I’ve learned my lesson. After 5 years teaching writing courses I no longer assign a final paper. Frankly…they sucked. I competed with that anthropology paper and that bio final and the senior portfolio, and the work produced was riddled with typos… themeless, meaningless, and rambling. There were a few exceptions, but in the main they were quite terrible. Now I assign a final reflection. This serves two purposes.
1. The students are not forced to create yet another final paper. and, perhaps more importantly, I’m not forced to grade yet another paper!
2. The students reflect on work created over the semester (something they forget to do as we rush to pack and leave for break).
It is a pause. A chance to reflect on what is learned and a chance to step back and examine.
Among the questions I ask to be included on the final reflection is “Why do you write.”
This is a huge question. It should be a huge question. In the past the answers have ranged from “I write as if I do not I will explode” to “I write to be known. To understand myself and my world.” This last response echos Joan Didion’s words.
“In many ways writing is the act of saying I, of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me, see it my way, change your mind. It’s an aggressive, even a hostile act. You can disguise its qualifiers and tentative subjunctives, with ellipses and evasions — with the whole manner of intimating rather than claiming, of alluding rather than stating — but there’s no getting around the fact that setting words on paper is the tactic of a secret bully, an invasion, an imposition of the writer’s sensibility on the reader’s most private space.”
As I sort through my notes I will post some student responses in this space. In the interim, why do you write?