Retrospective

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This was the first class I took over the course of my entire educational experience that so heavily incorporated the use of blogging as my primary mode of assignment submission and communication with classmates. I found blogging to be a really fun and effective method of getting my points across for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, getting familiarized with WordPress felt like a valuable skill in an essentially blog-dominated society. Every other class I have taken has almost exclusively relied on Microsoft Word as the primary means by which students produce written work. At this point I can safely say I am an expert at Word but I do not necessarily think that is going to be the most useful skill when I go into a digitally dominated work force. Second, I think it made it easier for the class to become interactive. Being able to casually browse my classmates’ blogs inspired a lot of my own posts. Furthermore, it was always interesting to hear their feedback on my posts and fun to be able to give my own feedback on theirs.

In general, I would like to conclude that the multimodal aspect of this course has probably been the most useful part of it. I have really gained a great deal of familiarity with WordPress-a software that I had little to know experience with-and am grateful for this new-found skill.

Thank you...for a great quarter.

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Reading Log: Remembering the Sentence by Sharon Meyers

“Learning collocations is especially important for students unfamiliar with formal prose, which is dense with vocabulary. It isn’t sufficient just to know a vocabulary item, a noun like ‘correspondence,’ for example. One needs to know what verbs collocate with it (break off, carry on, conduct..) and what adjectives it hangs around with (lengthy, private, regular…)” (Myers 614).

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I find it really interesting that, throughout my entire career as an English major, this is my first time coming across the term “collocation.” I could not help but be reminded of an exercise we did when we were in the third grade called “word families” where we dissected various nouns and created a sort of “family tree” of all of the adjectives and verbs that could possibly go along with them. I am in my senior year of college and I would be lying if I said I don’t still find myself relying heavily on those trees when writing-especially in class essays where I don’t have ready access to a thesaurus-and even when trying to make sense of dense literature (i.e if there is an unfamiliar verb next to a familiar noun such as “envelope,” I can guess its meaning by guessing the sorts of verbs I know usually appear with “envelope” such as “sent” or “carried”). Obviously, the way I was presented with the concept as a third grader was far more basic but I do believe that being taught collocation (whether it be through something as simple as word families or through something more sophisticated like William Strong’s “Sentence Combining”) as part of the FYC curriculum can really work to benefit college students in their sentence structure skills.

Harris’ “Error”

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“…students must learn not simply how to avoid mistakes but how to write in ways that engage the attention of educated readers. Teachers need to respond to what students are trying to say, to the effectiveness of their writing as a whole, and not simply to the presence or absence of local errors in spelling, syntax, or usage” (111).

I could not help but think of the famous poet, EE Cummings, after reading this excerpt. He is a world-renowned poet and has managed to achieve such high esteem even with his refusal to follow any traditional grammatical rules. However, I must concede that his is probably an isolated incident and if the large majority of writers were to omit their focus on grammatical rules, they would lose a lot of their content in the process. In order to truly “engage the attention of educated readers,” students must master the rules of the language in which we are all communicating.

That being said, a focus on content is also immensely important as it is vital in getting the student actually passionate about writing (and thus producing work that people are passionate about reading). Once these students have mastered the grammatical rules, I believe that it is their creative right to choose which ones they would like to follow and which ones they would like to omit in an attempt to get their points across.

The Planning Strategies of a Publishing Writer, and Response of a Laboratory Rat: Or, Being Protocoled

“One final observation: although it may be impolitic for the researcher to contradict the writer, Mr. Murray’s activity over the summer while he was thinking aloud suggests that he is wrong in his assertion that writers only consider their audiences when doing external revision, i.e., editing and polishing. To the contrary, his most substantive changes, what he calls ‘internal revision,’ occurred as he turned his thoughts toward his audience” (166).

I thought this was a very interesting point because it is one that I can relate to on a very personal level. In fact, I think it’s one that anyone who comes from a large nosey family can relate to. I have kept a diary since I could write. By the same token, my cousin has been reading my diary since she found out I was keeping one. Just this past Christmas, I found my 6th grade diary tucked away in her bedside drawer. As a result, I have become increasingly paranoid. Even when I am writing the most personal things in the world, in my own diary, there is part of my subconscious that leaves things out for fear of an audience. Obviously, Mr. Murray’s situation was different from my own. However, having had your work read-very personal process to most people who consider themselves writers-whether it be by your cousin or by your classmates or even your peers will eventually train you to be somewhat paranoid.

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“In other words, I worry that the experienced writer can become too glib, too slick, too professional, too polished-can, in effect, write too well” (172).

 This is the inevitable result of the paranoia I described earlier. In a sense it is a good thing as writers are producing polished work that is easily understood by audience members. On the other hand, there is an inevitable loss of uniqueness and individual voice.

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The Writing Processes of Others

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Throughout my career as a student, I’ve realized that the students around me have a writing process very different from that of my own. Lots of my friends, not procrastinators like myself, like to break apart the writing process into chunks. Whether they are working on one final draft or a very rough initial draft, I have noticed that they will start a week or so before the due date and break the writing process into “a few pages” a day.

In my opinion, this method of writing follows a very procedurally driven model of writing. With every session in the library and every few pages written, my friends go back to what they’ve written before and make corrections before moving on to the next few pages. Furthermore, they usually go into these writing sessions with an outline and a clear idea of what sort of content is going to be comprising the majority of their work each given day.

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Reading Log: Harris on Process

“Their work rests on the notion that our job as teachers can be usefully defined as helping students to write ‘better’-with ‘better’ simply meaning technically more able to meet the demands put on them by one institution or the other, to produce better themes,better reports, better memos, better term papers and the like. Like Emig, then, their descriptions of the composing process are predetermined by a vision of an ideal text-although this ideal now has less to do with self-discovery than with success in the academic or corporate world” (86). 

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In this excerpt, Harris very obviously portrays this model of learning as negative. He sees this system as one that sacrifices the process of self-discovery in order to give students the skills to excel in the academic and corporate worlds. Furthermore, by defining “better” as a model that adheres to the standards of the academic and corporate worlds, academic institutions are presenting students with that sort of success as the end goal of their educational experience.

Harris has made it very obvious throughout his work that he would not agree with such a model. He holds the individual voice, along with the student’s process of discovering it, of utmost importance. For this reason, it is clear to see why he would be so vehemently opposed to such a model of learning.

I agree with Harris in that self-discovery is hugely important and that finding our own voices and gaining confidence in those voices is a wonderful process. Nevertheless, self-discovery is not going to get you a job in the real world. The process by which professors define for their students what “better” is for them and students learn to cater their work to the likes and dislikes of each individual professor is the process by which students really and truly become prepared for the real world at which point they need to learn to understand and cater to the needs of their bosses, customers and potential employers. As wonderful as it would be to be able to really find your own voice and write in only that voice, despite the preferences of your potential audience members, it is just simply unrealistic in our modern capitalist society.

“Rather, the second draft is judged better than the first because it sounds more like conventional academic prose” (89).

Again, here, Harris is giving a biased view of the current academic system. I would argue that the fact that the second draft is judged better than the first draft because she took into consideration what here professor was looking for and made those changes is not necessarily a bad thing at all. One day this person is going to have a job and a boss who demands she revises something she handed in. The original version very well may more accurately reflect her voice, but the second version is going to ensure that she keeps her job. It is in school that she must gain the skills to make such changes.

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Reading Log: When the First Voice You Hear Is Not Your Own

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“The call for action in cross-boundary exchange is to refine theory and practice so that they include voicing as a phenomenon that is constructed and expressed visually and orally, and as a phenomenon that has import also in being a thing heard, perceived, and reconstructed” (30).

I chose this passage first and foremost because I felt that it managed to encompass everything Royster was calling for throughout her article in one sentence. I like the idea of lifting the bland literary tool of voice, that we are all so familiar with, to something that is much, much more. In fact, after having read the entire article, I would go so far as to say that she is suggesting that voice can be a real means of revolution. I think this is a venerable goal that, although ambitious, is not necessarily impossible. However, there is one critique that I did have with regards to the goal of transforming voice into something that maintains the import of being heard.

“I speak, but I can not be heard. Worse, I am heard but I am not believed. Worse yet, I speak but I am not deemed believable” (36).

Here, Royster chronicles one of her struggles as an African female writer-a strife that is apparently not unique to only her. She explains that she found solace from this adversity in the words of Audre Lorde who taught her that: “despite whatever frustration and vulnerability I might feel, despite my fear that no one is listening to me or is curious enough to try to understand my voice, it is still better to speak (Black31)” (36). Yes, it is very important for voice to be understood as something that has import in being heard. But students should also be taught the value of their words even if they are left unheard and unappreciated.

Murray’s “Find Your Own Voice”

“The act of writing is incomplete without a reader, but it is not the teacher’s job to be a receptive audience of dull writing or force others to listen when nothing is being said. It is the student’s responsibility to earn an audience, winning respect for what he has on the page” (119).

 I thought this was a particularly interesting point in that it highlighted the importance of a student engaging an audience. I feel like the emphasis in grading too many writing assignments at all educational levels, is on technicality and mechanical correctness. Students write to meet the requirements of a rubric and, thus, impress their teacher. Students should, instead, be striving to “earn their audiences” by producing writing that impresses themselves and also their peers. To manage to explain efficiently a dull subject matter is one thing. But to be able to do so in a manner that is intriguing to an audience is a truly valuable skill that I don’t think is emphasized enough in our schooling system.

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“The writer must face his audience. He must hear the contradictory counsel of his readers, so that he learns when to ignore his teacher and his peers, listening to himself after evaluating what has been said about his writing and considering what he can do to make it work” (122).

After the writer has produced a piece that he/she truly believes is worthy of an audience, the logical next step is to have him/her present his/her piece to an audience. What better audience than an audience filled with his/her peers? We have all done this many times with all sorts of peer reviews and opportunities to meet with teachers in office hours prior to a paper’s due date. But what is important here is that the student maintains his/her pride in his/her work by recognizing his/her power to determine when to take the advice of his/her professor and his/her peers and when to ignore it.

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Chapter 5: Harris’ “Community”

“This odd double movement, this irony, in which one only begins to understand the place one has come from through the act of leaving it, proved to be one of the shaping forces of Williams’s career-so that, some thirty-five years after having first gone down to Cambridge, he was still to ask himself: ‘Where do I stand…in another country or in this valuing city?’ (6)” (133). 

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I thought this was an interesting point because it highlights the importance of leaving your community and finding yourself outside of it. What is being implied here-and I agree with this point-is that one will not know where he/she stands outside of his/her community until he/she dares to leave it. Obviously, in western society the hope is that young adults will have this growing experience when they go off to college. Even I felt that I was lucky enough to have this experience with my relatively smooth transition to college. I went to a high school very similar to Santa Clara and I definitely came into the school feeling very much like I belonged and had a lot in common with most of the people I met. However, my freshman year roommate had a very different experience. She came from a very different background and constantly found herself struggling to understand the mentality of a lot of her new classmates. In getting the chance to be placed in a room with somebody so different from myself, I was able to learn a lot more about what I considered to be “myself.”

“What I do want is a sort of teaching that aims more to keep the conversation going than to lead it toward a certain end, that tries to set up not a community of agreement but a community of strangers, a public space where students can begin to form their own voices as writers and intellectuals” (155). 

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I really like this idea for the most part and I love the idea of having students develop their own individual voices and opinions but I also think there is something to be said about having students also really work to find common ground with people they may not usually cross paths with.  Although I was fortunate enough to be placed into a room with someone like my freshman year roommate and we were able to really learn a lot from each other in that sense, I don’t think that we would have ever crossed paths had we both not selected the “random roommate option.” We have different majors and, as far as our social circles are involved, we could have gone these four years easily without ever having crossed paths. Nevertheless, it was a pleasant surprise when we found that we really did have a lot in common. Although I do believe that there is still something to be said about being able to reach a point at which you are able to recognize who is “similar” to you and what being similar to you entails, it is still very easy to make it through college just keeping with a social circle comprised of people only similar to yourself. The classroom setting is essentially the only place in which people from all sorts of backgrounds come together. It is vital that at this point students are able to not only create and confidently express their own distinct opinions, but also that they are able to understand and value the opinions of their peers.