Sunday, September 22, 2013

Life of Writing

         A large part of what gives me confidence in writing is that I have always seen myself as a writer. When I was a young child, my mother encouraged me to write letters to far away relatives. Even if that “letter” was a picture with some random squiggles representing words. As I reached ripe, old elementary school age, my mother encouraged my siblings and me to write our own stories.
         When I earned my first bachelor’s degrees at the University of Utah, many years ago, the same sophistication we expect of undergraduate writers did not exist. I took an “advanced” composition course, but that class stressed the evils of plagiarism, and how to focus our long paper (10 pages) on a single topic without wandering afield.
         Subsequent classes in my fields of study, English Theory and Criticism; and Film Studies did not require the same level of academic writing we demand today. Of course the essays had to be cogent, cohesive, factually correct with a well-supported thesis, but citation wasn’t an issue. It was sort of a free-for all. As long as you made a stab at citing the works you used, everything was fine.
         When I worked in journalism, knowing exactly where my information came from, and how to document a source was vitally important. Of course, it was done in a manner entirely apart from scholarly citation. When I shifted to work in education, again, the writing had to be well researched and well written. Citation, however, was once again casual.
         My background kept my writing skills sharp so when I began my studies at Weber I was able to research and write papers. Proper citation, however, still gives me fits.
         In Elementary Education, I had to understand that not all students take to writing, not all people breath the written word like air. Not all people view themselves as writers. Writing is a laborious process. Some people fear nothing more than being asked to write an essay. Kind of like me fearing a complex algebra problem, or even an elementary algebra problem.
         Students coming into the Writing Center may not have sophisticated writing skills, or they may be highly sophisticated and knowledgeable in both content and form of their writing. The best teachers meet the student where the student “lives”. Effective teachers work with the student, reiterating and reinforcing current knowledge, while encouraging the student to stretch, and further his or her own skills. We, as teachers, should be able to work effectively with “new” writers as well as with experienced writers.


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