A Positive Start

Optimism is believed to be a key capable of unlocking the door to proper student autonomy by many people. It is something that I indeed subscribe to and by that optimism that I’d like to begin this very first blog post for my Writing Theory and Practice class. Although it is difficult to determine which side of the definition of optimism that I find myself in, whether the hopefulness for a successful outcome or the confidence in oneself for that outcome, I’d like to think that a positive outlook in general always leads to a positive future in some aspect. This may very well be the reason behind my positive experience in our first couple of weeks of the class.

Our first reading assignment for the term was an article called Rhetoric and Composition by Janice Lauer. It interestingly reminded me of many articles I was tasked with reading when I was an undergraduate. It felt nostalgic in an oddly satisfying way. Though it seemed a bit excessive in terms of academic display, it had so much to teach at the same time. I guess that is the satisfactory aspect of these type of articles which I remember fondly. I always struggled to read through them but in the end there were great things that I learned and recalled over the years. There are many details to consider when it comes to writing but specifically teaching how to write seems to lose its much deserved attention from my part. Articles, such as this, remind me of that important distinction and I’m quite confident that this was just a first of many to come throughout the semester.

The article often emphasized pedagogy of teaching persuasive writing and how encouragement of integrating personal elements into it was crucial for more effective results for not only the students but the readers as an audience as well. Looking back, the main focus in majority of writing assignments that I was involved in was always the application of composition structure along with usage of proper grammar. That methodical approach made me often question the lack of personality from the writer which could obviously create a distance or at least unwanted distraction by the reader. The article claims that students “overemphasize expository writing” and observe their teachers as “examiners rather than as audience” when they write essays. This is very true because that was the mind set I used to find myself in whenever I was tasked to write an persuasive or even an expository essay. The image of my professor going through my writing and finding my mistakes was ever-looming. I believe this unwarranted fear correlated with writing pedagogy often exercised in writing classes just as the article suggests. Quite often, key elements such as personality, philosophy, and rhetoric would be neglected in service of more formal style of writing catering to those who tends to grade an essay rather than receive it as a member of the audience. It is very important to remind ourselves and teach our students that “recognizing an example of good prose is not learning how to make the necessary effort to achieve it.”

The article asks the question of whether we should see ourselves as a writer or a rhetor when it comes to persuasive compositions. I had never considered the evident difference between the two. I guess a writer in a traditional sense would fall more likely into the category of people who tend to use the methodical approach to writing; such as the overall structure of how paragraphs are aligned and how the transitions are integrated into the essay. If that is the case, what would be the proper way of describing a rhetor? I would propose the same description as a public speaker except for the act being conducted in written form. Public speakers do not overly concern themselves with the structure of their particular speech because their main objective is always their audience, and more importantly winning the approval of that audience. They rely on receivers in social context and investigate compelling questions in rhetorical situations to persuade them just as the article suggests what rhetors tend to do. I should also see myself as a public speaker when I need to compose a persuasive essays in the future to study its efficiency personally and eventually pass that experience, should it prove productive as expected, to my students.

Another interesting aspect I‘d like to mention from the article is the notion of “students’ right to their own language”. This was a thought provoking assertion and I had never examined composition from that particular aspect. The students, as writers, had rights to integrate their own tone, style, and indeed the language. Overemphasis in formality often serve as restriction and obstacle in defining the character of the writer. Students need to be familiarized with “using dialects in which they find their own identity and style”. I believe the objective of any sort of writing should be self-discovery rather than making an impression on the reader. A sense of freedom is much needed to find a voice that can reach out to its audience. This freedom in writing, if given the time and space to flourish, could ignite much optimism that leads to positive outcomes without any doubts.

Overall, the article Rhetoric and Composition by Janice Lauer was a good read. There were many things to dissect from. I’m certainly looking forward to our next reading assignment.

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