Writing in public. On purpose. Because I know you have something to say.

I’m super excited to be teaching a writing class this semester! Teaching writing, actually teaching it, is one of the great joys of my career. I can’t wait. 

According to the CSU Course Catalogue, this course (CO301D: Teaching Writing in the Disciplines) focuses on “writing strategies for addressing general audiences in education.” Pretty gripping description, right? Ahem.

Speaking directly to my students, here’s what I think the course is really all about. I’ve designed it to help you, as future English Language Arts teachers, develop expertise in current issues in the field of education (especially literacy education) that will inform your writing for public and practitioner audiences. That means you’ll read and analyze multiple texts written in print and multimodal genres (because that’s what writing looks like these days), you’ll construct and refine your own theories about education (because we all already have them, whether we’ve articulated them or not), and then you’ll write (A LOT) to make better sense of what you, your classmates, and other experts know so that you can communicate your views via public writing.

“But isn’t all writing public?,” you may be wondering. Technically, perhaps, but in school, writing tends to move along a one-lane street connecting the student and the teacher only. This class aims to move the vehicle of your thought onto a multi-lane information super highway with lots of on-ramps and off-ramps so that others can traffic with your ideas, and you can traffic with others’. On that freeway, we’ll consider the following questions, among others:

If anyone can Google any information, “Why school?,” as Mike Rose puts it. Assuming that there is a point (otherwise, you’re wasting a whole lot of money on tuition), what is it that every educated person in a democracy, including students and teachers, should be able to know and do as a result of her/his schooling? What role do you as a future teacher, as well as schools in general, have to play in expanding access to equity for all students? What does it mean to be ambitious on behalf of youth?

For that matter, why write? How do other educators communicate what they think in regard to the above questions? For whom do they write? How do they craft their messages, and for what purposes, so that their ideas can be heard? Where do educators’ voices fit in today’s political debates about education? How can they shape public conversation and educational policy instead of being pawns in it?

Which brings us to you. Why should you as a soon-to-be-teacher engage in public writing about literacy and education? Who needs to hear what you have to say and why? Since everyone has been to school, what can you tell them that they don’t already (think they) know about education today? How will you communicate your ideas for colleagues and others outside of the field of education, including students, colleagues, parents, and the general public? And when you do write, what will that writing look like in our digital, multimodal age?

Driving down this information super highway is likely to be daunting indeed, but the good news is that we’re all on the bus together. I hope our road trip will be safe, but boisterous. I know our conversation will be unpredictable, but interesting. Let’s make it our goal to have some good stories to tell when we reach our destination. Now buckle up. Let’s go!

Choose one or more of the italicized questions above and respond in the comments section below. In other words, write in public. Right now. On purpose. Because I know you have something to say.

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25 thoughts on “Writing in public. On purpose. Because I know you have something to say.

  1. Kaitlyn Phillips says:

    What does it mean to be ambitious on behalf of youth? How do we expand equity for all students?

    I’ve never thought of the role of a teacher as “being ambition on behalf of youth,” and that’s a really interesting way to look at teaching. Ambition and excitement go hand and hand for me; to be ambitious or to fulfill your ambitions you must be excited about the prospect of both. A lot of times, students can’t see the end goal, or aren’t looking far enough into the future to be excited or even to recognize their ambitions. I think this has a lot to do with equity as well; students who live below the poverty line or students of color that face more daily institutional challenges than their white counterparts may have a harder time recognizing or even having ambition because they’re so often told how their future will play out, rather than being asked to dream about it.

    Dreaming about the future is a privilege often not afforded to poor students, students of color, differently abled students, etc., because their futures are often either mapped out for them (either by prejudice or circumstance), or they’re presented with limited options; Road 1 or Road 2. Job training or work force. A lot of these poor communities hand their students of color job applications before they ever see a university application.

    It is these students in particular that need teachers to be ambitious on their behalf.

    • Sarah Bragg says:

      I really liked what you said about teachers advocating and being ambitious on behalf of youth. Coming from a privilege background I had so many people advocating for me, parents, teachers, etc. There are a lot of students and kids out there without anyone to advocate for them. I like what you said about helping students learn how to dream and be ambitious with their future and life so that they can achieve and go far in life.

  2. Angela says:

    Why should I as a soon-to-be-teacher engage in public writing about literacy and education? I believe that this is important and will be beneficial because writing will allow me to express my ideas, put them down on this blog, and be able to see them rather than have them floating around abstractly in my mind. By writing, I can make my ideas and views on education and literacy more concrete, and have the ability to mold them and shape them into a more refined perspective. Along the way, perhaps I will be see clearly as I see the words on the page, which ideas don’t cut it, or that don’t merit developing further, and which ones will be the ones that I will delve into further, get feedback on, research, and find other sources that agree or have said what I think. And perhaps, some ideas that I post will be innovative, outrageous, new, or extraordinary. By writing and writing daily and exercising this skill, I hope to excavate those very ideas and concepts on education and literacy, especially since I do hope to be an educator, and have well-formed ideas, when it comes to having a classroom of my own. By rooting me in my view and belief system, I can also teach students the same method, of expressing, exploring, developing, and fine-tuning their own musings and beliefs.

    Not only this, but the very act of expression and output if extremely important to me. Being a full time student, we intake so much information, and are expected to integrate into our knowledge base. I think it is equally important to produce and create from our own psyche, or simply to help digest all that we have taken in.

    • Colton Myhre says:

      I love the idea of media literacy that we talked about. I think that it’s such an important topic, and especially in this day in age, to be taught in schools. As an aspiring English teacher, I think its important for me to be mindful of that importance. I also love your thoughts on the writing process and how it affects our thinking, and how our thinking affects it.

  3. Sarah Bragg says:

    In the 21st century information about any topic can be accessed with the push of a few buttons and some well chosen words. This is both one of the greatest achievements of mankind and one of the most detrimental. Easy, instant access to any topic allows students, learners, and everyday citizens to take shortcuts through the maze of learning, crashing through barriers and overriding more delicate topics that need to be nurtured and understood. This is where teachers come in. Teachers help you to navigate the maze in a safe, fun, and hopefully captivating way. They don’t just tell you what you should know, they explain why and how that knowledge fits into the bigger picture of your education and yours/others lives. Yes you can google information about any topic, but unless you research thoroughly and intelligently, you often miss the bigger picture and come out looking brash and misinformed.

    Education is one of those topics. Everyone wishes to appear well-informed, but i have yet to meet an average citizen who understands the education system further than their own experience as a student. These experiences often go no further than a hatred for tests and exams and a wish to “make it better”. Though it is a noble sentiment these people rarely understand what it would really take to reform the system. This is where we come in. As students and as educators it is our job to teach and inform our students, peers, and the citizens of America about what it really takes to be a teacher, what it really means to learn or teach somethings, and how such a complex system came to be where it is today, and how we can move it forward.

    • Kaitlyn Phillips says:

      I definitely took away your emphasis on the importance of perspective and the inclusion of different perspectives; I liked your ideas about talking about education and learning from the perspective of student, teacher, and public, because we all experience some part of the education system at some point in our lives.

  4. Holly says:

    Why write? – There are a million reasons to write. As humans, writing has become a crucial form of communication that we could not live without. We write to tell stories, to help understand subjects, to spread messages, and for many other reasons. Writing has allowed humans to grow. It has created governments. It is the key to a functioning society in many cases. Writing can create a society or it can comment on a society. Writing is educational. The importance of education can never be overstated. Education provides humanity with the opportunity to better themselves as more education in any subject is never harmful.

    • Emma says:

      The written word is what America has built a foundation on. The written word aids in establishing our society and contributes to the individual and societal growth of our country.

  5. Emma says:

    As a soon-to-be-teacher, engaging in public writing becomes important if I am going to tell my students their voices matter in the public sphere, then I must believe my voice matters as well. How can I encourage my students to broadcast their opinions, if I am fearful to voice my own. Therefore, participating in public writing becomes vital in order to gain confidence as a teacher who practices what they preach.

  6. Lauren McCrillis says:

    I think that public writing is important for all of us to engage in as future teachers because it helps with the flow of new ideas, helps us expand our knowledge, and simply helps us gain confidence in our own persona opinions. One could spend their whole life harboring a ground-breaking idea inside their own mind — simply because they don’t have enough confidence & courage to share it. Teachers need to be confident in what they write publicly, if only to set a good example for their students. We need to educate confident learners who aren’t afraid to raise their hands and share their thoughts.

  7. Beth says:

    Education is a topic that is, sadly, very rarely ever discussed in our society. We use it everyday, base our entire lives around it, and hold it in the highest regard, yet we never address it head on. As an educator, I feel it is not only my responsibility to teach but also to learn. Writing is a fantastic way to do exactly that. It is a craft that requires education, and not just a basic understanding of the the fundamental terms or techniques. Writing not only allows the writer to study the topic and the conversation surrounding the topic, but also to examine their own opinions and where they may stand on a matter. It is as much an expression of self as it is a relay of information and ideas. Thanks to the wonderful world of social media that dominates our digital age, we have the ability to voice our opinions all over the world. For me, that is through blogs and articles that I write for the Odyssey. For some, it is a quick tweet or a Facebook post. Writing, especially when it comes to controversial and necessary topics like education, should be accessible. We can now do that and it is a privilege to do so.

    • Anna Arcuri says:

      We discussed that everyone’s voice and opinion matters.Writing allows the writer to develop an expertise on the topic of their writing, which can be extremely valuable to the writer. At the same time, the reader is blessed with all this research and knowledge that the writer put so much time and effort into.

  8. Hailey Spratte says:

    Why write? For myself, I write to express how I am feeling. I write because it is a way for me to release some feelings that I may have otherwise not released. A lot of times, I find that people are not comfortable publicly speaking about how they feel, or what their ideas are. On the opposite side, I also find there are people like myself who prefer to not publicly write about their ideas or feelings. Now, whether this is in fear of being proved wrong or just a little stage fright, I will never know. Hopefully throughout the course of this class I will become more confident in who I am as a writer!
    I feel as though if a person has an idea, then they should write about it! I do not necessarily think it has to be public, though I do feel that it should be written down. If a person has a dream, when they wake up they should write about it! A daily journal can go a long way. I have learned quite a bit about myself just by reading back through all of my own journals!

    • Mikaela Orr says:

      The biggest thing I am going to take away from this is to just write! I need to just write whatever comes to my mind during these comments and not think about how well it’s organized or what I want to say until after I put it on the page.

  9. Mikaela Orr says:

    As an aspiring educator, I am so excited to take this course and to fully engage in forming and articulating my ideas about what it means to be a teacher. Especially when I am in the field, it will be important to engage with fellow educators to share ideas and philosophies to improve our skills and broaden our perspectives. Everyone has something to say, because we all have our own unique experiences to bring to the table.

    • Hailey Spratte says:

      You gave me some very helpful tips! Just by reading a small portion of my work you had some great feedback about how to make me seem more confident in my writing. We have a lot of the same ideas on writing, and the importance of writing!

  10. Anna Arcuri says:

    As I’m sure everyone can agree, the purpose of school is to educate. Yes, this is obvious but I think some people (teachers and students) have forgotten this. It seems that school is more about grades rather than the substance of actually learning and being educated. Students should be able to leave their school for summer vacation knowing basic knowledge to get them through daily life but also have knowledge on information that they are passionate about. Students should have more course options in secondary education to get them excited about school. If they want to go to a university and study math, take more math in high school, if they have no idea, let them take a variety of classes that will give them some sort of idea about what they are interested in. Teachers should know many different techniques to educate so it is possible to reach all kinds of learners and they should get this from their personal education and/or try to educate themselves through different resources.

    • Beth says:

      I agree completely with the fact that school should be more about knowledge and the pursuit of a passionate education than focused solely on grades. While grades may help to create a competitive system, the only way students will really learn is if they are excited about what they are learning. Teachers are instrumental in this!

  11. Colton Myhre says:

    When we think about the technological age that we live in today, Google and the internet is super accessible to so many people, but its not a vehicle for learning like school is. There’s a quote that says, “Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit, but wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad.” This is how I think about school in the technological age.
    Google can provide information, but it can’t teach you critical thinking, or why learning and thinking is important. I think that’s the purpose of schools, to teach and inspire kids to learn and want to learn. Schools are beyond just teaching information and content.

    • Angela says:

      You’re so right. We have to know how, when and where to utilize Google and its abundant resources, and when to question and take what we find with a grain of salt. Education is much more a process than the one on one relationship that an individual has with Google.

  12. anathibs says:

    What will writing look like in our multidimensional world? I think that in this day and age where all that matters is how many followers a person has determines their personal value. Those of us with less followers or even none at all tend to fall into a way of thinking where we ask “what does it matter what I have to say?” Or “someone who matters probably already thought of this so I’m not special am i?” And it’s this way of thinking that can halt progress the evidence is laid out all throughout history. It doesn’t necessarily matter what subject be it education or quantum mechanics invention and rengineering propel us forward. So I say share ideas, writings, worlds, someone is always listening and you never know maybe that’s how we’lol cure the uncurable, avoid wars, and create a more peaceful place. Writing in this digital world lends itself to shaking the foundations of the status quo and launch us forward into the future

    • Lauren McCrillis says:

      I agree completely, I think that many students today struggle with the issue of realizing that their ideas and views DO matter. Especially, like you said, when worth is measured through the amount of “followers” one has on different social media platforms. We all need to learn to share our ideas, because they are all making some sort of difference.

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