Below is an essay assignment I am posting for my class next week. It’s a prelude to the next writing task, which will be to write an essay to teachers, telling them what does and doesn’t seem to work with teaching/learning writing.============================
Walking through the Door
This essay will be in part a preparation for our last essay, which will be directed to teachers at Drexel (and really, a wider audience, because with your permission, I may link teachers around the country to what you tell them—I have a blog about teaching writing, and I’ll put your essays up there).
Here’s my thesis–and I don’t think it’s a half-bad one: education works when students enjoy learning about something. It doesn’t work when students don’t enjoy learning. Actually, these claims seem obvious—but I’ll bet there are many professors who would argue with me on this. But one of the things we want to do as educators is encourage students to be self-directed learners such that learning is a life-long project. Self-Directed learning is in fact one of the twelve Drexel Student Learning Priorities (aside—one wonders why 12?). It’s one of the two we have adopted for our writing program. In general, one might suspect that each of you has decided on a major because you have learned how to enjoy the activities associated with that major. (I know there might be other reasons as well.)
Since I am very interested in writing and would like writing to be a part of your lives, I’m going to make another claim—which I know I have already made in class: if any writing task assigned to you in any course (including mine) makes you have an uncomfortable experience with writing, then you will be inclined to have a bad association with writing; consequently, you will have learned the wrong thing about writing. This is just me. As I said, a lot of people disagree with me. But they’re wrong (joke–maybe).
Ok, let’s get to a topic we can write about. I would be very interested in your experience so far at Drexel. But I’m interested in a bit more than your experiences in courses. I’m interested in how this part of your life is different (I’m thinking of Annelise’s essay here, the essence of which that the childhood part of her is over and now there is that “adult” (and her use of scare quotes was appropriate, given how many of us act as “adults”) life stretching in front of her—and this year might be thought of as walking through the door.
So maybe you can spend a couple of hours telling us (in writing) what it’s been like, walking through the door. It will be fun for the rest of us to read if you can give us some specific issues and maybe scenes, things that happened and made you think about things, about life, about who you are, about what you’re doing (again, Annelise’s essay is a great start in this kind of thinking because she has described for us her changing beliefs—I know I really didn’t do it justice in class today).
As you describe your journey in this first year, it would be great if you would include something about your experiences in your various classes. I (and a lot of other people) would really like to know about the kind of learning experiences you are enjoying and the ones you’re not. I’m good friends with an associate vice provost here who is very interested in retention issues. I know that I would like to share your essays about walking through the door with her—I’ll bet she’ll learn something by what you write.