Morning Pages: Why I Write

I don’t think I’ve ever been asked why I write. I’ve been asked IF I like to write, to which I would respond an enthusiastic yes. I hadn’t ever thought about why I write though, and for some reason the question perplexes me. It shouldn’t. It seems so simple, but some of the simplest questions have the most complex answers.

I suppose I write for the feeling of clarity, the wondrous moment when you have finally found the words to describe an elusive sentiment tormenting your thoughts. It is so very liberating to dictate your thoughts upon paper. Then it is not just a dream that floats aimlessly through your mind, or an epiphany that no one shall ever hear. It exists in a concrete way. It validates an idea, so that others might join or affirm your contemplation.

I write because whether writing fiction or nonfiction, words have the potential to free your thoughts from the limits of nonexistence. You can place ideas on paper, or type them into a blog, and suddenly they are not theory, but fact within the four walls of the page. They exist fully and completely on the page, whether they are true, or not.

I suppose the reason I write is to feel free.

Morning Pages: A Letter to the Future President

Dear Mrs./Mr. Future President,

Congratulations on your election, that was a real nail-biter. I am an English Education major, and I was hoping to give you a few suggestions on how you will handle legislation surrounding education. For one thing the education system needs more funding. It is an ever-expanding entity that demands development if we ever want our children to create a better future. Supplies are costly, but necessary. For every student to have an equal education regardless of socioeconomic status, the school must provide a lot of their materials.

Standardized testing should also be reevaluated. I am sure you have heard the idea that with standardized testing teachers become limited in their abilities of imparting knowledge. They cater to the tests rather than the needs of the students. I am hoping that you might be able to come up with a better way to ensure that each school is succeeding to a common standard.

To optimize the students’ time in class, we need to make the content as engaging as possible. This requires that teachers possess certain skills that assist them with this goal. Teacher training should be continued even after they have all the necessary degrees and certifications. Continuing education is fundamental in keeping our schools up to date with current research-based methods. The government should assist in providing these resources.

The goal of public education in America should be to educate every student regardless of any differences they possess from other students. It should work towards the betterment of society by improving the knowledge of all. To fulfill these requirements schools require funding and support from the government. As the president, you should assist in legislation that aids these aims and garner public support for public education.

Sincerely,

A Future Teacher

When I Grow Up, I Want to be a Writer

 

When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, it was always something different. First it was astronaut, then doctor, then lawyer, then writer. Most of these dreams were written off by my shear composition as the human being that I inevitably am. I got motion sickness on upside down roller coasters–no astronaut; I got squeamish around needles–seeya doc; Anytime I argued with my sisters, I lost miserably; court’s adjourned lawyer. Then came writer. I had expected to be written off (pun strongly intended) as I had in every other occupation I had innocently fantasized about. But something strange occurred. There was no red flag, no indicator of my inexorable doom in this profession, in fact quite the opposite.

 

My papers came back with beautiful comments sprawled in the elegant penmanship only a teacher can possess. Personal notes that addressed my potential adorned my amateur work. One teacher, I will always remember, wrote on one of my papers “I hope you pursue a career in writing.” Never had any of my ambitions been so consistently validated. Never had I been so passionately enthralled by a single subject. It was this reoccurring encouragement which influenced my decision to work in English. I am becoming an English teacher, and that might seem to some as if I’m giving up on my dream of writing the next great American novel, but I would have to vehemently disagree.

 

Becoming a teacher is in no way resigning from my passion of writing. I still plan to write constantly and fervently as I educate the next generation of astronauts, doctors, lawyers, and maybe the occasional writer. By writing while I teach, I will be practicing the very skills I hope to impart upon my students, verifying my authority on the subject. If I were an English teacher who didn’t write or didn’t read in her free time, I would be a hypocrite of the most horrendous distinction, a teacher who doesn’t learn. School is a place to foster the knowledge of student and teacher alike. As we teach, we learn and gain insight on material we thought we had fully understood the first time around. I plan to be a teacher and a learner in my classroom, embracing the same optimistic spirit of future success for both my students and myself. Some people say, “those who can’t do, teach,” which is the greatest misunderstanding I have ever known. Those who have a passionate love of knowledge and the wondrous acquisition of it, divulge that passion to others. This is why when I grow up, I want to be a writer, a reader, and a lover of knowledge, more formally known as a teacher.

UGP a New Challenge

I have challenged myself to become the author of an opinion column for my Unfamiliar Genre Project. This might be a small task for others, but for me it will prove to be quite a struggle. For one thing, I have never written an opinion piece. In high school we did have to write argumentative papers for controversial issues, but I felt that I couldn’t express my true opinion in those. One of my dilemmas is that my opinion is quite elusive. Every time I think I have a set stance on an issue, the other side argues with very compelling evidence. I try to keep an open mind so that I can receive the best information without my own bias hindering my education on an issue, but this results in a confused opinion that can best be described as perpetual fence-sitting.

 

When I first searched “opinion column” on the internet, what came up was political articles with opinions of prevalent governmental issues. I realized that for this project I will have to start doing some research on what I will write on, so that I can demonstrate some form of authority on the issue. Writing to the prompt of my own touchstone beliefs about education will fit in very nicely with my genre, but I will have to make some decisions about my opinion of the state of education. I have already heard so many arguments about how school has become tailored to standardized tests, hindering the actual learning process. I have also heard about teachers’ performances being based on these test scores, which affects the way that these teachers teach.

 

I do believe that there are some aspects of present day education that will need to be eradicated if we hope to provide students with a proper, fulfilling education. Standardized testing is a huge issue that I will most likely address in my opinion column, but yet again I face the predicament of open-mindedness. If teachers educate specifically based on an arbitrary set of standardized skills, then students might miss some facet of education that would be crucial to their future identities. On the other hand, the only way we have found to exercise any kind of control over widespread education to ensure that each student is getting an equal education, is to have a test to assess the knowledge gained. And if standardized testing was eliminated completely, that would allow lower-quality schools to slip through the cracks, producing undereducated, ill-prepared students.

 

Each issue has two sides, both usually having merit to their argument. I predict the most difficult aspect of this genre will be asserting my opinion with confidence. I think I will have to be more distinct than I have been in past opinion issues so that my column has clear meaning. I will also, however, integrate my respect for other opinions, especially since education issues can be very complex. I will have to utilize some elements of persuasion in my article, as is characteristic of opinion columns, but mostly base them in fact and reason. I am quite hesitant to work with this genre because of my lack of experience and my ambiguity of opinion, but I believe it will be an overall rewarding experience that will give me an insight into being a student struggling with standard English composition genres. I am excited to work with something so new to me, to see if I might actually like it. Either way, it should be an interesting experience.

Dear Future Teacher

Dear Ms. Nixson,

So you made it. You passed all the tests, you completed all the required student teaching, and now you sit, the entirety of your career before you. I suspect you’re nervous. I suspect you feel ill-prepared as you always do when starting something new, but I hope this anxiety will not make you forget that you are an incredibly determined and capable teacher. Every task you have ever faced, and will ever face requires some degree of adaptability. When you come to confront adversities you will struggle, adapt, and persist. As you evolve as a teacher to meet the needs and challenges of your classroom, you must hold fast to your predetermined goals and standards of education. The poses you decide to take will define your identity and standards as a teacher, and the success of your students.

Your first pose should be something important, something to really set the standards for your career as an educator. Your first pose will be teaching English in a relatable, engaging, and creative way. This is easier said than done. It’s not very difficult to say you will be relatable, engaging, and creative, but actually achieving these things takes more effort than you will imagine. You will wobble in your endeavors, given the vagueness of your goal, so you should probably become more specific with each passing day. You can decide a goal for each class period that will work towards becoming the teacher you wish to be. Test out multiple activities to gage the interests and needs of your students. You will most likely face some resistance from your students if you do not execute the relatable aspect effectively. Students usually disregard a teacher’s attempts at creative engaging activities, if they are not tailored to the specific identities of the students.

The second pose you will take will be advocate for students who need you, whether it is due to their individual circumstances or broader issues. You must advocate for their education, even if it means going beyond your comfort zone to supply them each with an equal opportunity for an education. You remember when you were in middle school and were having troubles when you had just switched schools. You had just moved from Texas to Colorado and your whole world was turned upside down. You understand how difficult it can be to find your place in the social context of school. Remember to advocate for students socially, intellectually, and emotionally especially when they cannot recognize that there is a problem. Help them to thrive in your classroom and overcome any adversities they face. You may have trouble acquiring sufficient resources or support for the issues you address, but you need to persevere for the sake of your students.

Another pose you will take is a teacher of innovation. For your classroom to be unique and successful, in a way that enthralls your students, you will try new activities and methods based on research studies so that your kids will receive the most up to date, complete education available. This pose may face adversities from the traditional mindsets of teaching, but will ultimately prevail if the innovations are sound. In this pose you will struggle with the balance of research and time proven methods with more innovative methods that have less applied experience behind them. In this aspect you will have to use your discretion to decide if the method works with the unique needs of your classroom, or if it works in practice at all. Your first priority is the education of the students, even above your desire for innovative methods to succeed. The students might wobble in these new methods, if they are not what they are used to, but give ample time for them to get accustomed with the change before you discredit it entirely as ineffective. This pose has a special demand for adaptability as you test what works and what doesn’t, or if it is the best for your students.

The last pose you must take is one you might feel uncomfortable taking. This is the pose of teacher as challenger. Students must be adequately challenged to expand their knowledge. This might be difficult at times when the students face challenges that they don’t believe they are ready for. You shouldn’t challenge them beyond what you think they can handle, but just enough so that they learn new things and feel great pride in their accomplishments. You remember what it was like in your eighth grade class when the teacher didn’t challenge you at all, how bored you were and how useless you felt. Challenge is a very important contributor to the level of engagement a class feels with the material. Your students will definitely wobble when faced with the challenges you craft for them, but it is all part of the process of growth and expansion of knowledge.

These poses will all present some form of wobble for you to recover from. It’s all a part of the learning experience for both you and your students. You must try new things and struggle time and again to improve your classroom and the educational experience of your students so that you can successfully reach a state of flow where you are optimizing the impact of your education, experience, passion, and innovation to interact with the budding young minds of the next generation. It is a great responsibility to be able to direct the minds of the future on their path towards a future world which depends heavily on the upbringings and knowledge they possess. Never underestimate the impact you have on the future and the responsibility you carry for it. You are an educator and your drive to expand both your abilities and the abilities of your students is incredibly important to this world. You have been preparing for this day, for this career, for your whole life. The time you have spent working towards this day amounts to countless hours of studying, observing, student teaching, and preparing, and now you are ready. Good luck.

Sincerely,

Your past self

Not Yet

In a TEDtalk by Carol Dweck, I learned about the grade of “not yet” in education. The power of “not yet” in education cannot be stressed enough. The dilemma students face these days of a self-fulfilling prophesy of failure is largely based on negative feedback they received in previous classes or assignments. If they fail, they might see it as a criticism of their ability, rather than their one-time performance. In this situation, as a writer-teacher, it is my responsibility to institute an evaluative system that conveys the temporary aspect of the inaptitude. This will help me as a teacher to emphasize improvement, rather than failure.

With this new system of evaluation I hope to foster a growth mindset, allowing students to see each failure as an opportunity for improvement rather than defeat. I will hope to eradicate fixed mindsets from my classroom, so that students are not trapped by the notion of their own failure.

Acknowledging the potential of students is essential in their learning and growth as learners. The only issues I found with Dweck’s ideas is that I don’t believe failure should be completely removed from the education system. She did not really address the impact of this concept in the future society. In the real world, there is failure, and if students are unfamiliar with it they will be ill-prepared for their careers.

Morning Pages: A Letter to Myself as a Writer

Dear Krissa,

It’s time to take a risk. You’ve been writing for a while, a long while in fact, but you’ve stuck strictly to your strengths. Thats understandable, practical, a logical way to succeed in your writing. But I want to challenge you now. Now that you’ve developed your style, composed a repertoire of go-to formats that have worked in the past, it’s time you take some new poses.

First of all, you should take the pose as an educator. You haven’t really tried to write with the authority and confidence of a teacher yet. The second pose you will take is writing as an improvisor. With this pose you will be able to write about anything. You will be open to new genres and skills. It will be difficult at first, you will wobble under the pressure and prospect of being an educator. You will struggle against your instinct as you explore new genres. But you will also persist through these adversities and hone your skills as a versatile author of great works, education related and not.

Sincerely,

Yourself

College Bound: A Touchstone Moment

One of my more influential writing touchstone moments was relatively recent in my life. It occurred my senior year of high school while I was applying to colleges. I was becoming quite irritated by the college essay prompts attempting to elicit tales of tragedies from their applicants. I was curious as to why they placed so much importance on the adversities of one’s life. I agree resilience despite hardship is important, but equally, if not more essential in the college setting, is the endurance of passion amidst the reality of classes, all-nighters, and making the grade. The essay topics were prompting stories of resilience, but none explicitly asked, “What will sustain you these four years as you face adversities manufactured by the very establishment that will beget your success?”

 

I wanted to respond to that question, the question that would determine my success more precisely than any other. There was one prompt, more vague than the others, which asked what your favorite place in the world was. I thought momentarily of spewing out some generic answer about my favorite place to visit, which would be accurate, but void of the passion which drove me to complete this application and seek higher education in the first place.

 

I sat in front of a blank document, probing the possibilities in my mind, of how I could make this essay more than what it was. I wanted to answer the questions underlying the meaningless prompts, the questions about who I was and why they should admit me. As I contemplated, a flurry of possibilities rushed in my head, and suddenly it dawned on me.

 

My favorite place was here: this apex of possibility and wonder, this moment of hesitant ingenuity, this instant in which the cursor on the screen flickers in anticipation–a metronome for your thoughts. My epiphany suddenly sprawled out upon the screen before me, an account of my passion, my pride, my inspiration. I wrote about my favorite place; lost in the pages of a book, behind the keyboard of a computer, or even typing college essays. My favorite place was anywhere I was immersed in the limitless world of words.

 

After I had given the essay to my English teacher to proofread, he stuck it to the whiteboard by his desk with a magnet and said it was perfect. It was a miniscule accomplishment, like getting your work hung up on the refrigerator, but was almost as encouraging as when it had been a sloppily done spelling test in the penmanship of a seven year old pinned to my mother’s refrigerator.

 

In this touchstone moment I realized the infinite potential of words and my ardent appreciation of that potential. They had the power to transform an arbitrary college essay prompt into an insightful venture of self-discovery. Any writer, no matter the prompt, no matter the situation, can utilize the mutability of words to mold their writing into anything they desire. The sheer potentiality of words is baffling, and their ability to inspire is astounding.