Of Times, Teens, and Books

            While reading Teri S. Lesesne’s article “Of Times, Teens, and Books”, I was able to really connect with the text and think back to when I was in High School, the ways our teachers incorporated free writing, and free writing I do today. It’s funny because so many of what we are learning in class I haven’t even thought of, but once we discuss issues in class and they are on my radar…I can the role they played throughout my education. Lesesne talk about the way the Core Academic Standard for K-12 English prevent educators from teaching their students to learn, cultivate, and revel in the surprise and discovery that accompanies working with words. The curriculum is so confined because of the standards that students end up missing out on the joy and creative process of free writing. I personally can’t even remember ANY time in my high school experience where I was able to write about whatever I wanted. Because of this, I rarely even think to do it later in life. It has been drilled into our minds from day one of our education that the writing process has a strict path that must be followed in order to compose the best possible piece of writing. However, Lesesne explains that a low of writing just happens with no plan at all. In her words, “writers plunge ahead with faith and fearlessness, keeping on their semantic toes – writers learn what they want to while they are writing.” I think this is beyond true, and it saddens me that because of the strict regulations and academic standards, I missed out on learning this myself. I personally love the creative process of working in my own head, starting with a simple idea or image, and building off of that. The way Lesesne describes the writing process as, “a sense of adventure – the willingness and longing to encounter the unexpected,” only heightens my excitement to enjoy this writing process myself.  We do need to let go and let language do what it does best – which is think. If we do this, writing will become second nature to our students and to us as educators. Instead of dreading the writing process because of its traditional shackles, students will take pleasure in the shaping of writing.

            It kind of saddens me to think that I haven’t been enjoying this process for the past 20 + years…and it makes me wonder, does the confinement and strict structure of the teaching of English hinder students’ imaginations? I think that if I was free to write this way before, and let the ideas come to me throughout the writing process, I would be much more comfortable in letting my imagination run wild. Unfortunately, I think my imagination has been on mute for so many years it may be hard to get back in the swing of things working with it. But, I’m really glad we read this article. It may sound corny again, but it made me excited about writing again – and I haven’t been excited to write in a very long time.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Of Times, Teens, and Books

  1. CHAUCER

    I really enjoyed this post, because it reminded me of the issues I have been facing as I consider a career as a teacher. It seems that the teaching of English has become rigidly dictated by state standards, either because of low student achievement due to factors outside of the school setting, or because of the amplitude of teachers out there with tenure who really don’t care whether their students learn or not. It’s not that I disagree with the importance of students achieving academic results that they can prove through testing, but the methods with which these standards are conducted and the lack of teacher input that is considered when formulating them. 

    Creative writing has really been vilified lately as  a worthless activity in English classrooms. Honestly, when you said that you had never enjoyed writing in school, I discovered that I felt the same way. All the writing I have ever done that I have been proud of, that has encouraged me to develop an interest in literature, has been outside of the classroom. And, come to think of it, all of the great literature I have read has been mostly from books that have been given to me by my father. Which makes me think …. What about the students who don’t have fathers who can give them great books to read, who rely on school to provide them with the literature and the writing assignments they need in order to develop a passion for reading and writing?

  2. Pingback: Excellent and Error Free Writing is Possible Now «

  3. brittanygage4

    I agree with you Lindsay that sometimes the strict format of formal writing can be detrimental to students own opinions. When I was in high school I was never suppose to use “I, me, my” or any of my opinions. Upon entering college I discovered that this wasn’t the case and that my views were valid in my writing. It was hard to change the way I wrote after so many years of being told what was right and what was wrong.

    However, I think it’s important for students to learn these guidelines to writing formal essays because it makes for more complete and detailed thoughts. While it is important for students to be creating and express their passion for writing, it all depends on the type of reader and the format of the essay. I think it’s a balance game that needs to be taken into consideration before writing.

  4. Lindsay I agree that strict structure can hinder the development of a students imagination and free write or creative writing abilities. Yet as Brittany g. said there needs to be a healthy balance that still allows students to explore their imagination or write whatever comes to mind at times and at other times the more serious structure and mandatory curriculum that is forced on faculty must be implemented. So when the time comes students will use the proper discretion and approach when writing assignments and or standardized test are presented.

  5. This is a very interesting topic that I am personally on the fence about. On the one hand I do believe that being able to free write is an important aspect of the writing process but, I also believe that it can at times be a hinderance to students if not used properly. Throughout my own middle and high school careers I was given the opportunity to free write, only I found it less productive and more like busy work. I usually found myself writing poetry during this time and not focusing on the text at all which was great on a personal level but academically was not. In many classroom this may be a similar scenario if the teacher is not careful to give structure to the free write session. I agree with your comments that too strict of a structure, usually set up to meet testing standards in schools, can also be a problem but there needs to be a balance between the two.
    Having the opportunity to experience this free write process personally gives me a good understanding of how it can go wrong but also how it can create an excellent writer. I became a better poet during these sessions because I was constantly practicing my work, re-reading and revising. If I was actually working with a text during this time, with specific guidelines, I can only imagine how it would have enhanced both my reading comprehension and my writing. A good balance is needed, between a strict structure and “letting students write what they want”,to successfully implement a free write session that students will be enriched from. This is not an impossible task and if done properly will create students who can creatively, and intelligently respond to literature.

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