As an educator, I’ve always tried to get my students, in both middle school and college alike, to engage fully in the writing process. I let my students choose their own topics whenever possible so that they will be connected to and interested in the process. Incidentally, I still feel a little bad for the parents of one of my former eighth grade students; he used his newfound persuasive writing skills to argue (successfully) for a drum set for Christmas, but at least he was writing for his own life!
My favorite moment, though, had to be when a college student of mine, who had been struggling throughout the semester, latched onto a very specific topic for her argument essay. She was licensed with the state of Tennessee as a beautician, but she had some issues with the licensing exam. Specifically, she worried that some seldom-used techniques were still tested while other health-related issues with manicuring, which occur every day in salons, were not. She interviewed fellow workers, looked up the testing requirements and study guide online, and worked incredibly hard to write her argument essay in the form of a letter to the licensing board. I encouraged her to send it to them because she had made a compelling, logical argument. It was by far her best writing of the semester because she was fully engaged in a topic that connected to her own life. That’s what I think about when I think about our symposium theme—and that’s what I try to recapture in my classroom every day.
Gretchen Bunde, Instructor for the University of Mississippi DWR