“I sometimes find that it’s because students haven’t read the book that they fail these kinds of papers,” Mrs. Nieb condescendingly said to me through eyes that couldn’t see an inkling of why I simply had no interest in Homer’s, The Odyssey. At the age of…14? If you know me, you know I am very against how writing/reading is taught in our public school system. I think that it entirely strips students of their potential to find how writing as a process can be a means of expressing oneself.
When I got sick of the school system, I decided to move and study(ish) in Costa Rica alone at 16. There I watched a YouTube video of a slam poem that I connected deeply with. It was from there that I began writing for fun. I was creating poems/essays that I shared with my friends and family that actually influenced them and helped me express myself and work through different experiences. It really was amazing. If I ever were to try and turn in any of the pieces I wrote in the form of a school assignment, I would have gotten an “F,” but when I shared the pieces with other people, often times they ended up in tears.
I don’t believe in structuring what you say, because I think it limits you. Why would I force out an 8-page essay on something I don’t care about, when I could write 8 novels on a topic or a story that elicits passion within me? A story that could have a real and positive effect on me and the reader. If what one writes creates emotion, or gets people to listen, then it is good writing. Good writing doesn’t have to come in the form of a grammatically correct, Times New Roman type, 5-paragraph essay. That’s like saying only white, straight men are the only good people. It’s limiting.
If I had been assigned to read Perks of Being a Wallflower or Wild or To Kill a Mockingbird (NOT in 7th grade, but maybe 12th grade), I might have written some essays that I cared about. And, I might have actually been moved, or learned something valuable, or god forbid, actually connected with what I was reading.
As I applied to colleges I got several writing scholarships for things that were never deemed scholarly before. Currently, I love writing. I have journals filled with bad grammar but that are tear stained and real.
I barely got an “A” in school for what I wrote, and frankly I hardly ever did the reading. It really bothers me that we don’t learn in a different way, one that could really help us instead of hinder us. I just don’t find that the reading that has been assigned to me, or the writing assignments that have drained my creative energy, even fulfill some of the most fundamental purposes of reading and writing.
All in all, I think I got my meaningful writing lessons from a series of YouTube videos, and my own journaling. I believe writing is a means of expressing yourself, and reading is a way to experience things beyond your own world. Both are incredible gifts that deserve to be taught and explored freely.