Academic Self-Sabotage

A Sample Chapter from The First Year of Teaching

Excerpt from chapter:

“As the preceding case studies revealed, all three focal students reported that they started their essays for English class but often gave up before they finished them. The difficulties the students faced with writing were unique to each of them: Jasmine struggled to find the ‘right words’ to use, Esperanza ‘ran out of ideas,’ and Mateo reported having trouble with everything from organization to analyzing quotations. Their shared struggle, however, was ‘getting stuck’ while writing.


In my experience, it’s natural for students to hit roadblocks during the writing process—especially for a substantial essay of five or more paragraphs. These difficulties are not uncommon, even for more experienced writers. However, unlike these writers, my focal students lacked strategies to help them overcome these roadblocks, or resilience that would enable them eventually to persevere. As Mateo asserted, ‘The reason I don’t finish the essay is because without help I get lost and I just give up.’ Esperanza hit her wall while trying to write the topic sentence of the third body paragraph of a literary analysis essay, while Jasmine became blocked when she didn’t ‘know what to say’ or how to find the words to ‘sound educated.’ When these students hit a wall, they gave up.”

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