Monday, November 3, 2014
To Write Academically or To Write Creatively, That is the Question
I was searching thought my computer and I came across this essay I wrote a while back about teaching writing. I am not currently working as an English teacher, but as a child development teacher for teen parents. Still, I think this was a good reminder for my teaching practice. I will have to come up with a few writing exercises for my teen paretns.
As a writer I find myself drawn to the issues and audiences that are a part of my everyday life. Both my career as a high school English teacher and my faith have had a hugh impact on my identity and, in consequence of this, my writing. One way my career has impacted my writing is my tendency to write about characters in their teens. I find myself drawn to the young adult genre. This is most likely a result of the fact that I interact with teens on a daily basis and on the fact that I have intentionally sought out good examples of young adult literature so that I can make reading recommendations to my students. I also have an propensity to write about educational topics and issues. I have to deal with concerns that face the field of education everyday and it only seems natural that these concerns would influence my writing. The influence of my career on my writing becomes even clearer when you consider the fact the I am currently working on a young adult novel about a futuristic world where "Proficiency" is mandatory in the educational system and dark consequences await those who fail to perform at a proficient level. Teaching is a part of my life and it always will be. I am thankful for the knowledge and experiences the last five and half years have had on my identity and my writing.
My faith has also had a huge impact on my writing. The themes that regularly appear in my writing are connected to topics such as stewardship, faith and the courage one needs as they endure life's trials. Most of the stories I have written are not obviously religious, but I am always aware of the religious undertones as I work on a piece. I do not believe that writers have to write only what they know, but I have found inspiration from my career and my faith and I plan on continuing to use these influences as I write.
My ultimate goal as a writing teacher is to push my students to experiment with their writing and to use it to learn something about themselves and the topics they are writing about. What this means is different for every class and every student. I break down writing into three types: academic, creative and reflective process writing. The first, academic writing includes the traditional essays and reports that I am expected to teach. These provide a nice foundation for the organization and structure that is needed in writing and are a necessary part of secondary education. The second, creative writing includes stories and poems written by the students. I include creative writing assignments in my curriculum whenever possible because I believe that such opportunities help my students develop the creative and critical thinking skills that they will need throughout their lives. The third type of writing, reflective process writing, is focused on encouraging my students to explore topics and concepts in writing as a way to help them better understand their opinions and assumptions about life. These include activities like journaling or free writing. I find these helpful in the classroom because they force my students to take a break and think about a topic with out the stress that always seems to be inherent in traditional academic writing. I believe that all three types of writing are necessary in the classroom, any classroom. It is my responsibility, as the teacher and mentor to recognize what type of writing my students need to explore at any particular moment in the curriculum. It is my responsibility to be receptive to their needs and their strengths and to encourage them to push their own writing to the next level.
I feel that human beings always have the potential for growth. Yes, I expect my students to grow and develop, but I also expect myself to grow and develop. I am always trying to push myself as a writer and as a teacher. That is one of the reasons that I applied to Cal State San Bernardino's Masters in Fine Arts program. In the fall I entered the program as a fiction writer and I have loved the dedicated time I have been able to spend developing my craft. Teaching, however, is still an important part of my life and something that I will continue to develop. I am constantly reflecting on my practice as a teacher, particularly this year because I have transferred to the continuation high school in my district. As I have worked with my students this year I have encountered many who fight against the rigid structure required by the academic essay, and many who shut down academically when required to write an essay. Where possible I have included creative assignments in my curriculum and these assignments have engaged my students much more than essays.
One of the questions I would like to consider is the possibility that creative writing exercises could make my students better essay writers. I believe that the "rules" of writing, the organizational and logical requirements, are necessary in all types of writing. I believe that if my students can recognize the need to provide enough characterization to develop their character then they can recognize the need to provide enough concrete details to prove their thesis. If they can recognize the value of word choice when describing a setting in their story they can recognize the value of formal word choice in an essay. I want my students to spend time actively exploring writing and developing their written voice so that they can honor themselves with every piece of writing they create, be it academic or creative.
Posted by Andrea Fingerson at 8:00 AM