedom of speech and expression.

While I was writing the new poem, I went through the same experience I had in the first one. I was thinking in Arabic. Exactly the same way as I wrote the poems that I used to publish in Libyan newspapers. Now that I have finished a paper about research on using L1 while writing in L2, and writing about my experience of writing poetry in English, I am convinced that we should not look at L1 use negatively. But, we should consider teaching our students how to take advantage of having two or more languages, having the ability to think in two languages. Code-switching while speaking and language-switching while writing are benefits for second language learners and users. No one can deny that.

What amazed me in the second trial of writing poetry in English is that I didn’t experience the urge to use the dictionary or thesaurus. I was writing this poem with self-confidence that I knew what to do and I could do it.


Blank, white papers daring me
Shivering, I resort to my dictionary
Firmly, I cling to my thesaurus
        Looking for something
        That’s hiding here or there
        A thought, a feeling, a word, an expression
My mind is busy like a bank
        Rhyme or not rhyme
        Style or not style
        Look up a word…
        Make up a sentence
A shout from inside resembles
        The pain of labor
        The excitement of delivery
There it goes…
        The birth of my first poem

Writing the rest of the poems

After those two poems, the ideas of the poems and how to write them became clear. It was not as difficult as I had thought. I made a list of suggestions, what might be relevant to the assignment, and wrote the poems. It was a process that made me exhausted but satisfied. However, I still think that writing 20 poems in one week is not as easy as it might seem.

Then we met in class. Dr Hanauer asked us to divide ourselves into pairs and show each other our poems. I showed some of the poems to Anyango. She praised them and gave me advice on how to make them better. Before the end of the class she chose three that she thought would fit the assignment perfectly. After that we were asked to meet in groups to choose ten out of twenty that would fit the criteria that Dr Hanauer specified. The evaluation criteria were as follows:

  • “Descriptive Ability: the poem directs the reader to understand and feel the described moment of experience.
  • Imagery: the poem used basic described imagery and not empty description (telling) to describe the experience.
  • Accuracy: the poem accurately recreates the writer’s memory of the experience.
  • Emotionally: the poem produces in the reader an emotional response to the experience.
  • Beauty: the poem uses language and form in a way that is beautiful” (D. Hanauer, personal communication, 2011).

So, choosing ten poems was not that difficult since we met as groups and discussed which of the poems met those points. After that we were asked to write the analytical stage. This was the toughest. We were asked to conduct content and literary analysis. It wasn’t an easy stage since I was looking at my own poems. So, I asked Lilian Mina, an Egyptian PhD student, to meet with me, and I asked her to analyze the poems. It was amazing how her descriptions fit all what I felt. She didn’t know me before. What she knew about me was nothing in relation to what she said when she was analyzing those poems. It was an exceptional experience indeed. I wish I recorded those two hours.

The final stage was writing the paper. Honestly, it was not an easy task. I always asked myself why I didn’t see what Dr Hanauer saw in my poems. What I saw was my anxiety and frustration. What I didn’t see was that my language learning experience was in three age periods and differed during these periods. In each age period, English learning was a different experience. Reading and writing in English differed during my childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Now, I know what went wrong in my analytical stage.

If you ask me: “Are you willing to write poetry in English again?” My answer would be: “Honestly, I don’t know. I might write it for another class or to try to convince myself that I did it once and I can do it again. For now, I’m satisfied with what I’ve done.” Reading those 20 poems will always inspire and encourage me to write and be more expressive.

Writing a book review

One of the Theories of Composition course requirements was to write a book review. The review would tell our classmates about the book we had read and discuss our understanding of the content. This requirement was entitled “Book Club”. Dr. Hurlbert gave us a list of books to choose from. Each one of us was required to read the whole book and write a review then talk about it in class. Writing a book review was a new experience for me. But for some reason it was not as difficult as the other writing assignments always seemed to be.

I started dealing with this requirement by reading about how to write a book review and reading samples of book reviews. Then I started a search for any reviews that were written about the book I had chosen. There was only one review but it helped me see my own review. What I learned from this experience is that you’ll never know how to write a book review until you read the book, it is only then that ideas will eventually start coming.

When I finished reading the book, I started writing my review. I didn’t notice that I had written three pages until I decided to print it out. I didn’t expect to write as much as I had written. As the assignment was to write a two-page review I started deleting many parts to meet the course requirements. I’ve always followed Sharon’s advice: “Always meet the course requirements.” Now I wish I kept a copy of the three papers review. This is what I wrote:

Lad Tobin’s (1993) book, entitled Writing Relationships: What Really Happens in the Composition Classroom, discusses the interpersonal relationships that happen in a composition classroom during everyday interactions.

The book starts with a really eye-catching sentence in the acknowledgements. I would like to begin my review with this sentence because I believe it summarizes the writer’s real experience with writing. He states that “People write most successfully when they enjoy supportive and stimulating relationships with teachers and peers” (p. vii). Looking back at my experience as a student writer, I believe it demonstrates the assistance and inspiration that I experienced while working with my teachers and my peers as they helped me develop effective expressive writing. In fact, this statement exemplifies my experience while writing my papers in this program, too. Constructive teacher feedback and successful peer discussions helped me become a better writer. In brief, Tobin asserts that successful classroom relationships are helpful, motivating, and inspiring to students to write better.

Tobin provides case studies and personal experiences to demonstrate the interactions and relationships that happen inside and outside the composition classroom. He argues that we need to be familiar with certain classroom relationships to improve the composition classroom and empower students’ writing. He presented three types of relationships in three parts of the book: the teacher-student relationship, the student-student relationship, and the teacher-teacher relationship. According to Tobin: “like all relationships, writing relationships are dynamic, fluid, and multi-faceted; and like all good relationships, they can allow us to accomplish and become all sorts of things that we could not do or be on our own.” (p. 17). This quote explains the reasons behind his focus on relationships. Writing relationships allow the writer as well as the reader to achieve what he/she would not be able to attain alone because of the active interaction in these relationships.

Tobin further raises a thought-provoking question: what is a good teacher-student writing relationship? Concisely, a good teacher-student relationship is the one that “empowers students” (p. 19). Then, he raises another question: how? His answer to this question leads us to consider and evaluate teachers’ roles and how these roles shape classroom relationships. Teachers’ roles change because of the transfer from focus on the “product” to the “process”. The traditional role of the teachers changed to more challenging roles that encourage students to be creative. As state by Tobin, change of the teachers’ roles from being the authority to non-authority was “a necessary stage” (p. 20).

The teacher-student relationship part was the most attention-grabbing one for me as it expressed most of my feelings while I was a writing teacher. It dealt with my concerns about students’ ability/inability to express themselves, students not being able to comprehend my feedback, thinking about students’ feelings regarding their texts and grades, pressures of grading and so on. While reading I was looking for tips or strategies that would make a difference. I was looking for clues that would show me how to change my traditional role to the new one to promote my students’ creativity. He shaped teacher-students interaction in four “dominant metaphors” (p. 82). These are: teacher as performer, the class as audience; teacher as dinner party host, students as guests; teacher as parent, students as adolescent children; and teacher as preacher, students as congregation. He explained that there were moments when he felt that he was on the stage, which made him seem like a performer and the students listening as his audiences. In other moments, he was thinking and planning activities. AT such times, he would seem like a party host and the guests were his students. Also, there were moments when he was behaving in a parental way when he was speaking with a tone of sorrow and being moralistic. In this case, the students would be like his children. Finally, he confessed that there were times when he felt like a preacher and his students were the congregation. As a teacher, I can see myself in his shoes. There were times when I found myself in such situations. As this review is restricted to two pages, I recommend you read his explanation on pages 82-87 to leave room for the rest of the ideas.

Tobin provides teachers with beneficial strategies to deal with different classroom situations such as: responding to student writing, conferencing, running a writing workshop, grading, leading a discussion of an essay, running a writing workshop, setting up peer and co-authoring groups, and publishing in the field.

For me, his details about grading were certainly inspirational. Amazingly, his explanations include all the students’ comments and teachers’ concerns specifically the conflict teachers come across each time they attempt to grade students’ writing.

Tobin raises this key question: what can we do to limit the potentially negative influence on the writing process and on the teacher-student relationship? To answer this question he provided five suggestions to “help integrate grading, the establishment of productive classroom relationships and the teaching of writing” (p. 68). These are as follows:

  • Acknowledge to yourself, your students, and your colleagues that assessment is personal, messy, and contextual.
  • Try, whenever possible, to use assessment as a source as well as a measurement of learning.
  • Develop a system that conflicts as little as possible with your goals and methods.
  • Separate grading as much as possible from other kinds of responding.
  • Work for institutional policies that will make grading less powerful, damaging, and disruptive.

In the student-student relationship part, Tobin deals with competition and collaboration. Tobin declares that teachers should not believe that there is not competition in collaborative or process classrooms. Students in the process classroom are competitive. He explains that students often felt good about their interactions with their peers. They felt better even during their coauthoring projects. The case studies he provided were examples for the successful student-student interactions.

Tobin illustrates the significance of teacher-teacher relationship in having beneficial peer relationships. He explains that teachers are similar to students in that they benefit from peer relationships. The result will be that the teacher will be surrounded by colleagues who are friends, those with whom he/she would teach, those whom he/she would teach against, and/or those whom he/she would teach with or against. He states that the productive relationship with peers/colleagues results in effective relationship with students. This relationship could be productive if teachers stopped pretending and realized the “need for more honest and rich discussion and debate” (p. 145).

I would like to conclude by quoting Tobin’s words: “keeping track of all these relationships is teaching writing” in which he emphasizes the significance of all three types of relationships in writing (p. 148). So, by looking at interpersonal classroom relationships, students can be helped to become better writers. In fact, not only students benefit from this, classroom teachers and peers are bound to be more confident about their teaching and their strategies of dealing with students and each other.

Writing a foreword

The other Teaching Writing course assignment was writing a foreword for a classmate’s book. Dr Hurlbert divided us into pairs. We were required to read each other’s books and then write a foreword. This was a new experience for me, too. I knew what a foreword was because I came across this type of written text while reading the assigned text books. Dr Hurlbert wanted it to be simple and only a page long. This made the assignment less stressful. As usual, I searched the internet on how to write a foreword. Also, meeting my classmates in the Commonplace Café made this assignment seem easier. Anyango explained to us how to write it and read hers. Seeing Anyango explain how to write a foreword made me see her as a great teacher. She was so friendly and willing to show us all how to write.

I didn’t spend so much time thinking how to write it or what to write. I read some samples and heard Anyango’s foreword and started writing. After reading Bader’s story, it reminded me of my uncle, I don’t know why. It seemed that my uncle’s and Bader’s stories had some kind of connection that made me include my uncle in the foreword. Bader’s story was about how he felt that he was different in his culture and learning English gave him the chance to feel that he existed. The title of the foreward was “Are you an Alien?” because he used the word “alien” both in his story and the poems he had written for the poetry inquiry. I hope that he publishes his book so other people can read and see how learning languages changed lives and made personalities and identities and gave the learners the chance to express themselves.

When Dr Hurlbert asked us to write the forewords, I thought that he wanted to teach us how to write them by writing them. Now, while I’m reading his new book National Healing, I know that he also wanted us to “see one of [our] colleagues read and take [our] writing seriously, to treat it as worthy of study, as writing that presents issues over which [we] can connect, discuss, research, and establish some sort of affiliation” (p. 196).


Hanauer, D. (2011). Personal communication. Notes that were taken during Dr Hanauer’s Second Language Literacy course.

Hurlbert, C. (2012). National healing: Race, State, and the teaching of composition. Boulder, CO: Utah State University Press.

Tobin, L. (1993). Writing relationships: What really happens in the composition classroom. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.


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Please check the Teaching Advanced Students course at Pilgrims website.

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