As someone who is not an English major or minor I didn’t know a whole lot about literary theory and models for understanding it until this class. In school I grew up using a lot of concrete models (ie. graphic organizers) while we were learning to write, and we talk a lot about them in my education classes. However, beyond that I haven’t really had any formal instructions or guidelines on how elevate my writing beyond the basics. Explicitly learning about things such as the BEAM model and the problem framing model helped to guide me in my writing and gave me something to lean on when I would get lost. Something I appreciated is the way that this explicit learning is scaffolded for us in class. Starting small with just one piece of the puzzle in a process assignment and then building upon that to create a paper has been very helpful in understanding what the task at hand is.
Alongside the classroom supports for our writing I have been working personally on my own writing as well. Coming into this class I saw each essay in the syllabus as just another thing to get done and check off my list. However, now that I am in the middle of working on all of this writing I have been making a commitment to myself to try and improve my writing skills. Rather than writing from a prescribed thesis and adding in some quotes I’ve been attempting to let the text, outside sources, and discussion shape my claim. This took a lot of work on my part to allow myself to do this. I really had to focus in on writing to say something versus writing to get an assignment done. Writing this way has not only helped me improve my papers in this class, but it has also helped me to become more articulate in other classes and life in general. This process has made me reflect a lot on the way we teach kids writing and how the focus shifts from writing to communicate to writing to get a grade. This idea is perpetuated by our culture and as a future educator I think it’s important to recognize it and change it for my future students.
However, this shift in my mindset has not come without challenges. There have been many late nights, hurried writings, and hair pulling revisions along the journey. One of my main challenges has just been putting thoughts on paper. I have been getting so caught up in the idea that what I’m putting on paper has to be good and has to be something that can develop into a spectacular essay. However, I’m slowly starting to understand that writing takes process (and not just the 5 step kind that we teach 2nd graders). Writing takes grit. It takes understanding that not everything is going to be perfect, and that many times you will have to write, rewrite and rewrite some more before it is anywhere close to what you want it to be. However, with an understanding of the right tools to help guide your writing and a solid idea the process can be bearable and even exciting. I’ve learned to work through these challenges it is important to be open and flexible to new ideas, new challenges to your thoughts, and other people’s feedback. Staying open to these things have helped me to become a stronger writer who can take the time to grapple with these challenges rather than just submit whatever I wrote in a hurried state at 2am.
In order to frame these challenges in a new light it’s important to remember why I am doing this. Why am I spending hours working to understand what Shakespeare meant, why it is relevant to the work of other academics, and why it matters to society in general? I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is that this type of work helps us shape our worldview and understand history and society. Looking into past understandings of society through the lens of Shakespeare helps us to understand what society was like at the time and what ideals were important. Moving forward into an ever changing society is daunting, but literature can unlock answers to how society has changed over time and ways that it may change again in the future.
Above all, as a future teacher I’m doing this work to understand what the writing process and what grappling with writing should look like for my students. I think that this process has taught me a lot about how we interact with writing as students. I hope that I can take what I’ve learned about the process of writing and translate that into challenging, exciting, and creative lessons for my students that require critical thinking and determination.