The Rules of the Game

The article that I read, “Creating the Subject of Portfolios: Reflective Writing and the Conveyance of Institutional Prerogatives” by Tony Scott, offered an important view on the purpose of reflective writing, especially mandated reflective letters in portfolios. Scott conducted two case studies in Kentucky high schools that encompassed 11 students collectively. He assessed their reflective pieces in conjunction with other educators and school board officials and noticed that there was a disjunction between the reflective pieces and the real reflective commentary that students offered in his interviews with them on the process.

Essentially, Scott recognized that students identified the, somewhat, nuanced expectations for their reflective letters. In Kentucky, portfolios are required in a student’s senior year, and they are used as an assessment on the school and teachers’ performance in the progression of students’ writing levels. Teachers, therein, supply the students with certain formats and methods to approach the reflective letters. This is doubtlessly expected from the teachers when their jobs and promotions are on the line, but it also places a constraint on the students.

Scott found that the creativity and development of the students’ writing was limited because they opted to follow the implied or explicit framework their teachers, as extensions of the schools and state, outlined for them in class. Mainly, students did this because they recognized that they were being evaluated in a specific genre; in other words, the state was looking for certain characteristics and a specific tone—namely, a positive one—in the reflective letters, and the students fed them what they wanted with the aid of their educators. A self-servicing circle has, thus, been created in this practice.

Courtesy of Andrew Mccluskey

The most compelling part of the article, however, was the reactions students gave in their interviews about the reflective letters. They acknowledged that the reflective writing was not necessarily helpful and that, most importantly, the writing was not fully their own—if at all. This feeling is not singular to this case in my opinion, which I discussed with my group in class today.

Far too often, we succumb to the cultural hegemony of higher education. We need to know the rules of the game, and we follow them in order to procure our desired grade for the course, internalizing that our opinion and thoughts can take a backseat to what we think our educators want to hear. It has become a natural practice, especially for me, because I have been burned in the past when using creative license: “This was a really good piece, but it was missing something”; “I was actually thinking that you should have gone this route….” Educators want to be surprised, inspired even, but like clients of an advertising agency, if their subconscious vision is not met, they can deem the student’s work as falling short.

It is important to note that I am not totally cynical towards the whole education system. Certainly, there are exceptional educators, like Professor Silver (brownie points?), who drop their availability biases and nuanced expectations and place their students’ natural progression at the forefront. Now the only problem remains is consistently having that type of educator. (Let’s just say, don’t set your expectations too high.)

Bridging My Way

Weebly, that’s my choice for my re-mediating project.

Its accolades enticed me to check the site out, and I’m hooked. I started playing around with it tonight, and it was very intuitive. It seems like the perfect fit for me, mainly, because I am able to manipulate the website design without knowing a lot of code. It also allows me to input other forms of multimedia on my page, which I wanted to do in my proposal. Specifically, I wanted to put a video on the page, and Weebly enables me to embed Youtube videos on my page.

Even though I have found a platform to make my website, I still need to make sure that the website I produce looks professional. I have found a couple of other websites to help me with design process:

Colourlovers.com – This website shows the trending color palettes, and it also lets you look through a peck of color palettes to use for your own design. Even more importantly, the website gives you the color codes, so you can replicate the colors they show you.

Html.net – Here, you can learn how to make a website from scratch, but I will probably use this for learning how to use HTML and CSS to change intricate details on my site.

Google Gadgets – Google allows you to search for free, modifiable widgets to put on your website. I will most likely use this for a Google News Alert widget on my topic, the permanence Electoral College.

In conjunction with all of this, I plan to utilize Youtube whenever I can. Video tutorials are helpful for me when I learn new functions of technology, and they save me a lot of time (Weebly Website Tutorial).

I also plan on attending a coding workshop when we have one. I think it would be helpful, especially to pick someone’s brain on all the problems that arise while creating the website.

Other than that, I feel like I have a clear idea on how I will build my site. I just need to start working on it!

 

Starting Something New

I’ve decided: English grammar. Yes, that’s right. From this point forth, all of my blogs will be centered on English grammar.

I came to this decision for two reasons. One, I am obsessed with learning about our language’s grammar, as you all well know. Two, I think this could be something beneficial for my portfolio and writing in general. My writing is not perfect by any means. I want to evaluate my own sentence structure and how I can apply or reinforce the formal rules governing English to it.

But that’s not all the whole story. Like my everyday personality, my blogs will showcase some contradictions. Do not be shocked to see a blog with sentence fragments that delineates the need for a comma when joining two independent clauses in a sentence.

I hope that my blogs will teach you all something new too, but don’t be shy to start a healthy debate on the topic.

Alright, let’s see how this goes.

Blogging Progress Report

Looking through my blogs, I’ve noticed that my tone and style are contingent on the prompt. If I am responding to a reading, my writing exudes a formal tone with lengthier sentences. If I am blogging on my day’s experience with writing, then my writing is imbued with satire and colloquialness.

Copyright of Phinphanatic

 

Comments—from and to me—are usually the latter too. They are mainly morale boosters, but they can also be insightful on how other people view the topic in question. In the future, I want to make sure that I give comments that further the conversation, not reiterate it.

 

Overall, this experience has been a learning one. I haven’t blogged like this before. In the past, I have blogged for work, which was not on topics that I found interesting. From now on, my blogs will relate to a central theme. I just need to figure out what that is.

Unexpectedly Peregrine

It’s not that it retards me. Hah, I wish that was it. No, it’s really comes down to my indolence. I have never taken the time to hone my technique. Well, let’s be honest, I’ve never practiced period. When a test rolls around, I simply memorize the necessary information. That’s practical; that gets you an “A”—or so I thought.

Estoy aqui: at the point where the bare minimum isn’t good enough anymore. My professor actually expects me to be able to write a 400-word essay. She must be joking. She has to be.

Every palabra incites more doubt. Is my syntax correct? Does this make sense semantically? Comma or no comma?

A page, measly page, is causing this much trouble.

Spanish, I hate you. I hate your pronunciation barriers. I hate your separate grammar. Most of all, I hate that I want to be able to speak you fluently, becoming un hispanohablante.

Copyright: legendsofamerica.com

Maybe, I’ll take the time to learn the language well down the road. Until then, Spanish 277, I’m fully aware that this class is pass-fail.

Natural versus Artificial

While reading today’s chapter, Writing Restructures Consciousness, by Walter Ong, I was confused by Ong’s notions of speech and writing. Throughout the text, he claims that speech is natural, referring to the organic quality of how a  person learns one’s mother tongue, whereas writing is purely artificial. Yet, isn’t speech artificial as well?

Unlike writing, we practice our oratory skills from infancy, mimicking new sounds and exploring what we can produce.  This in a sense is natural, an innate characteristic of us, but I wouldn’t say that once speech is translated into language, it holds that some quality. We all learned how to speak English by hearing others talk and subconsciously taking hold of the rules that govern our language. As we get older, these rules become more explicit. We learn that there is a certain way to pronounce words, aside from our idiolects, and frame sentences otherwise English wouldn’t be mutually intelligible. Our speech is very much a product of  rules that were crafted by our ancestors. These rules weren’t “natural”; they were an amalgamation of concepts that were eventually institutionalized in a language.

Even though I think speech is artificial, I can see how it is more organic than writing. When we speak, we aren’t able to revise our sentences before we say them. Sure, we can think intently before speaking. But once we say something, there isn’t a backspace for us, and we don’t have an embedded ABC spell check to correct our pronunciation and syntax. In this way, speech is certainly more natural than writing though it is still a product of artificiality as a whole.

 

Breaking the Cracks

This week, I am returning to why I write. I’ve noticed while reviewing my essay that I’m being deceiving. As always, I never reveal how I truly feel. I rarely let people in, and when I do, I never fully embrace it.

Internalization.

My secrets and thoughts are my own. They are none of your business. Yet, while I write, I inadvertently expand the cracks in my wall, but I end up sealing them before I got too far.

That ends now.

Why did I start pursuing writing?

Katie Addison, that’s why. She was a good friend in high school, and I read all of her English papers. Her writing was eloquent and creative. I wanted that–needed that to some extent.

I always strive to be the best. I’m very competitive. What can I say? It’s my personality.

My insecurity has driven me to want to be a better writer. I write to regain confidence, to feel comfortable with my ability. This is interconnected with my speech as well. Unless I am in a very informal setting, my speech becomes slurred, and I sound like I am running out of breath. In part, I write to alleviate this condition, so I can confidently spit out sentences when nervous. These two reasons are at the root of why I started writing.

So there you have it for once. The truth.

Writing, Reacting to My Environment

Why do I write? More importantly, why should I write? The questions are simple, but the answers aren’t immediate.

Most of the time, I write, not knowing why. I wish I was one to jot down ideas throughout the day to write about later, but I’ve never been that type. I write to appease my professors and employers. It isn’t an act of creativity; it’s a bout of reactivity.

I might not write leisurely, but I continually place myself in writing environments. In my essay, I will explore this—contradiction?—thoroughly. My motivations do not always align with each other, but that’s okay.

For the most part, I will talk about the contrast between my motivation to write for professional purposes and for conquering my challenge of writing. Each has a different purpose, and I value one more than the other. But that’s for you to find out in my essay.

In Character

Perched on an armchair, the lamp coaxes me to lean into the crook of the wall, and I sink effortlessly into a book.

That’s never been me.

Seldom, I am able to delve into a good novel. Most of my reading is academic-based—an asphyxiation of my desire to read. However, every now and then, an enthralling book arouses my interests, igniting sessions of incessant reading.

Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife is a work of literature that did just that. She draws on every sense and doesn’t let go. I have always wanted my writing to be that compelling, but I feel as if it always falls—well, more than—short. One day, I hope my writing parallels hers insofar as possible.

In The Time Traveler’s Wife, Niffenegger gives the reader two vantage points: Claire and Henry, a couple who go through the ups and downs of Henry’s spontaneous, involuntary time travel. The author employs two distinct tones for the characters, and you are able to see life through their eyes. You live how the same event can inflict asymmetrical types and levels of pain to each character—and you.

Clare speaking of Henry’s time travel: “It’s hard being left behind. I wait for Henry, not knowing where he is, wondering if he’s okay. It’s hard to be the one who stays.”

Henry’s sentiments towards time travel: “When I am out there, in time, I am inverted, changed into a desperate version of myself. I become a thief, a vagrant, an animal who runs and hides. I startle old women and amaze children. I am a trick, an allusion of the highest order, so incredible that I am actually true.”

This technique is not groundbreaking, but it does not always foster the same effect.

Niffenegger’s use of this technique is efficacious for one reason—her word usage and sentence structure. She is able to describe something sans overelaboration. She doesn’t need, or aim, to tell you every aspect of an object in the room or the environment the character is in. She lets the characters set the mood, not the environment around them.

In essence, I find Niffenegger’s style of writing enthralling and brilliant. She puts you inside the character and imprisons you. It’s a stirring experience that I hope I can impart on someone someday.

The End

Writing, to me, has never been a way to—secretly or candidly—display vanity. I view it as a reactionary activity that is prompted by an exogenous force, such as a professor or supervisor. Thereby, I couldn’t associate with Orwell’s assertion of narcissism coupled with writing, especially at a younger age. This recurring theme in his piece continued to unnerve me, and I rescinded its very nature internally. Me, a narcissist? Not quite.

Orwell, however, was not completely dissimilar to my motivations once I am writing. When writing an essay or research analysis, hours may pass before I can finish writing a sentence. As Orwell states, I receive “Pleasure in the impact of one sound on another, in the firmness of good prose or the rhythm of a good story.” The syntax of a sentence is more appealing to me than the semantics—weird, I know. Similarly, Orwell’s fourth motive, political purpose, also resonates with me when I do write. Writing can be a facet of civic duty: in other words, a way to actively take part in your surroundings, which feels like a meaningful task.

Lastly, Orwell offered a view on writing that I perpetually feel with every piece I write. “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness.” I dread—no, abhor—starting a piece of writing. It’s a long-winded battle that I never seem up to the fight. Yet, I continue to pursue writing, as a masochist among writers.

Why?

Why?

It’s the “kill,” the gratification from taking the upper hand in the struggle and winning. The end lures the means to continue for another time.