Category Archives: Student Blogs

Rhetoric and Composition…and So Much More

As I went through this week’s reading, “Rhetoric and Composition” by Janice Lauer, I kept considering that although rhetoric and composition reemergence is a relatively recent, beginning in the 1960s, the study of how we communicate and why is not.

I found it interesting in the reading that although there has been this tension between writing for the individual and writing for the social when it comes to rhetoric and composition studies, the way we teach these subjects (at least in my experience in American schools) hasn’t much changed from the writing as a product perspective. As a substitute teacher, I try to pick up days where I will be covering either an ELA or literacy class, and I still see the focus on the five-paragraph essay, or the 6-7 sentence paragraph, or the ability to deconstruct sentences (with the intention of students’ ability to “test” better – so writing is still very much considered a product). I also questioned this tension between the individual and the social in the reading. Society is made up of individuals, so wouldn’t trying to understand each individual’s experience when it comes to writing help us to understand the social? In the same vein, an individual belongs to many societies, and as much as someone’s purpose for writing may be individualistic, the social will emerge from the writing because that individual, whether it is a student, writer, or teacher, belongs to their respective discourses.

I also recognize in this week’s reading that there is so much I do not know or understand yet in the field of writing studies. I had the impression that a lot happened in the discipline from the 1960s until now, and much of it was in answer to what came before or what was happening during those time periods, either challenging or qualifying previous theories or arguments.

Writing Ideologies and an Understanding of Selfish Art

As a student working towards a Master’s degree in Writing Studies, I understand that I am expected to become a part of a greater dialogue and contributor to discussions related to rhetoric, it’s history, how it is a necessary part of writing and how the thoughts on the art of writing have changed over time. Yet as I sit here, I become increasingly aware of just how little I truly understand, and find it increasingly difficult to contribute to the conversation when I have no steadfast opinion, no horse in the race, no stakes in the game whatsoever.

Instead, there are questions I find myself internalizing, as I reflect my own worth as a writer. I’ve never published anything, never even attempted. The novels I’ve written in the past have usually become the catalyst for wastebasket-ball, or, if not printed, tenants in prime real estate on hard drives that could have gone to more useful things like bitcoin wallets or dark memes, because my collection of those has never been quite big enough.

For thousands of years humans have used rhetoric in speech and composition, to persuade, give a call to action, relay messages, provide entertainment, among other countless reasons. While the idea of studying writing may be newer, the process of writing goes back generations. Some of those ancient texts are still read and studied today for the messages they convey. What would it take to write something that merits will outlive me?

The above question speaks to a relationship between the author and the audience, because the audience defines the impact of a work of writing. The 1960’s saw a groundswell of work related to the relationship between artist and audience. My work, however, rarely sees and audience eyes. I have a conscious need to get my work in front of eyes yet an outright fear of doing so, thus, my writing in it’s current state is a form of selfish art (Noah Gundersen would be so proud)

According to many theorists from this weeks reading, writers make choices. Every word put on a piece of paper is the choice of a writer, and creates a writers authentic voice, but I could never define my voice if I wanted to, to me it’s as non-existent reflection of me. I don’t know what my voice is, and I don’t think I ever will, as I will never get to read what I put down on paper without the lens of being the author that arranged them. My voice then is defined by an audience that I struggle to put myself before. How do I break this cycle?

I cannot even properly decide which of the ideologies that Faigley described in 1986 fits me as an individual. Expressivists value originality, the cognitive value recursive processes, and the social-epistemic value discourse communities and the development as a language as a social process. While I would love to say that I see myself as an expressivist, I’m forced to recognize that there is very little originality left under the sun. I would love to say I’m a social thinker regarding the writing process, but I keep the heart and soul of my writing hidden typically. I think the truth is somewhere in the middle, there is a time and a place for each ideology, and only through blending all of them can any form of writing, or teaching on the craft, stand the test of time, but, will I ever understand enough of each ideology blend them in such a way that I can have an impact on others?

I imagine, for the time being, I will continue to hold myself back, and let the spotlight fall on those willing to take a greater risk than I have been willing to up until this point. I once taught writing in a high school, despite feeling like I understand so little of what it is I actually do, or don’t do.

Who Am I?

Hello everyone! I am Tyler Clark aka T-Money. I never thought I’d make it this far in my educational journey. I dropped out of middle school once, high school twice, and college twice. Why you may ask? The answer is mental illness.. I have suffered from major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder my whole life. Unfortunately, this was not diagnosed until I was around 15 or so. I had an extremely difficult time going to school and being around my peers. Of course my mom would say this was just “nerves”. This led me to missing many days of school because I simply could not handle my undiagnosed anxiety.

Fortunately for me, I was always a good student. Even though I missed a lot of classes, I was able to pass my classes. When I got to 8th grade, the dam finally broke. My anxiety caused me to be so terrified of school that I just stopped going for a month straight. I refused to go to school and asked my mom to take me out of school and homeschool me. She did so because she did not have any options. While I was relieved that I did not have to suffer from the anxiety of being around others at school, homeschooling wasn’t for me. It did not provide the educational experience that I was looking for. 

I had to make the impossible choice of going back to school and dealing with my anxiety. I made it through 8th grade and graduated middle school. Of course my family moved after that, so that ment starting a new high school where I didn’t know anyone. Guess how that went with my anxiety. I attended freshmen year of high school for a total of one week and then stopped attending completely. This is when I was labeled as the bad seed. They said I was “oppositional defiant”. Rather than understanding my anxiety, I was labeled as a bad child. So I was put in programs for children with behavioral issues. 

I never completed my freshmen year of high school and we moved again when the new school year started. While I was technically a freshmen, I was able to start as a sophomore because I did very well on the placement tests. I was always a high achiever in school because it was all I had and I took pride in learning. To my surprise, I actually made it through my sophomore year somehow, but everything fell apart during my junior year. Anxiety and depression reared its ugly head and I dropped out of school once again. Luckily for me, I was able to attend night school and get my high school diploma. 

College was next on the list and I don’t think I have to tell you it was rough. I started community college. I was receiving treatment for my mental illness, but it was still very hard to deal with. In keeping with my track record, I dropped out of community college not once, but twice. I started working at an independent record store that sold music and comics. I worked there for 10 years and made my way to manager. I planned to open my own store eventually and thought I had life figured out until one day when the boss decided to sell the store. I was devastated and had no direction in life.

So of course I decided to return to school. Given my track record with school, I thought I was a fool. But I had no other options. I went back to community college and got my Associate’s. After that I went to Kean. I decided to major in English because I have always loved poetry. Instead of focusing on what jobs I could get or how successful I could be with a degree in English, I decided to follow my passion.

As it turns out, this was the right move. During my time at Kean, poetry has become my life. I started performing at open mics about 2 years ago. I found a community of like minded people and I have a reason to keep making art. We call ourselves the NJ Poetry Renaissance and you can find us on Instagram. We reject the idea and conformity of what poetry should be. Instead, we embrace the working class and reject the elitists. In this scene, I have met some of the greatest poets to ever exist. They are the ones who are unknown to the academics. I have found a 2nd home among these artists and I couldn’t imagine life without them.

I also self-published a chapbook in my senior year at Kean. It was my way of dealing with the grief of losing my best friend to suicide about 2 years ago. Until that time, I was unable to write about the subject because I did not think that I could do it justice. In time, I found my voice and was able to say the things I needed to say. I can make the chapbook on demand if anyone wants a copy.

As you can see, I chose to emphasize the parts of my journey that were difficult and uncomfortable rather than talk about myself in a more positive light. This is because we all struggle behind our masks and I chose to embrace my struggles. Rather than hype myself up, I want all of you to see where I came from. It wasn’t pretty but that makes it all the more amazing that I am finally in grad school. Making it all the way to grad school is an achievement for anyone, but with what I suffered through, it’s a miracle.

Welcome Back, Autumn: Embracing a New Fall Semester

Photo by Greg Shield on Unsplash

Hello again, dear readers! It’s me, Jenny (or Jenise, for those who prefer the formal touch), and I’m delighted to be back here, sharing the latest chapter of my academic journey. As the vibrant colors of fall return and the air grows crisper, it’s the perfect start to my second semester in graduate school at Kean University, where I continue my pursuit of a Master’s degree in English Writing Studies.

Reflecting on my first semester, it’s incredible to see how much I’ve grown since my days as an undergraduate at Kean University. My passion for the written word, its intricate process, and its profound ability to convey meaning and emotion have only deepened.

This fall, as I return to the rhythms of daily life, I’m reminded of the importance of hope, especially during challenging times. The past year has presented us with trials, uncertainties, and obstacles. But if there’s one thing that keeps us moving forward, it’s the ever-present glimmer of hope.

Hope is the belief in better days ahead, a beacon of light that guides us through the darkest nights. It’s the fuel that propels us to keep going, to dream bigger, and to strive for the best version of ourselves.

As I embark on my second semester, I’m filled with excitement and determination. The program’s emphasis on writing and critical thinking is a perfect fit for my academic and personal goals. I have confidence that the challenging coursework and dedicated faculty at Kean will equip me with the skills and knowledge I need to succeed in my future endeavors as a professional writer.

So, as we dive into this new semester, I invite you to join me on this ongoing journey of growth, discovery, and the everlasting exploration of the written word.

Here’s to another semester filled with stories yet to be written and knowledge yet to be uncovered!

About Me

Hi everyone! My name is Jonena, and here’s a little bit about myself.

I started Kean as an undergrad in 2013. It took a lot of stops and starts for me to finally obtain by English degree in summer of 2022, but I won’t go into that long story today.

Today, my goals are to be an English professor, as well as a teacher and writer. I currently substitute teach and am a research assistant, and this is the first time in my life that although I am doing a lot, everything is related, I can focus on my studies, and can also give myself time to rest. I am so grateful for this.

Some non-academic things about myself are that while as an English major I have a HUGE love of books and my TBR pile will probably never end, I also love playing video games and guitar.

Last January I lost my father, and it has been…difficult. But whenever I left the house to go anywhere: work, school, or visit a friend, he always told me to “have fun.” So I try to remember that with everything I do.

Howdy Y’all

Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Erik with a k, and I am excited and anxious to be starting my second semester here at Kean’s MA English Writing Studies. I graduated from the Kean in 2018, so I guess you can say I decided to double down on the Kean degrees. hahaha *crickets* The reason I chose to pursue this MA is because I want to publish my writing but I don’t feel as if its good enough, there’s so much I don’t know about writing studies. Also, the world is changing so fast its hard to keep up on my own especially if I’m to go up against the ever evolving, villainous AI. So, I have to keep improving myself, my writing, my outlook, my mind, etc. (also my friend Brandon was the previous GA and told me this was a great program. He kind of convinced me to sign up) Anyways… below are some useless facts about me. Enjoy

I mentioned in class that I love the precision of words. I believe this came about from my upbringing. I was a very quiet and timid kid. I spent a lot of time in my head and grew up with a sister who is my polar opposite. While I was quiet she was rambunctious and always getting in trouble for saying whatever thought popped into her head. Very much a Ying to my Yang. I place all the blame on this dynamic; its what led me to keep my nose in a book most of the time, which led to me to loving stories, then words, then accuracy of those words, then poetry. One giant domino effect.

I love to write poetry though I don’t really like to share it. My work never feels complete, it can always be improved, edited, enhanced. That being said I do have an Instagram page for a few poems I’ve written that have passed my standards. I wont be sharing here, but you’re more than welcomed to ask me for it. Aside from poetry, I love Fantasy and Horror. Nothing better in this world than escapism and horrors beyond my human comprehension. I’m not too good at writing prose but don’t get me going on world building I’ll go into a month long psychosis, creating warring kingdoms fighting over a holy land only to discover it never existed or a human-dragon hybrid species being hunted down by zealots who calls them demons. I could go on… but I wont.

When I’m not practicing escapism, I spend my time gardening. There is something beautiful about helping a tiny seed turn into a sprout then a seedling then a mature plant. I prefer to garden vegetable and herbs but I do have some that don’t. My favorite is Erik Jr. (Yes I named them after me). I’ve had this Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera) for about 5 years now. Its my pride and joy and it blooms around Christmas time (the odds lol). It was a gift from a coworker when I worked at an Barnes & Noble. Other than that I grow tomatoes, peppers, mint, sage, lemongrass, rosemary , thyme, parsley, cilantro, and oregano.

The last thing I want you good folk to know about me is my other child, Perseus. He is an angel sent down from cat heaven to bless my life. He’s 2 years old and we got him when the bodega cat by my moms job had a litter and my sister swears he approached her and chose her. The Cat Distribution System at work. Percy is extremely friendly with people, loves thin slices of chicken breast (as a snack), dragging his claws on furniture, scratching your door at 3am (terrifying), sleeping by your feet, playing hide & seek and occasionally biting your calves as you walk by him.

That’s it, that’s the tweet.

Introduction (Due 9/18)

When I think about who I am at this moment, I don’t think about growing up in New Jersey my whole life. I don’t think about my parents and how I have lost them both. I don’t think about my younger sister, my lifelong love of theater and books, and my academic and professional backgrounds. I don’t think about my relationship to Judaism, or my age, or my being a woman, wife, and mother of twin sons. What I think about is how I’ve been trying, over the past fifteen months, to examine and embrace these parts of myself and let them occupy the space in my mind that was formerly overrun with fear and pressure.

For years, I existed under a veil of anxiety. It blanketed my thirties and stretched into my forties, becoming heavier with each passing year. That burden obscured the good things in my life, exhausted me, and left little room in my brain for anything other than worry. When the pandemic came along, my anxiety became distilled, concentrated, so that the veil began to smother me, and I could see that my life as I was living it was unsustainable. This revelation led me to walk away from a secure and predictable teaching career a little over a year ago. And, just a little over a year ago, I also began the project of crawling out from under that veil and reclaiming myself.

In my old life, I had no room for art, or beauty, or self-expression. Now, I am consciously carving out time for these things. In order to write this blog post, for example, I had to orchestrate a block of time in my house without my husband practicing his guitar, my one son practicing his drums, or my other son wandering into the room to talk to me about Dungeons & Dragons. I had to ignore piles of laundry and stop thinking about how I forgot to buy eggs at the grocery store this morning. I have managed it (hooray!) because I’m prioritizing moments that enhance my life, to go toward rather than through. I am actively attempting to reawaken parts of myself that have been dormant for years. This graduate program is part of my attempt to make room in my life for art, beauty, and self-expression, enhance my skills, and take a look at the world beyond the veil.

So, what does my world look like now? In January of this year, I began a fulfilling (but not all-consuming) job at Kean working with high school students taking classes on campus in their senior year. In the spring of this year, I performed in a full-length play for the first time in almost twenty years. I spend more time with my twin sons and my husband (we’re working our way through The Simpsons in the evenings). I read books. I eat better. I check in with friends. I accept social invitations. And, with equal gusto, I do my homework for my Writing Theory and Practice class on my nascent journey to a master’s degree.

Photo by Ian Keefe on Unsplash

A pen, paper, and an empty room

On August 1st of the year 2000, a barely alive Cindy Rodrigues was brought into the United States, New York to be exact. I grew up in Queens, the most diverse, hardworking, and ambitious borough of NYC. I went to school with people just like me, but not really because I always fell in the middle. My fellow Bangladeshi people thought I was Latino, whereas Latinos thought I was faking my last name. Thus, started my fear of crowds, public speaking, participating in anything and ultimately growing up with severe anxiety. To the point where, as an adult  I would order my Dunkin coffee on the app to avoid speaking to anyone. I’d then proceed to panic in my car because I’d have to walk in and grab my drink in front of everyone. What a way to live am I right? 

I went through a lot of phases in my life in terms of career and aspirations. My parents are hardworking immigrants who moved to this country for a better future, basically the whole spiel. You know it, I know it. As the honorary black sheep of the family, I did not become a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or lawyer that I was bred to be. Instead, I struggled with figuring out my passion until a literal global pandemic came rushing in. I was locked in my house with my very sick mother, two teenage  siblings and a father trying to handle this overwhelming situation. During the first few months of Covid, my mother was one of the first personal cases we were dealing with. We really thought she was going to pass away. Thankfully, she charged through this illness. Anyways,  I was locked up in my house, also working at Walgreens at the time, which was next to a hospital that literally had dead bodies outside because they ran out of room. I would write and write my days away. I do not like talking about my feelings ever, with anyone. So, I revert to writing them. My dark humor and rough upbringing definitely adds a lot of soul to my poetry. Oh, did I mention I write poetry? I currently work at a High School in Queens for students who are on the autism spectrum. I absolutely adore them; they’re one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. I wanted to share my love for writing so a colleague and I decided to start a writing club. We teach the students how to use their creativity and put it into words; some of them even publish on WATTPAD. It’s a wonderful opportunity for me to help any students who may be struggling like I did, and also for the students to know that they are never alone. 

Now here we are, at the end of my first blog post. This was truly a hard one because talking about myself is something I despise doing; I never know where to start. I always think no one really cares and my life is not that interesting. Although, I am excited to come back to this post when I am a published poet, teaching my Intro to Creative Writing course with all of my anxious students. I will share this post with them, as I did with my High Schoolers and once again show them that they are not alone. I just hope whoever reads this post understands that not all people are shy and mysterious. Some people truly cannot make the words to participate and initiate conversations. Not all people have the social battery to keep engaging and making sure everyone is entertained. But at the end of the day, we do have thoughts to share. We just might need a pen and paper, and an empty room.

Hello reader,

I am Valerie Allen, born and raised in the grand city of Newark, NJ. I have finally completed what I began many years ago as a proud undergraduate. I am now a full-time graduate student at Kean University with a passion for educating and concentrating on M.A. English and Writing Studies.

Mother of two remarkable sons, Christopher (eldest) and Daniel (latter), and grandmother of five beautiful grandchildren: Adriana, Alana, Calla, Kaleb, and Kerian.

I earned a 4.0 GPA in language arts from elementary to high school and my first semester as a transfer student at Kean. I graduated from Kean in May 2023 with honors (cum laude and Dean’s list), was inducted into Kean’s Charter of the National Society of Leadership and Success in Fall 2020, and completed the seven-week Fast Track program of Kean L.E.A.D. (Leadership Education and Development) Spring 2021.

I am also one of the proud graduate assistants for the English and Writing Studies Program and a self-published author of I Am Inspired The Beginning. Thus, I intend to discover more within this master’s course to further my educator and writing career.

When I am not in the class setting practicing and writing or in the office assisting, I enjoy relaxing, eating, shopping and catching the latest film with my latter-born son.

On Writing

I try to convince myself that when I stare at a blank page and can’t find the words to fill it with that I am romanticizing the ideas I can fill it with and not fumbling over my own insecurities as a writer.

Hello, I am Michael O’Hara. I am an aspiring failed novelist, a manic depressive floundering teacher, all around lost individual, and current student in the Writing Studies master’s program at Kean University.

Originally, I joined the writing program at Kean University as I was looking to transition my career from pharmaceuticals to education. I had spent nearly a decade as a pharmacy technician with various organization, with my last position being during the pandemic. It was during this time that I felt I needed a change. My role with that final company had me numb to myself; I was less hands on with patients and more in touch with an electronic prescription management system than I would have ever preferred.

I’ve always wanted to matter, or at least to feel like I matter, and losing my connection to my patients made me feel like I didn’t. I was a cog in a machine, pushing a pumping oil through tubes to motors running conveyer belts and assembly lines, and I lost bits of myself with each passing day. The idea had been floated to me before that I would be an excellent high school teacher, and so I decide I would become one.

The pandemic changed the world in countless ways, and I have no doubt that it changed the course of the education system for decades to come. My first year teaching, I met some gifted and incredible kids, some of which with their own brilliance lost to them, yet… it was a struggle from the very beginning, and it never stopped being one for me. I wanted my student to share my love of novels, poetry, thought, expression, and very few did. Despite the fact that I became a mentor to many, the things I taught them became much more about life and much less about content. I wanted to treat my students like young adults, but that proved to be a mistake in many ways. My thoughts on becoming a teacher have soured over time.

So now, I am what many might call “a little lost”. I have no desire to go back to pharmaceuticals, am worried I will lose my passion for literature and the art of writing, do not find much interest in returning to working at assisted living facilities, making promotional videos, or retracing my steps back to any of the other positions I’ve held over my working career. The only thing that I want to do, the only thing I think is for me, is writing.

I want to write because I have road-tripped America five times, living out of my car in mountains and deserts, slept under stars in a Kansas winter, and walked across the Golden Gate of the Golden State. I’ve met some of the most beautiful people with stories that humbled me, reduced my ego to porcelain and shattered it under the weight of what they had experienced, lives I’d never lived, and all the while I was looking for something, a story that would put my life into context, rectify who I was with who I am so desperately trying to be.

I have more questions than I will ever have answers to, but the questions that linger fester, writhing with me. I don’t know who I am, and sometimes I rely on the characters in my head to shed some light on those pieces of me that I need to reacquaint myself with. Currently, I am writing a novel about a heartbroken man searching for answers, I see myself in him, and see those I love in everyone that he loves. The novels I hope to release to the world, the ones filled with grit, piss, vinegar, bile, and the horrors of the world, are love letters all the same.