Knowing the Rules

A Reflective Essay


  • Darren DeFrain Wichita State University



college, English, freshman, grammar, graduate teaching assistants, GTAs, heart, imposter syndrome, orientation, university, writing


Drawing on the author's 30-plus years of teaching experience and 18-plus years of directing the Writing Program at Wichita State University, this reflective essay examines some of the anxieties incoming graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) face concerning grammar instruction and how those are mitigated. While grammar instruction remains an important element of composition pedagogy, incoming GTAs often arrive to orientation with a lack of felicity with the rules, a sense of inadequacy knowing the rules, or both. The author postulates some reasons why this happens, but uses a gentle approach to poke some fun at the often over-seriousness of the entire endeavor.

Author Biography

  • Darren DeFrain, Wichita State University

    Darren DeFrain, Ph.D., is the Director of the Writing Program and Professor of English at Wichita State University. He is the author of the novel The Salt Palace, the story collection Inside & Out, and is currently at work, with Dr. Fran Connor, on a postpunk history of Kansas, No Choice But Action. You can learn more about this book at DeFrain is also co-founder, with Aaron Rodriguez, of the accessibility app Vizling. This NEH and Alfred P. Sloan Foundation-funded app helps blind and low vision readers have a more equitable reading experience with multimodal texts like comics and graphic novels using visual linguistics and haptics ( You can reach DeFrain at






Reflective Essays