Friday, April 20, 2012

We're not in English class anymore....

When Dorothy Gale landed in OZ she immediately knew she "wasn't in Kansas anymore." Oz was vastly different than her home--suddenly the boring black and white world of Kansas was no more, and instead she saw COLOR!

Dorothy's world changed because of her perspective and the fact that she was able to: analyze her situation, introduce herself to her new peers, organize her ideas, put them into sensible and unified action, do some fabulous quoting ("there's no place like home"), and conclude that this journey was valuable and more than just a dream.

(Wow. The Wizard of Oz sounds more like writing an essay than I ever could have dreamed! What a happy accident.)

This can happen to you too!

Well, not the tornado/drop a house on a wicked witch/ruby slipper scenario. (although, I must admit that sounds pretty rad)

But a transformation like this can happen to you in regards to how you think about: the world, your field of study, communication, emphasizing your opinion, and organization.

Wow. Sounds cool, right?

It is cool, and I bet you having been doing it all most of your classes.

Tired of guessing? OK. I will tell you.

The secret is Composition.

SHUT THE FRONT DOOR! (that's me imagining your reply)

I know, it tends to come as a surprise and sometimes not a welcome one.

Once in a while students do not like to write. It is true. However, what they do not realize is that they are writing all of the time. Every day. Just like Dorothy was on her adventure in Oz, only this writing is happening in thought and action.

When I explain this to students I am usually met with grumbles and things like, "Well, I know that I will NEVER write a paper again after this, let alone remember this stuff."

But you are already doing it! And you are going to continue to do so!

Silly, silly, silly, students.

(of course I feel this way about Math, but this is a "do as I say not as I do" moment)

Sometimes part of me wants to pull a Nelson and say, "HA,HA" when I hear a student talk this way because with the rise of Writing Across the Curriculum, more and more classes that are not considered English classes are writing papers or just plain writing more in general. There is no escaping "English."

Despite wanting to go full on Simpsons, I contain myself and usually say something like, "Tell me what you don't like about writing?"

Here are some answers that I have gotten:

It's hard.
It takes work.
My teacher never understands what I wrote.
I should not have to go into that much depth about something!
How can writing a paper about my earliest childhood memory help me in my Chemistry course?
Thesis statements do not exist in real life.

Here are the replies that I give:

Everything worth doing is hard. (Shout-out to my Grandma for that one)

Work builds character and helps you to appreciate the things that you have.

If your teacher does not understand you, it means that you are not being clear, and clarity is something that you desperately need in any academic or professional field.

Going into depth about a subject allows you to understand the subject more than you ever would have before, which can result in LEARNING.

Remembering your earliest childhood memory and writing it in a narrative form essay gives you the opportunity to be reflective--an important skill that younger students often have not experienced. Science is all about studying, experimenting, and then reflecting. Being reflective would definitely help you in your Chemistry course--you really do need to reflect on that trial and error.

Thesis Statements = Life. They are your bottom line, your main point--the reason why you do what you do.

Writing transcends the English Comp Course.

Actually, in the Writing Center we see students who are working on writing for classes such as Art, Economics, Physical Therapy, Sociology, Education, Communication Disorders, Family and Consumer Sciences, etc., etc. 

Simply put: you are not done with composition when you are done with your composition course. You will use the skills you learned in this class throughout the rest of your college career.

Professors, not solely English Professors, often ask students to write because writing is so very personal. It is a glimpse into a student's thought process and sometimes more reliable than a multiple choice or true/false test.

'Cause let's face it...multiple choice tests usually mean guessing.
(admit it ... I like to choose C)

And True/False exams are a 50/50 shot! Great for gamblers! Risky and unrewarding for a student.

The ability to organize your ideas, come to a definite conclusion in regards to those ideas, and develop an argument about them proves that you, yes you, are invested.

Invested in not only your education, but in educating others.

Because, other people read that paper! It's true! Your professor reads it, yes, but sometimes your peers will as well--especially if your professor uses Peer Review.

The more people reading your work means your valuable message is getting across. And also that hard work, dedication, intelligence, interest in your field of study, are traits that you find valuable.

This just sounds better and better! Right?

Writing gives you the opportunity to be that individual who believes in the importance of communicating his thoughts, and this also represents the fact that your thoughts are worth sharing.

Major self-esteem fist bump!

Someday, and possibly sooner than later, you will be happy and thankful that you took your composition courses. It may not appear relevant at times, but writing is always there, helping you to organize, emphasize, argue, learn, and teach.

Aren't you glad you came to Oz? Kansas is boring anyway.

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