In my 6000 course on Thursday night, I was leading the discussion on the first four paragraphs of How to Write a Sentence by Stanley Fish. The text was talking about words making sentences, which make paragraphs, which in turn make stories. Part of the presentation included the slots that words fit into in sentences and the rules which govern the English language. Several of my classmates then questioned who makes the rules, why they are important, and how can the rules be changed.
The essay Writing is (Also Always) a Cognitive Activity shares the story of the open-admissions campuses of the 1970’s and how “Many students came to those campuses with writing experiences and composing strategies that perplexed and dismayed their instructors; some faculty declared that many of these students could not write at all” (Dyer 71). These campuses were involved in the education of any student who had graduated high school. These came about because of what was termed the “social turn” of the 1960’s (Dryer 71).
This led researchers to attempt to develop processes that show where the deficiencies lie, if there were any. It could also be that these campuses were attempting to change the rules of the perception of English. However, the researchers and even some of the faculty “attributed students’ writing struggles to mental and even cultural “deficits” ” (Dyer 72). It is a sad commentary that inequalities are researched as deficits.
However, this research “attempted to diagnose and develop interventions for issues still important today” (Dyer 72) Issues such as writer’s block, anxiety, and audience have been plaguing writers since the dawn of time and continue to do so. While an individual writer’s process can assist in mitigating for the these issues, there is no “cure.” Simple exercises such as taking a walk, putting the text away for a few days, or even meditation can assist in dissolving the anxiety and block.
The last, and perhaps the most important lesson in this book is on reflection. It can be used as a measuring stick asto where you started and where you have grown to. This is expressed in Reflection is Critical for Writers’ Development, “Reflection is a mode of inquiry…” (Taczak 78). We can only know where are are headed when we know how far we have come. I hope to have students write three essays during classes as to how they see themselves as writers. Hopefully, after each they will discover that they are growing and making improvements, which will encourage them to keep reaching further.
I have enjoyed this book and intend to keep it in my library. I know that what we have learned reading the essays and exploring the ideas in our postings and class discussions will have a positive impact on my teaching. Like writing, I don’t think teaching can ever be fully mastered, and that with each experience and with each class, we will also grow and change for the better.
Dryer, yulan B. “Writing is (Also Always) a Cognitive Activity.” Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies, Classroom Edition. Ed. Linda Adler-Kassner and Elizabeth Wardle, Utah State University Press, 2016, 71 – 73
Taczak, Kara. “Reflection is Critical for Writers’ Development.” Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies, Classroom Edition. Ed. Linda Adler-Kassner and Elizabeth Wardle, Utah State University Press, 2016, 78