Looking back at a semester of UWRT Photo of my group's Mr. Motivation project
What connections are you making within this class, and to other classes you are taking or have taken since starting college?
Writing is a tool that is weaved through almost every other course you take in school, so it’s pretty easy to draw connections between this course and all of the other classes I’m taking in school. I have already used the skills we are covering in this class, especially in the most obvious way: writing papers! I have had to write quite a few papers, especially in my Honors Colloquium class. Most recently, I had to write a 6-page research paper, which definitely required the skills we discuss in class! I have also used other skills such as working as part of a team, in many of my other classes.
How would you describe your writing process? Has it changed at all since the start of the semester?
My writing process prior to this semester was one of apathy, and a feeling that writing is just something you have to do to pass a class. I’m not sure how much that has changed, but what I have learned is how writing can be expressed in more fun and interesting (to me) ways. For example, for the first big project I represented my story with a video game. This video game still included writing elements in it, with each level having about a paragraph worth of story, but it told the bulk of its story through the game. I don’t know if any of that is actually related to my writing process but I think it showed me a new way to look and writing, especially storytelling.
Reviewing the syllabus and your initial blog post, how would you describe the extent to which you are meeting your general semester goals?
I think I am absolutely meeting my general semester goals. So far in the course, I feel that I have put a lot of effort into every assignment, and I think they have all come out well. I had a tendency to put very little effort into my high school English classes, and even though I usually got good grades, I didn’t feel good about not trying my best in a class. Now that I’m in college, I really wanted to put a lot of effort into all of my classes (probably because I’m paying thousands of dollars for them), and I think that in this class, at least, I have done that.
Please discuss your thoughts on the feedback you have received from peers and your instructor on your written work.
I think that I have received far better feedback in this class than I ever have before. All throughout high school, my teachers usually just scanned through the paper for obvious spelling/grammar mistakes and then slapped a random number on the front with no comments anywhere. Coming to college where it seems like my papers are actually read has been a big surprise and I’m very happy to not just receive any feedback at all, but to receive detailed feedback spread throughout the paper dealing directly with the relevant sections. I think that will really improve my writing; I mean, come on, I’ve known how to use punctuation since middle school!
What are you proud of in the work you’ve done in the in the course so far? This could be your written work, class participation, collaboration, etc.
I think the thing I am most directly proud of is my literacy project. I think I wound up spending way more hours creating the game than I would have just writing the paper, but the end result was worth it. Having you go through a game really helps you understand my story of literacy a lot better, and making the game is me flexing my programming literacy. I think I made a good choice for that project, and my hard work paid off. I’m also pretty proud of my This American Life parody podcast, which is spot-on Ira Glass material.
If you could name a song that represents your experience in this class, what would it be and why?
If I had to pick a song that best represented my experience in this class is would be Pedestrian At Best by Courtney Barnett. The similarities start in the title: “Pedestrian At Best”, meaning that, at best, I am kind of “meh.” This theme continues into the very first lyrics: “I love you, I hate you, I'm on the fence, it all depends / Whether I’m up or down” expresses the fact that I have enjoyed the class as a whole, but I still don’t enjoy writing very much. It also expresses that how much I am enjoying the class depends on how well I am completing all of the work and coming up with ideas for projects. Similarly, the line “I like you, despise you, admire you” accurately describes my relationship with writing. I like the idea of writing, and sometimes enjoy getting my thoughts down, but overall I often despise being assigned long, boring essays (even if that didn’t happen as much in this class as it has previously). Despite that, I still admire writing; I love to read fiction when I have time, which is rare nowadays, but I also read the news every morning when I wake up. In the chorus, “Put me on a pedestal and I'll only disappoint you / Tell me I'm exceptional, I promise to exploit you” references the fact that being in an honors and accelerated writing class might set high expectations for my work but I am not very good at writing. That same thought is shown in the lyric “I've got no idea how I even got here”.
If you were to teach this class, what ideas would you emphasize?
If I were to teach this class, or any writing class for that matter, I would emphasize just how personal and different writing can be for everyone. Writing is not some solid concept like math, but rather a fluid idea that evolves over time and is reinterpreted every time someone puts their pen to the paper or their hands on a keyboard. Everyone will have their own style and voice in their writing, and that is something that should be encouraged. That’s not to say writing is a lawless frontier; you still need to follow basic rules of grammar, spelling, and syntax to ensure that your ideas can be understood by others. Rather, it means that essays and other papers should be looked at not for its strict adherence to a rubric, but its ability to express its message clearly and interestingly. After all, many writers become famous partially because of their unique and quirky ways of shaping written language. I would be sure to emphasize this not because the class is currently behind in this area but because it will be many student’s first experiences with writing post-high school. These students will be used to a very formulaic and exact process of writing if they came from a school at all similar to mine. I think an introductory college course is a great chance to get these writers to think outside of the box and find their own voice and methods of writing.
This is your opportunity to speak back to an author or a source that we’ve referenced in this class. If you really enjoyed a reading/resource, what did you enjoy and why? If you disliked a reading/resource, what would you suggest? Do you have an idea for an alternate reading/activity?
Recently, we had to do a blog post on socioeconomic issues in the class. One of the links we had to read to supplement our discussion was an excerpt from Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich. In this excerpt, Ehrenreich tries moving to a new town and living a with a low-wage job. This is an experience that is very similar to what millions of Americans deal with everyday. Throughout the text she shares her struggles which began almost immediately. She reads the newspaper and scours streets for businesses looking to hire, applying to a varied list of positions. She quickly finds out how hard it is to find even the lousiest of jobs, rarely being called in for an interview - or even receiving any responses at all! In the end, she finds a job as a waitress, which was one of the only jobs she was actively trying to avoid. I liked this resource a lot because it expresses a struggle many people face not only in America but across the world. If you are living a middle class life in America it would be quite hard to understand the daily struggles of someone in her position. By coming from a place of moderate wealth, Ehrenreich manages to relay her experiences well in a way that is relatable to anyone and not just those who are experiencing the same thing.
Tell the story of UWRT 1103. Focus on the elements of narrative we discussed this semester.
When you start looking into colleges, you quickly realize just how radically different each one is. In the beginning, your assumption is that, since most colleges offer about the same range of degrees, the courses and requirements must be very similar. This view quickly changes as you look into the different programs, and realize the differences on day 1. In my case, I noticed that NC state had a really simple way, clear way to skip out of your freshman writing classes - simply getting a 33 on the English portion of the ACT. Having met that requirement, but thinking about going to UNCC, I immediately looked for a similar option at this university. What I found instead was a much more vague statement: “based on your SAT scores, you may be placed in UWRT 1103 instead of UWRT 1101 and UWRT 1102..” Now, there are a couple of problems with this. First of all, I never took the SAT - it was ACT all the way for me. A quick email cleared up that my ACT scores would could be used if they are equivalent to the minimum. This still left me having to take a writing class, and having never enjoyed writing very much, that was not an exciting proposition. To make matters worse, I was accepted into the University Honors Program, meaning I had to take an honors writing class. So I showed up on the first day, not all too excited to be there, and took my seat. The class started with the typical stuff: an overview of class rules and expectations, more information about the professor, and the dreaded ice breaker. We quickly received our first assignment, an essay, due very shortly after it was assigned. We had to write about our theory of writing, and I knew exactly how I was going to handle it. All of my writing classes up to this point had been boring, formulaic, and frankly didn’t teach anything new at all. This is how I went into my paper; after all, my theory of writing had been shaped mostly by all of the experiences I had in school. This class was already very different, however, based on how this assignment was given out. Unlike almost every single assignment throughout my K-12 education adventure, there wasn’t some strict rubric the paper had to follow. The paper wasn’t just supposed to be a demonstration of your ability to read a table describing the qualities and techniques your paper should use, but rather an open-ended topic we had to discuss through the best of our abilities. This idea, already a huge positive over my previous experiences, accelerated as the semester went on. With our literacy project, it was taken to the extreme. For that project, I used a video game to tell my narrative; a great choice because it literally took you through the story, and was a working example of a type of literacy I have, programming. The next big task was observing students and creating a podcast about our observations. I loved this! I am an avid podcast listener, and was excited to make my own. For my podcast, I made a parody of This American Life, utilizing their structure and Ira Glass’s weird and engaging cadence. I was very surprised, in a good way, when Dr. Rand understood the reference. I think that surprise came from how dismissive my friends tend to be over anything NPR related - “Oh, those boring voices on the radio?” - even if that’s not the common view. Soon after we began planning for our inquiry project, although more importantly to me, we watched The Truman Show. The concept of that movie had me intrigued for a very long time, but I never got around to watching it. I’ll be honest, I no longer remember how that movie tied into the class at all, but I thought it was pretty awesome. In the interest of not being repetitive, I talk a lot about my inquiry and remix projects and how they evolved over time on my Projects page, but those came next. When it came time to share our remix projects with the class, I pulled up my Snapchat video. I’m glad I picked that over the diary, because it is much more engaging, but by then end of the class I was very sick of hearing my own voice. This brings us to the final frontier, the end of the road, and the class’s conclusion - our portfolio! Being dumb and stubborn, I decided to create the site myself, from scratch. Although I kind of regret that, based on how much effort I had to put into just getting the structure up and running, I’m happy that I did it that way. See, in class today I got to see what many wix weebly created portfolios look like. And while they all have some unique, creative design flairs, those seem to be from the genius of the student’s presenting them, not from the platform itself. The content it creates on its own seems to be cluttered, and, well, not so good looking. Now, the problem with releasing this “story” now is that it lacks a real conclusion - no final grade. But I think that’s OK for the purposes of this assignment; after all, we had our final class, this is the final assignment, and I’ll never be headed to a UWRT class again. I’m just happy that it was fun and engaging, and not the miserable, formulaic and dry torture chamber I thought it would be.
What will your writing do in the world? What types of writing will you do, and how will you prepare to do that writing?
My writing will be the guide by which adventurous code explorers make their way through thousands and thousands of lines of cryptic programming. My major is computer science, and a big part of this field is programming. When you’re in the process of programming, you have to follow the syntax of the programming language you are using; a concept we discussed using the English language in class. The problem is that this syntax, while logical during its creation, quickly becomes confusing if you are the poor soul who has to go back later and try and understand what someone else has written. This is where programming comments come in - these are little notes, written in the English language, that explain what various bits of code and seemingly useless nonsense you discover while digging through someone else’s code do. Without these comments, it would be nearly impossible to edit and improve someone else’s work. This is why this skill will be so important to me in the world. If I want to be able to collaborate with others to solve a problem, I will need to clearly explain what each bit of logic does. Even if I’m looking back at my own code, I don’t know what it means half of the time! I will prepare to do this by learning from the best. It’s pretty easy to look back at other big projects that are open source and see how they comment their code. I will also need to work on writing concisely in small blurbs.
Do you consider yourself a writer? Why/why not?
I do not consider myself a writer. Sure, I write a lot - mostly because I have to for my classes - but it is not a significant interest of mine. I feel that, in order to be a “writer”, the final written work must be your objective. For example, a writer might write a book in order to publish it, or they may complete an essay because they want to get their thoughts out even if it is required. That is not something that I do very often. Ninety-nine percent of the time that I write I am writing because I need to get a good grade in a class, not because I want to put out some great piece of written material. That’s not to say that I never enjoy writing; on the contrary, there are many assignments where I was excited to look into a topic and write my opinions down. None of that changes the fact that I often could not care less about holding the final result in my hands, making revisions and improvements, or even keeping it for later reflection. The other one percent, the times where I write because I want to and enjoy it, are exceptions to the rule and do not qualify me to be a writer. And right as I type this, I have come up with an additional reason why I am not a writer: I am genuinely struggling to write an entire page filled with words about this topic. With only about half of a page complete, I already feel like I have said everything I need to about the topic, and I may need to resort to nonsense fluff to hit the wordcount. To my non-writer mind, the fact that this prompt is only a few words and requires one full page yet the other prompts in this reflections are much longer and require only half of a page is completely nonsensical. This particular prompt is very open-ended, and I can see a writer latching on to that and droning on about every reason they have ever had for writing in poetic and thoughtful language. I use the word “droning” because such a synopsis would probably bore me no matter how well-written it is. That, I believe is a final good reason why I am not a writer.
Looking at the student learning outcomes for first year writing, please explain to what extent you have met those requirements, providing specific examples to support your claim.
The first general topic on the student learning outcomes is rhetorical knowledge. If you have good rhetorical knowledge, you will be good at identifying and applying strategies in many different scenarios with many different texts. You will also be able to write with a specific objective and target your audience. One of the tasks that we should be able to do, according to the document, is assess how genres shape and are shaped by sticking to and veering away from conventions. I think that this is an area of rhetorical knowledge that I have become very good at. For example, in my inquiry paper, I used a conversational tone; that means that I wrote less formally than many typical essays. I also casually brought up my points and explained them using examples rather than strict and official definitions. Throughout the paper, I relied on my audience being able to relate to what I was talking about instead of going into every detail with clinical precision. Despite working within those parameters, I still included many substantial facts and statistics, I just wove them in differently. That last concept ties into another skill the document says I should have, which says that I should be able to switch around my tone and style depending on the context. I think I did that very well in that paper, and thus have strong rhetorical knowledge overall. Another skill we were to develop was our critical reading skills. I think once we get into these later skills, the concepts become a bit silly; not because they aren’t necessary for a student to understand, but because they just seem like basic ideas that many people coming into college will already be quite good at. I think I meet this skill because I had to critically read many articles in this class, specifically the article by Barbara Ehrenreich. This article was all about living in a populated area looking for low wage jobs, and the struggles of making ends meet. One of the concepts you need is to use reading for inquiry, learning, and discovery. I think that article meets all of those requirements; it informed me a lot about issues I was curious about but didn’t understand too well. For the skill of composing processes, I learned this by doing - we had to write a lot in the class, and practice makes perfect. Every time I would submit an assignment, get feedback, and revise I would be improving my compositional abilities. Specifically, I would get great practice looking into and reusing different sources material and collaborating with my classmates and group members. That last bit was especially true for the inquiry project, where everyone was working with there groups every single class period. Many times I had to look over someone else’s paper and give recommendations, but more importantly I had to think deeply about their recommendations for my paper. These stages of feedback helped me improve many areas of my paper. Because of that practice, I think I got quite good at this skill. But that feedback was also useful for the next outcome: knowledge of conventions. Having someone look through your work lets them find silly errors that you miss; reading your own paper makes you much more likely to skip over errors your fingers had just injected into essay. Another important factor of having a good knowledge of conventions, however, is being able to fit yourself into a specific genre. My best practice from this came from the remix project. Although I was using the same subject matter for all editions of my topic, I had to understand how to morph the same conventions into various genres and focus squarely on my audience. The last convention is critical reflection. Oh boy, critical reflection…. it is a topic that has come up very, very frequently throughout my first semester. Between my HONR 1700 class and UWRT 1003 class, I have had to use the skill of reflection many, many times. With this somewhat excessive practice I have become very competent the skills listed, such as demonstrating reflection through writing, but also the more complex ones like illustrating why reflection is so important to learning. When you complete something, you should never consider it done. This teaches you nothing; you need to sit back and think about what decisions you made, whether you still agree with them, and how they affected your outcome. And this is true whether the outcome is and A or a D - you need to know what you did right to get an A, and you definitely need to think about what you may have done wrong to get that D.