Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Essay Writing . . . My Worst Enemy
Today, I shared a very personal story with my students. I felt the need to not only make a connection with them, but also to have my students understand that we are not just "born" writers. Writing is a craft that is honed over time through practice. Writing is a process where we move the emergent stages in kindergarten and first grade to proficient and excellent writers in secondary schools.
In high school, I could not write an essay. I was absolutely horrible. My essays were generally three to four paragraphs with missing punctuation, poor grammar and no subject verb agreement. My introductions were unorganized and off-topic. My concluding paragraph was actually just one sentence. It is amazing that I passed the ELA Regents at all. I struggled with college admissions essays. I was in utter agony when I had to write my first paper at Long Island University's C. W. Post Campus. Needless to say, it received an F. I did not pass freshman composition with an A, instead I earned a D. I was put on academic probation for a low grade point average and almost lost my financial aid.
It wasn't until I was approximately 23 years old that I learned to write a coherent and effective five paragraph essay. I had a wonderful professor at Bronx Community College who took the time to break down the rules of writing an essay. I had never used transition words before and then they suddenly became my best friends. She provided me with a grammar book that helped with subject-verb agreement, run-on sentences, fragments and rules of punctuation. I remember thinking to myself, why didn't I learn this in elementary, middle or high school. Why is it that I am a grown woman with two children and just learning to write properly? I had no answer.
Needless to say, my students were shocked. They couldn't believe that a teacher could receive such bad grades in high school and college. I explained to them that they need not see where they are right now, but instead focus on where they want to be in a year from now. I wanted to be a good writer and with a supportive teacher, I was able to accomplish that goal. I had them set their own goals, what steps would be necessary for completion of these goals and write out their hopes and dreams. They now have a plan and will, with support, possibly achieve these goals.