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 paragrap
hs 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 w
ere 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.


  1. Ugh, why didn't I have a teacher like you??

    I was pretty good at eassays and such during school, but I didn't write anything between the ages of 17 and 28, so when I DID start writing, grammar and punctuation was (and still is for the most part) a mystery. People talk about verbs and perspectives etc and I usually have no idea what they are talking about...

  2. What an inspirational story for your students, especially those that are struggling. You are a living successful example that getting an F doesn't mean forever failure and that a teacher, like you had at Bronx Community College, is worth his weight in gold.

    Your students are very lucky to have you.

  3. Lisa and Tara,

    Thanks for the compliments. It is nice to share failure that turns into success. I just hope that my students will experience such success.