Last week in class we had “fish bowl” discussion about our own personal education experiences. It’s crazy to think that in a class of about 15 people, we all had extremely different backgrounds in education. Collectively, we had students in public schools, charter schools, year-round schools, private schools, catholic schools…you name it! I liked this activity for a few different reasons. First, I think it’s really beneficial to reflect on your own education when considering the policies that shape education for so many people. Second, I think that we can learn a lot from each other by sharing stories of education with each other. It’s also nice to have a class where WE can talk instead of being talked to by the professor.
Since our discussion, I have been doing a lot of reflecting and pondering over some of the topics we talked about – mainly the lack of writing instruction in public schools. When reflecting on my own education (in a private school), my most vivid memories from lower school are those of writing. We worked with a multitude of genres, including creative writing, historical writing, personal writing, and scientific writing. In first grade we made a class newspaper, and each student was responsible for writing his or her own article. In second grade, I worked on a creative piece depicting my life as a pilgrim, living in one of the original colonies. In third grade I made an ABC book about Missouri, my selected state for the 50 States Project. In fourth grade, we worked on a scientific piece about different constellations.
I was so saddened to hear that this was not an experience shared by all students my age. While many of my peers during the fish bowl recalled memories of online reading exercises, it seemed that very few had memories of writing instruction. My most distinct and favorite memories of learning as a young kid revolved around writing – how sad that not everyone was given that opportunity.
I currently work as a writing tutor in the Chapel Hill Public Schools. The program, CoachWrite, focuses on emphasizing the act improving written skills by actually practicing writing. We focus more on content and the development of ideas, because they have found that many students become discouraged with writing at a very young age. Without adequate practice, it is hard to become good at something. And when your writing is thoroughly critiqued, it is easy to lose confidence. This program encourages less critiquing and more practicing so that students can actually have a chance to practice their writing skills before finalizing their opinion on whether or not they “like” to write. After all, it’s hard to like something you are told you are bad at.
This is just one example of a small program that I hope can bring writing experience to many students to help enrich and further their education. I truly believe that writing is the most important skill you can develop as a student, and it has the ability to set you apart in the real world. It’s one of the only skills we learn in school that can be directly translated into a real world setting, and I think that it should be given more attention in schools.