Assimilating Writers

I’ve been told a few times that college is meant to create questioning of and curiousity about societal and academic forces. What constitutes good writing in place of bad if the identity of the writer is lost in the structure of “good” writing (8). Where would books like Krik?Krak! From Edwidge Danticat come from had she lost her identity in the development of her skills of writing? Not that Shaughnessy’s theories are not valuable, but while she neglects to mention much about reading to assist in decreasing errors, she does point out that basically the rigidness of good writing “assimilate[s] [students] into the culture of academia without acknowledging their experience as outsiders” (292). Reading standard and other unique texts seems to provide a smoother form of the act of studying correct standard English.

Sometimes learners come from diverse backgrounds that allow for a unique verbal and written expression of their relation to the world around them. I wonder sometimes where and at what point did someone forget about this student? It’s a question I keep coming back to. How does someone who made it to the 9th or 11th grade or even graduate high school not be able to compose seemingly basic sentence structures? Who failed them along the way or gave up on their learning? It isn’t my role to navigate the woes of their life, if they feel they have any, but reading a student’s paper with basic errors at certain levels can be a bit saddening. When I see certain errors, I know that reading a short book at some earlier time in the student’s life may have corrected some small mistake before they continued to make it for years.

I concluded that the eduction system is not fair and sometimes neither are the cards we are dealt in life. The cards some learners are dealt do not make for a good hand in good writing, whether it was a less than enthusiastic teacher or gaurdian who let discipline slip away and error take over. So much so that the same glaring errors seem to be implanted into the make up of the students’ mind and they will make it over and over again. Sometimes, it’s hard to help those students, especially when they don’t actively work to help themselves and depend to heavily on intruction alone to make them better writers without applying the skills consistently.

Nonetheless, native and non-native English writers do assimilate to the structure of academic writing by instruction and by reading. My own writing has changed to reflect a more educated and yet assimilated version of my previous writing self. Now, I make less basic errors and some complex errors. Sometimes, I still make basic errors too from poor proof reading. I have a tendency for fluff and not facts, poetry and not critique. Perhaps, I will leave switch up my sysntax to seem more clear and instead become less lucid. Either way, all writers bring a set of unique styles to their tone, syntax, and general writing structure. All writers can convey alot in simple language.

I wonder sometimes if my own sense of self is lost in the rigidness of academic writing, does my ‘voice’ come through clear? I know my students struggle with the same thoughts on different levels, but their voices come through mostly loud and clear to me in writing and we create a bridge together with their language to correct errors. However, it’s also important to allow them the writing space to feel safe with having those errors. As Shaughnessy points out, error is important but not as much as we think and teachers should weigh the costs of instructing only to error and be willing to cut out a focus on error if it’s not helping students (120, 122).

Shaughnessy, Mina. Errors and Expectations: A Guide for the Teacher of Basic Writing. Oxford, 1977. Print.


2 thoughts on “Assimilating Writers

  1. There’s a great article available from called “Reading to Write” I think you might like given your blog post this week. There’s definitely a connection between writing and reading, and many BW scholars discuss it. I bothered me that she didn’t mention reading more in her book too.

    Unfortunately, students are often pushed through school. I’ve seen it happen many times (my mom was a teacher so I’ve been exposed to many kinds of schools in many states). It’s very sad to read a paper with the most basic errors. But you can definitely get make a big difference with just a few grammar lessons. What bothers me more are the students who have basic grammar errors because they didn’t bother to proofread their papers.

    There’s definitely a balance in the writing classroom for me. I want my students to express themselves, and I value slang and language-blending in some assignments. In others I require formal academic writing. Part of this comes from my desire to have students who leave my classroom with diverse writing skills, transferable to the situation they find themselves in. I want them to know how to write a report for work and know how to write to any other kind of audience. Does that make sense?


    1. That does make sense. I want my students to do the same, so I get that teaching method. I’ve never thought to “value slang” as a concept outside of creative writing to sort of validate a ‘new voice’ and its ‘unique’ qualities, but can see how that fits into academic writing too.

      Honestly, I’m guilty of not proof reading my papers as deeply as I could sometimes due to being pressed for time or thinking what I had done was good enough and it never really is. Though, at this level of academia my writing should be more polished.

      I’m sure having a parent also be a teacher and experiencing different schools gives you a unique approach to education that incorporates many proven methods of instruction. I also experienced a few different schools in different places during adolescence so I think that may contribute to a more well-rounded instructor, maybe?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s