Last night in my medieval comp lit class, as I described the first paper assignment, I fell into what I described as the “obligatory plagiarism speech.” I felt so embarrassed to have to give it at all. No one becomes a professor because they want to be the police.
So I started, as I usually do, in a mumble of reluctance. And then I found my groove, and the way I’m going to give this talk from here on out. I said:
I’m an expert, and I care about your writing and I care about you. You may think my job is to judge you. It’s not. It’s to help you get better. I’m on your side. This relationship we have here, where you have an expert give your writing close attention, just because they want you to get better, is such a rare and beautiful thing. Take advantage of it! Because it is a relationship. I trust you, and I want you to trust me. Give me writing you’ve worried over, that you’ve agonized over, that you’re worried about: that’s fine! That’s what I expect and what I want. I just want it to be yours, all yours, because I care about you. I can’t wait to read what you give me and help you find how to be the best possible writer and thinker you can be.
Completely sincere. Maybe something like this can help you too.