First-year writers at the University of Mississippi compose reflective ePortfolios in which they examine their writing practices throughout the year. Work on the ePortfolios begins in the first week of the semester. In my classes, students begin their ePortfolios with a writer’s statement called “Me as a Writer.” They write a paragraph describing how they see themselves as writers, upload a visual image that represents their writing, and explain their choice of image. Reading these early ePortfolio entries reminds me why I love teaching first-year writers.
For one thing, they are eager to learn. Consider this student’s explanation of why she uploaded a picture of jigsaw puzzle pieces: “This picture describes me as a writer because even though the pieces I need to be a good writer are there, I just haven’t figured out how to put them together yet.” That’s a student who senses her own potential and is anxious to grow into it.
First-year writers are also courageous, like the student who uploaded an Australian signpost with a picture of a kangaroo. She explained: “The picture I included is how I feel about writing. It gives me a chance to explore the world and also explore myself.” She’s a student who will gladly push her intellectual boundaries into new territories.
First-year writers are also wise and often funny. One student uploaded an image of a blind squirrel and commented: “I believe the picture of a blind squirrel describes me as a writer because the squirrel knows what it wants, a nut, but cannot find it. I, on the other hand, know what I want to say in my head but can never seem to translate those thoughts into writing.” Isn’t that how we all feel approaching a new writing task?
You and I are lucky to have the opportunity to teach young writers. Hurray for a semester filled with jigsaw puzzles, kangaroo signposts, and blind squirrels.