All posts by Lexie

Final Blog Post

This class was such an adventure. I was promised to learn about writing theories, theorists and their practices, and I did. While learning about the different theories and theorists I was provided with the opportunity to not only deepen my writing and my approaches to writing, I was also given new strategies to teach writing to my students.It was a pleasure learning with all of you and I am especially proud of the progress we have all made. Dr. Zamora is an amazing education with so much knowledge and experience and I truly admire her! I also admire each and everyone of my peers and I am grateful for the time we spent together learning, discussing, eating etc. I’ve come to enjoy and look forward to out Monday evening classes.

Working on this final project was truly inspiring. It was difficult to complete and I had to walk away from writing a few times before coming back and finishing. But I’m proud of my contribution to our final project. I’m also excited about everyone else’s contribution and can’t wait to see the finished product!

Code-Switching does not mean Erasing your Voice

My Story: Of course, this isn’t my entire story, because you would be reading for days, but here is a snippet of my story in regards to the struggles I’ve faced in finding and using my voice. For years I’ve loved to read and write. I’ve always wanted to be an author but it wasn’t until recently that I’ve been able to say that dream out loud. Questions about who would listen, who would care and was I even good enough, all stopped me from wanting to have my voice heard. When I started writing, I wrote in the language I was most familiar with and the one I grew up with. But once I started school a lot of my writings were shot down, marked up or considered to be incorrect. I thought my voice was wrong. So instead, I spent my time trying my best to mimic how other people wrote and spoke. I did this so much that throughout the years I lost my voice. I was able to find it again during my undergraduate career when I gained the ability to code-switch.

African American Vernacular or “Ebonics”: As an African American woman who grew up in the city of Newark, NJ I am well versed in African American Vernacular, also known as, Ebonics. Ebonics is best known as being a dialect of American English spoken by a large proportion of African Americans. Ebonics can be correlated with other aspects of African American culture including music, religious practices, cooking styles and so on. It is more than just a language, it’s a culture and a way of living.

Image result for african american vernacular is poetry quotes

We all know the horrid and painful past African Americans have endured and how so many of us have been stripped of our culture with no real way to connect to our roots. Despite all of this we found a way to give rise to a new culture and a new language. Contrary to popular belief, Ebonics is not a broken, ghetto and disparaged language. The truth is there is so much culture, power and beauty to it as it connects people of color from all over, and gives us our own unique language and voice. Ebonics uses a lot of slang which is the main reason why people look down on the language. Therefore, African Americans who use Ebonics in their writing are viewed as using “broken English”. But G.K Chesterton, who was an English writer, philosopher, theologian, and literary critic, once stated that slang is poetry. I agree with him, Ebonics is not “broken English,” it is poetry, Beautiful Poetry.

Culture of Power: As beautiful as Ebonics is, it must be acknowledged that this language is not recognized in society as an official way to speak and write in. Therefore, one must learn how to effectively code-switch. However, in order to learn how to do this you must first be made aware of the system responsible for needing to learn how to code-switch. The term “culture of power” can best be defined as a system made up of societal norms created by a certain group (mostly white, upper and middle-class individuals). This system allows this group of people to set and maintain the rules that measure success in the world in which we live. Living in this “culture of power” means that individuals who do not belong to this dominant group (like African Americans) are unaware of these rules and measurements that were set up to rule society. Those that are unaware of the rules and the measurements become limited in their ability to advance and succeed in society. Some aspects of this system include:

  1. Issues of power are enacted in the classroom: This is oftentimes many people’s first introduction to this system and culture of power. It is also the place where many people begin to lose their voice because it is so criticized and put down.
  2. There are codes or rules for participating in power: As stated earlier, these rules are put in place by the dominant group and people not in this group (such as African Americans) must learn these, to take place in society.
  3. The rules of the culture of power are a reflection of the rules of the culture of those who have power: The culture that has the power and makes the rules are not of African American descent which explains why AAVE/Ebonics is not acknowledged as an appropriate voice in writing.
  4. If you are not already a participant in the culture of power, being told explicitly the rules of that culture makes acquiring power easier. From first-hand experience, being introduced to the system can be a jolting experience. However, it is imperative that you take advantage of learning the necessary rules in order to acquire your own power.

I’ve learned that many African American students struggle with writing because the way they communicate in their writing is most times perceived as unintelligent, wrong, or “broken English.” During my writing theory and practice course, I’ve been able to examine the role of a teacher and equip myself with new strategies for teaching writing. I’ve learned about the authority teachers have over students because of their experience and intellect, and how this power can lead to teachers not hearing their students. As stated earlier, the culture of power is enacted within the classroom, which means when African American students express their voice in a language unfamiliar to the culture of power, most times in Ebonics, and teachers typically respond by telling these students that they’re writings and voices are wrong. Therefore, teachers use their power and authority in the classroom to shut down many African American students voices simply because they do not recognize the language their voice is being communicated in.

The Art of Code-Switching: Once made aware of the system and your place outside of it, you must then learn how to effectively and efficiently navigate it. You do not need to be taught your voice, you already have it! Voice is very much alive in you. It is you! Think about your presence on the internet and on social media, that is your voice speaking out. According to many theorists, such as Peter Elbow, voice is not something you need to learn. What you need to learn is how to present your voice in a way that correlates with the rules that the culture of power has made. One strategy I have to offer is gaining the ability to code-switch. Code-switching is the ability to transform your own language into a different language and it is the practice of interacting in different ways depending on the context. Although code-switching is not limited to race, when it concerns African Americans, being able to code-switch is often a prerequisite to fit into the professional world. Writing is important, and how you convey and communicate yourself in your writing is equally important. There are standards one must meet in order to be perceived as a “good writer”. Being equipped with the ability of code-switching, one could easily switch to the culture of power’s preferred writing style (when necessary) to match these standards while still staying true to their voice.

Check out this video of a school located in LA teaching students how to effectively code switch
Image result for ebonics is important

Finding your place and not losing your voice in the world of code-switching: Once you have picked up on code-switching, the most important aspect is learning how to stay true to your own original voice. Ebonics is a beautiful language, and should be recognized universally as one. Unfortunately, seeing that the system and culture of power has not yet been removed, it is imperative that we learn how to operate inside of it. In a perfect world, one would not need to go to such great lengths to take a place in society, but we cannot deny how real and important this is. You know how Superman wears his cape only when he needs to, but on a regular basis he’s Clark Kent? Think of code-switching as the super power you use when you’re being superman, and speaking in Ebonics is your everyday Clark Kent. The same way Superman never looses sight of who he is, even as Superman, neither should you. It is a gift to be able to code-switch. Code-switching is not replacing your voice, it is only changing the way your voice is being presented. The grammatical correctness and structure of your wording does not take away from your voice.

For example, the way you respond and engage in your writing will always be a representation of you. If you are offering a genuine perspective, experience, response, opinion etc. it doesn’t matter if your words are “code-switched” into a different language, your voice will still be yours.

Not all writing has to be academic. From time to time it’s important (and fun) to just write the way you want to. There will be low-stakes writings that allow you to not have to code-switch as much. I also suggest engaging in low-stakes writing on your own where you can free-write and just get your ideas and voice on paper in your true language, however it comes out. One good way to practice this could be keeping a journal. This doesn’t have to be a typical journal where everyday you’re just recounting your day/and or emotions. Instead, make this a creative journal, if something happened in your day instead of just recounting it, tell it in a story, or in a poem or some other creative way. However, you choose to write in your journal just make sure it is in your voice and your language, no code-switching is needed, Ebonics is encouraged and welcomed.

Final Thoughts: If you are of African American descent and your voice is rooted in African American Vernacular, or Ebonics, nine times out of ten you have been or you will be taught that your voice is wrong, needs to be forgotten, and replaced with a professional voice. This is wrong and I stand with you! Your voice does not need to be erased! I agree with the idea of being able to take a place in the professional world, so that we can tear down systems like the one that tell us Ebonics is anything except a beautiful language. Code-switching will be our secret weapon.

Further Readings:

  1. Delpit, Lisa. “The Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy in Educating Other People’s Children.” Harvard Educational Review, vol. 58, no. 3, 1988, pp. 280–299
  2. Elbow, Peter. “Reconsiderations: Voice in Writing Again: Embracing Contraries.” College English, vol. 70, no. 2, Nov. 2007, pp. 168-188
  3. Gemmell, Rebecca. “Encouraging Student Voice in Academic Writing.” The English Journal, vol. 98, no. 2, 2008, pp. 64–68. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/40503385

Black is Beautiful

Image result for black power fist

Final Project

Our final project is supposed to be centered on voice and how one can either find or develop their own. However, I’m having some difficulty on formulating my ideas into a meaningful project, so while I’m drafting my project on a separate document here is the idea/basis of my project.

I’m interested in equity in education, and how so many underprivileged students can have their voices either go silenced, unheard, or told that their voice is incorrect or inappropriate. For years I’ve loved to read and loved to write. I’ve always wanted to be an author but it wasn’t until recently that I’ve been able to say that dream out loud. Questions about who would listen, who would care, and was I even good enough, all stopped me from wanting to have my voice heard. A lot of this stemmed from my education and the many times my writings would be shot down and marked up and told to that they were incorrect. So instead I spent my time trying my best to mimic the ways in which other people wrote. I did this so much that throughout the years I lost my voice. I was able to find it again towards the end of my undergraduate career and since then I’ve created a balance on how to and when to use it. This course, along with my own experiences, has further developed my voice in so many ways. I want nothing more than to pass some useful knowledge and information on to others, especially those whose voices have been silenced and told that they are incorrect and insignificant.

Students are taught that the way they speak and the way they write is wrong, needs to be forgotten, and replaced with the correct professional way in order to fit into society. While I agree with the idea of being able to take a place in the professional world, I believe that too much emphasis has been placed on “fitting into society” and erasing any other form of voice. Going through the urban school system and teaching in one now has shown me the unbalance between the local and global system and how too much global can reproduce social and racial inequalities.

Image result for more of them less of you

As a class we’ve discussed an important way of coping with a global context can be learning how to code-switch. I want to encourage students and people in general, to not only learn how to code switch, but to not forget their true selves and their true voices in this process. I also don’t want them to believe that their voice isn’t important just because they need to learn how to code switch. This will mean learning about the dominant narrative and the culture of power and how to push back and stand up against it. The dominant narrative has created the “correct voice” and as even if I don’t want to admit it, we need to learn it. However, I want students to know that learning the dominant narrative’s voice, and being able to code-switch back to their own, does not devalue their own voice. For example, I’ve mentioned before that Ebonics has been long looked down on as being “ghetto” or not knowing how to talk, but the truth is there is so much culture, power and beauty to it that there is no reason anyone should ashamed of using it. Regardless of what a student’s voice sounds like, I just want them to be able to hold on to it, utilize it, stand up for it (and for others) and be 100% completely unashamed of it.

Image result for unfair education

Equity in education is of the upmost importance. We do not all have the same backgrounds, yet we all need to conform to one uniform “voice” in order to be accepted into society. Hopefully, one day this system will be completely taken down, but until then I think allowing students to find and develop their voice, and being told that their voice matters is a step in the right direction.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” -Albert Einstein

Readings: (will be formatted in MLA)

  • Pedagogy of the Oppressed
  • The Silenced Dialogue
  • Voice in Writing Again

Learning Outcomes

This course has introduced me not only to the important individuals and their work in the field, but also to important and vital information. Every week and every reading was just as important to the one that became before. During this course I’ve remembered my own horror stories in education and heard worse ones from my peers and just wondering how could education have been different for us if our teachers had this information to help them become better educator. And every week as I read, learned and discussed I couldn’t help but think about the many other professors and teachers who today may not be privy to this knowledge or these important individuals and their works, yet they are in charge of educating people. So when I’m presented with the question about what learning outcomes are most important to me, its extremely difficult to answer because I believe all of the information we’ve covered is vital for educators. To me a meaningful project would be one where educators today could have a chance to learn, read and most importantly, utilize the practices we’ve discussed in this course in their own professions as educators. As much as I would want educators to be handed every single theorist and their work that we’ve encountered, I want our project to not overwhelm them. Some learning outcomes that I believe should be readily available to educators include:

  • Feedback and writing comments on student’s papers: We started with discussing the red pen of death and how this really hurt some of us early on as we were beginning our journey into writing. We’ve also discussed how feedback can be misleading and often times students are confused about their teacher’s feedback. We’ve also discussed how teachers can use effective feedback to allow students to revise their writings and learn/grow as a writer and not use feedback just as a means to just give the teacher “what they want” in order to get a good grade.
  • Process over product (importance of revision process): This learning outcome is important to me because students become too concerned with the product of their writing that they either don’t learn about process or take it seriously.
  • Equity in Education: We started the course off with Dr. Zamora speaking to us about equity in education and #unboundeq and this an important topic/ issue in today’s society that severely needs to be addressed.

Initially I wanted to focus on the red pen of death, love. After the free-write and this week’s blog post I want to create something that showcases equity in education ( maybe something similar to Dr. Zamora’s #unboundeq) while also incorporating other important learning outcomes.

Multiliteracies and Rubrics

Multiliteracies:

ESL and IEP/Special Education Learners hold a special place in my heart. A lot of emphasis is placed on general education and sometimes learners, such as ESL students, are often times forgotten or left out. They’re given the impression that they need to either get with the program or get lost. Or that their way is flat out wrong, when in reality its not wrong but just different. The tutors and teachers that encounter ESL students are sometimes surprised by the errors that these students make because they do not realize or fully understand how difficulty it is to cross translate different languages. This reminds me of the Syrian article we read and the author was a translator. Her job is extremely complex, not only is she responsible for translating words but also emotions. As an adult who spends her time learning how to do this, translating was still incredibly tough for her, so we must imagine how difficult it would be for a student to do this. When a child is given a writing assignment with all these criteria and stipulations, that is a lot to try and accomplish, especially with little guidance. ESL learners then begin to believe that they are not smart, or they aren’t good students when that could actually be further from the truth, it’s only the language barrier that holds them back. Sylvia and Harris give tutors and teachers tips on how to take away preconceived notions about ESL students, and offer them more guidance by:

  • adjusting expectations
  • setting realistic goals
  • resisting the need to give the answers
  • making hierarchies
  • encouraging proofreading strategies
  • resources for tutors

I think the articles gave great tips and information. For example, having tutors and teachers have an order on what to address when helping students is a good tip. The sentence structures in other languages are so different that students struggle with grammatical correctness when translating. However, just like grading non-ESL student writing, grammatical errors should not be the first priority because after you address the ideas and organization of the paper, many of the sentences that were corrected will probably be removed or rearranged. What is important are the ideas and arguments that the student writes about and how they are organized within the paper.

ESL students have an incredible amount of workload. The 9th graders in my school read a novel by Richard Rodriguez called Hunger of Memory and it truly outlines the struggles of an ESL student from first person experience. ESL students are essentially asked to embrace two different cultures and learn how to switch between them at the drop of a dime, but what this can create is a sense of not truly belonging to either one of the cultures. I believe it was Susan who spoke about similar struggles in class when as a young child she would find herself having to translate complicated conversations for her parents and how much of weight this was on her shoulders. ESL students come form so many different backgrounds

Rubrics:

This reading was based on some research from theorist Deidrich who was able to offer various types of rubrics as well as their uses. Deidrich came up with the balance of assessments over five criteria, (which I found similar to a writing rubric used by a school I use to work in Paterson) and they were:

Image result for 6 writing traits rubric
  • Ideas
  • Organization
  • Sentence Structure
  • Wording
  • Flavor

The reading also outlined the different kinds of Rubrics that could be used which were:

  • Analytic or holistic
  • Generic or task-specific
  • Performance levels
  • Grid or non-grid design

In my opinion some of these rubrics are better than others. For example the generic rubrics come as a one size fits all rubric and I don’t believe one rubric could possibly work for any and every type of writing assignment/assessment. Holistic rubrics can also present a problem because, as we discussed before, students become concerned with only the letter/number grade that they receive and fail to look at and really understand the feedback a teacher gives them so that they can grow into a better writer. Earlier in the course we discussed the importance of involving the students in the process of either creating or fully explaining the rubrics in which students will be graded by. I remember having to abide by rubrics but never really being taught the different criteria or why these rubrics were even used in the first place. I have a difficult time defining if I’m for or against rubrics because I have seen the dangers that rubrics can pose when not used the right way. Students can become confused by the grading and use of rubrics and sometimes lose hope as a writer, rubrics like the generic/one-size fits all become ineffective and don’t really help students. Rubrics can also become limiting becuase there are many different criteria involved in writing that some rubrics do not use. And if a student may be utilizing criteria not found on the rubric but not utilizing the ones on rubrics can be led to believe that they are not good writers simply because a rubric does not show what they are good at when it comes to writing. However, on the other hand, rubrics can be useful if used in the right ways. For example, a struggling writer or even an ESL student can be use a rubric to help guide their writing so that they become better writers and they make teachers job easier when it comes to teaching and grading. All in all, if a rubric is used in the right way with the students in mind, then they can really work. This may take a lot of upfront work on the teacher’s part, but in the end will be useful and effective for both the teacher and the students.

Multiliteracies and Rubrics

Multiliteracies:

ESL and IEP/Special Education Learners hold a special place in my heart. A lot of emphasis is placed on general education and sometimes learners, such as ESL students, are often times forgotten or left out. They’re given the impression that they need to either get with the program or get lost. Or that their way is flat out wrong, when in reality its not wrong but just different. The tutors and teachers that encounter ESL students are sometimes surprised by the errors that these students make because they do not realize or fully understand how difficulty it is to cross translate different languages. This reminds me of the Syrian article we read and the author was a translator. Her job is extremely complex, not only is she responsible for translating words but also emotions. As an adult who spends her time learning how to do this, translating was still incredibly tough for her, so we must imagine how difficult it would be for a student to do this. When a child is given a writing assignment with all these criteria and stipulations, that is a lot to try and accomplish, especially with little guidance. ESL learners then begin to believe that they are not smart, or they aren’t good students when that could actually be further from the truth, it’s only the language barrier that holds them back. Sylvia and Harris give tutors and teachers tips on how to take away preconceived notions about ESL students, and offer them more guidance by:

  • adjusting expectations
  • setting realistic goals
  • resisting the need to give the answers
  • making hierarchies
  • encouraging proofreading strategies
  • resources for tutors

I think the articles gave great tips and information. For example, having tutors and teachers have an order on what to address when helping students is a good tip. The sentence structures in other languages are so different that students struggle with grammatical correctness when translating. However, just like grading non-ESL student writing, grammatical errors should not be the first priority because after you address the ideas and organization of the paper, many of the sentences that were corrected will probably be removed or rearranged. What is important are the ideas and arguments that the student writes about and how they are organized within the paper.

ESL students have an incredible amount of workload. The 9th graders in my school read a novel by Richard Rodriguez called Hunger of Memory and it truly outlines the struggles of an ESL student from first person experience. ESL students are essentially asked to embrace two different cultures and learn how to switch between them at the drop of a dime, but what this can create is a sense of not truly belonging to either one of the cultures. I believe it was Susan who spoke about similar struggles in class when as a young child she would find herself having to translate complicated conversations for her parents and how much of weight this was on her shoulders. ESL students come form so many different backgrounds

Rubrics:

This reading was based on some research from theorist Deidrich who was able to offer various types of rubrics as well as their uses. Deidrich came up with the balance of assessments over five criteria, (which I found similar to a writing rubric used by a school I use to work in Paterson) and they were:

Image result for 6 writing traits rubric
  • Ideas
  • Organization
  • Sentence Structure
  • Wording
  • Flavor

The reading also outlined the different kinds of Rubrics that could be used which were:

  • Analytic or holistic
  • Generic or task-specific
  • Performance levels
  • Grid or non-grid design

In my opinion some of these rubrics are better than others. For example the generic rubrics come as a one size fits all rubric and I don’t believe one rubric could possibly work for any and every type of writing assignment/assessment. Holistic rubrics can also present a problem because, as we discussed before, students become concerned with only the letter/number grade that they receive and fail to look at and really understand the feedback a teacher gives them so that they can grow into a better writer. Earlier in the course we discussed the importance of involving the students in the process of either creating or fully explaining the rubrics in which students will be graded by. I remember having to abide by rubrics but never really being taught the different criteria or why these rubrics were even used in the first place. I have a difficult time defining if I’m for or against rubrics because I have seen the dangers that rubrics can pose when not used the right way. Students can become confused by the grading and use of rubrics and sometimes lose hope as a writer, rubrics like the generic/one-size fits all become ineffective and don’t really help students. Rubrics can also become limiting becuase there are many different criteria involved in writing that some rubrics do not use. And if a student may be utilizing criteria not found on the rubric but not utilizing the ones on rubrics can be led to believe that they are not good writers simply because a rubric does not show what they are good at when it comes to writing. However, on the other hand, rubrics can be useful if used in the right ways. For example, a struggling writer or even an ESL student can be use a rubric to help guide their writing so that they become better writers and they make teachers job easier when it comes to teaching and grading. All in all, if a rubric is used in the right way with the students in mind, then they can really work. This may take a lot of upfront work on the teacher’s part, but in the end will be useful and effective for both the teacher and the students.

Writing and Identity

Pedagogy of the Oppressed:

This reading had me considering and thinking in all kinds of ways because the words and concepts being discussed were simply mind blowing. Freire makes a note that the pedagogy of the oppressed must be be forged with and not for the oppressed. He discusses humanization and dehumanization being human’s “central problem” in an unjust system and the oppressed task to try and free/liberate themselves as well as their oppressors from this system. However, when the oppressed first begin to try and break out of this system they find themselves acting like the oppressors. But Freire places the blame for this on the system itself because because oppressors are the only models oppressed people have and the oppressed only act this way because it was “prescribed” to them by the oppressors.

Image result for michelle obama when they go low we go high

While this discussion makes sense because I know there are individual people who once they gained power became even worse than the oppressors (sometimes even towards the people they were once oppressed with) I do think that as a whole, groups of oppressed people have been known to be better than their oppressors (the Michelle Obama quote for instance). Freire also discussed that liberation cannot take place without the participation of the oppressed, which I also agree with. There needs to be a dialogue between the oppressed and the oppressors so that freedom can take place. How can freedom happen without talking to the oppressed about what they want to be freed from and without talking to the oppressors about the reasons they oppress and how they begin to step back from this oppression? This leads into chapter 2 where Freire talks about classrooms and the dialogue that needs to take place between teachers and students. Freire criticizes classrooms that don’t allow students to connect with the material that teachers teach and instead they just memorize it which he calls the “banking” model. He says the banking model does not promote creativity among students and does not teach them how to ask meaningful questions. Freire also says this model closely resembles the idea of oppression discussed in chapter 1 with the teachers being the oppressors with total control and students being the oppressed.

The Silenced Dialogue: As a product of and now a teacher in urban education and I understand first hand the challenges teaching in an urban are can pose. It’s easy to say and get caught up in asking about a student’s home life and questioning if a parent is reinforcing things from school, and even becoming frustrated at a few parents. But as Lisa Delpit said it is not out jobs or our place to attempt to change the homes of students to match our ideas of what the home should look like. In fact Lisa points out a very true statement that, “In fact they transmit another culture that children must learn at home in order to survive in their communities.” It would of course be easier to teach if I had families help. But realistically I cannot rely on that and its not because these parents/families don’t care but some of them are stretched extremely thin. Most times parents are either working extremely long hours or more than one job and are more concerned with the basic survival of their family; food, bills etc. You cannot fault or judge people who are simply just trying to survive.

As a teacher it starts with getting to know your students, how they think, how they learn and how their backgrounds attribute to their learning style. And then you must tailor my teaching to them as the students and not try to make them bend to your teaching style. Although the text is a little dated and times have changed since The Silenced Dialogue was published, Lisa Delpit brings up some valid points that can still be used today. Diversity needs to shine through in the classroom and a student’s culture needs to be both acknowledged and accepted. This article discussed the culture of power and the rules that are created and enforced no matter your background or where you are from. For this reason I think its important to teach students about the Dominant Narrative but also how to speak truth to power and efforts to try and break down and out of this narrative. This reading also took me back to the writing assessments and the discussion about global vs. local context. On one hand you want to be able to prepare students to take a place and participate in the global world where they can fit into those standards, but at the same time this takes away local contexts and cultures/ways of lives that students often times leave behind for other cultures and ways of living that were deemed “appropriate” by the dominant culture. Freire discussed how students don’t relate to the materials that teachers are teaching and as both a student and teacher in urban areas I know this to be true. But finding the balance is incredibly difficult. I want to offer a space for my students to live in their truths and express themselves, but I also want to prepare them for what awaits them in the real world.

Voice and Authority in Writing

Image result for voice in writing

Although Elbow argues for voice he accepts a “both/and” form of thinking and not a “either/or” attitude and he suggests that people on opposites handle the stalemate they find themselves in by embracing contraries.

Starting in the 1960s a surge of enthusiasm for getting voice into writing exploded. The idea was that voice is an important dimension in texts and anyone with a real voice could write with power. People began to think that voice is the true self and it represents rhetoric power, which meant that the goal of teaching should be to develop a student’s self. While individuals were embracing this notion of voice in writing, there were some who wanted to denounce this idea. The skeptics on the opposite side argued that voice was a misleading metaphor that was written by our culture and socially constructed and what we mistake for a self is actually a subject position that changes. Like Elbow, I find myself arguing a both/and attitude. I agree that our culture is does give us a voice. However, I believe that each person’s experiences, how they are impacted, and how they choose to respond to this shared culture will be different. These differences will then be reflected in their writing and speaking, which gives each person a unique voice and self. I also believe that there should be a balance of voice. There will be times when one writing calls for more use of voice than another form, and I think a person needs to understand and know how to use voice accordingly.

The conversation surrounding voice turned into the Greek Sophists Vs. Plato with Aristotle finding himself in the middle. The Greek Sophists offered to help craft peoples voices for any type of speeches in order to win an argument or case. Plato on the other hand argued that the power of language comes from the nature of the speaker’s self and if you became a better person you could naturally become a better writer/speaker. Amidst these arguments, Aristotle found himself in the middle of both positions. He sided with Plato in his belief that good people do make good speakers. But Aristotle also agreed with the Greek Sophists that anyone could be taught to be a skilled speaker and if one was a skilled rhetoric they could fool individuals into thinking they have a good “self.” I’m not sure if developing a good “self” will be all it takes to become a good writer and speaker, I believe some sort of teaching needs to be involved. I do agree that the more sincere an individual is then the better speaker/writer they will be. I also agree with Aristotle when he says that skilled individuals can fake it.

Amherst college had an interesting way in discussing the differing viewpoints of voice. On on hand participants scorned sincerity and believed that the text gave no window on the self of the writer. Participants on the opposite side saw voice as the central operative dimension in a text and even developed ears for the different nuances of voice, called ear training. What stood out to me the most was their idea that self was continually made and re-made by language and not a reflection of the historical self or author. I see the point that is being made because how we write now is totally different than the way Shakespeare wrote did during his time, but a person could study his language and choose to write in that manner. The writing being produced does not 100 percent reflect the writer’s self because it would not be in their typical language. It’s like what Aristotle said, a skilled person could fake it. However, I think that even by “faking” it a person’s true self will shine through the ideas and style being discussed.

The current situation found voices to be alive in classrooms as students began to think about, talk about and believe in their own voices. During this situation voice is also discussed in terms of politics and on social media. Voice in social media is a perfect tie-in to civic writing. Social media has given a people a platform to have a voice and share that voice across the internet. And while civic writing can be used for academic purposes, it is important to not that it can also be used in public spaces like on social media. Using civic writing on social media is important because social media causes us to forget the humans that sit on the other side of a computer or phone and it becomes easier to say rash and hurtful things. Civic media teaches us how to use our voice in a professional manner, whether it be for academic or non-academic purposes.

Reasons for Attending Voice in Text:

  • Attention to voice helps rhetorical effectiveness.
  • The metaphor of “voice” helps students improve their writing.
  • Thinking in terms of voice can help people enjoy writing more.
  • Attention to voice can help with reading.

Reasons for Not Attending Voice in Text:

  • Ignoring voice is necessary for good reading.
  • Ignoring voice is necessary for teaching writing.
  • Avoidance of voice is a powerful tool for a writer.
  • “Voice” is too vague a metaphor to be useful.
  • The notion of “voice in writing” does harm in our culture.

Voice and authority work hand in hand because I think by taking away a student’s voice is taking away their rights and authority over their work. When we read a text we do not question the author because we believe that they have written everything the way it is for a reason and the more we know about a writer’s skill, the less we will question and the more authority they have as the writer. The role of the writer having the authority is switched in schools and the teacher assumes the authority. I know that students haven’t developed a certain skill set to not have their work questioned and to assume all authority, but I do think teachers should take in mind the rights a student has to their texts. As teachers when we see something wrong to us in a student’s paper we don’t ask any questions we just mark it up and tell the student to fix it. During conferences with my students I’ve taken the time (and I think I should do this more) to ask students why they chose to write something a certain way, and this is similar to a questioning method discussed in the essay. But asking them this helps me understand their thought path and instead of telling them that no you’re completely wrong, I could help them keep their original idea but edit it to make it stronger or better. I think that it is useful for students to feel like not only do they have a voice in their work, but their voice is respected. How can teachers teach students to use voice in their writings but when they grade it everything is wrong? Essentially you are telling that student that their voice does not deserve to be heard, or that they do not have the “right” voice.

I see the issue with this, and Brannon and Knoblauch also saw this issue and understood that students and teachers needed to find some middle ground so they suggested some questions to help:

  • What did the writer intend to do?
  • What has the writing actually said?
  • How has the writing done what it is supposed to do?

This method works and I think its a better solution than to ignore voice because its better for teaching. This way teachers could begin to learn how teach students how to better develop their voice and start to give back some of their authority over their work.

Formulaic Writing , High/Low Stakes Writing and The Erasure of the Sentence

“Formulaic writing of the kind Scaffer advocates forces premature closure on complicated interpretive issues and stifles ongoing exploration.” Formulaic writing is just what it sounds like, a formula for writing. The problem with this type of writing is the writing! Writing isn’t supposed to be robotic. Reading about Jane Schaffer’s writing formula I find myself having mixed feelings. I understand all the pros for her type of formula writing but I can’t help but feel that it limits and cripples students’ writing abilities. According to Jane Scaffer’s formula writing should look like this:

  • Topic Sentence 
  • Concrete Detail 1 (CD=facts, evidence, paraphrase, proof reference, quote, or examples)
  •  Commentary 1a (CM=2 sentences; analysis, interpretation, explication or personal reaction)
  •  Commentary 1b
  •  Concrete Detail 2
  • Commentary 2a
  • Commentary 2b
Image result for jane schaffer writing formula

Additionally, each paragraph is supposed to have a set number of sentences. I understand how this may be appealing to teachers and students who deal with students who struggles with writing. But isn’t the role of a teacher not just give a simple formula, but coax students into thinking and learning how to get their thoughts down on paper? This goes along with teaching students process over product. Formulaic writing focuses on the product and not the process, but the process is what really develops a students’ writing and their critical thinking analytical skills. So why then do teachers need formulaic writing? Wiley began to discuss it in his essay when he talked about the despair that many low-income schools are in and the hardships that teachers face. On top of the day-to-day trials, high stakes testing has really put a lot of pressure on these teachers and schools to have the students perform well. And its really unfortunate that the students who need the most attention in developing their writing skills are often the ones who formulaic writing is usually hammered into their brains so that they may pass these high stakes tests. Students learn how to just follow the formula as a way to give their teachers what they want in order to learn a good grade. In addition to this, these students are taught this form of writing for so long that it becomes almost impossible to try and tear them away from this formulaic “raft” and go out into the open waters on their own. As far as the teachers, its easier to follow set lesson plans that teach formulaic writing, than it is to get to know your students and cater/tailor each lesson to be relevant to their interests and lives. And as Wiley pointed out many teachers are poorly prepared to teach writing. I like the idea of teaching students various strategies but not the formula itself. This way students can learn the strategies and adapt them to fit different writing situations. Not only can this method work for struggling students it doesn’t confine them or hinder their writing. However, the amount of work that would have to go into the lesson plans for teaching these strategies may be significant, and as I discussed earlier, there is an immense problem with poor teachers.

High stakes writing is a perfect follow-up to writing assessments as they both offer a small additional explanation for the use of formulaic writing. I do believe that students should be exposed to more low-stakes writing that are relevant to them. Elbow discussed not only the importance of low-stakes writing but also the importance of responding to writing. This discussion has been present since the start of the semester and it’s clear to see just how impacting comments in students’ writings can be. Elbow points out how comments can be depressing for students to read, and while teachers are hoping to further a students’ writing skills they may be actually hindering their writing skills. Many of the important things Elbow points out include:

  • Low stakes writing helps students involve themselves more in the ideas or subject matter of a course.
  • When students do high stakes writing they often struggle in nonproductive ways and produce terrible and tangled prose.
  • Low stakes writing improves the quality of students’ high stakes writing. 
  • Low stakes writing improves the quality of students’ high stakes writing
  • Low stakes writing gives us a better view of how students are understanding the course material and reacting to our teaching.

When it comes to a continuum between high and low stakes responding Elbow discusses a few key main points such as:

  • Even when we write clear, accurate, valid, and helpful comments, our students often read them through a distorting lens of resistance or discouragement—or downright denial.
  • Zero response (lowest stakes).
  • Minimal, nonverbal, noncritical response.
  • Supportive response—no criticism
  • Descriptive or observational response.
  • Minimal, nonverbal critical response
  • Critical response, diagnosis, advice (highest stakes)

Conners’ essay on the erasure of the sentence focuses on the pedagogical practices surrounding sentence composition. One professor, Francis Christensen, argued that the traditional pedagogy being taught to students were helping students learn how to write. Christensen believed that a student could become a good writer if they could learn how to write good sentences. At first thought this seems to make sense because after all, writing is just a bunch of sentences put together. However, what is writing if the sentences are dynamic but the thoughts and ideas inside the sentences are not? As a response to Christensen’s ideas, imitation writing was formed. Showing students what good writing looks was to make students’ writings similar to superior. But how is this form of writing prompting students to think? The problem doesn’t lay in learning how to make sentences, that can come later. What needs to be addressed is how to prompt students to create and explore their own ideas, then you help them transfer those ideas onto paper. Everyone can think and because we can all think we can all write or learn how to write. But people get caught up in what is “good writing” and not what is “good thinking.”