They said that I wasn’t supposed to be in English Honors or in AP English in high-school due to my poor testing scores during the Citywide testing days.
Despite my ongoing challenge in grammar, speech, and reading comprehension, I still loved English as a class. I’ve read some of the most amazing stories throughout my 20 years in school, and I’ve come to create some of the most amazing stories from simple freewriting prompts back in public school. Although I wasn’t much of a reader, I was very much a dedicated writer. I’ve always enjoyed writing, and after discovering how it allowed people to hear my voice and express myself without people judging me one lunch period in the seventh grade, I knew writing was all I ever wanted to do.
Of course, I always thought there were other people better at writing than me. I knew that some people who didn’t care for writing were always praised more for just being more efficient and grammatically correct. But I knew I had something that only a few of us in this world have for writing: I had the passion for it. But with your teenage years comes doubts, worries, and people telling you that you should think about doing something else.
They said that I wasn’t supposed to major in English in college because of my speech impediment, my “slowly-but-surely-getting-better” grammar, and the fact that I didn’t need a degree to write.
Yet I finished my BA in English and went on to get my Masters in the same exact thing. But, this time was different. I entered grad school learning about rhetoric and writing composition.
My first semester as a grad student I took a course called “Teaching of Writing”. I knew I didn’t want to become a teacher anytime soon, but I figured if all else fails, I’d want to teach other students that writing is such a powerful tool that many of us take for granted. I came out of that class knowing more than how to teach a couple of students how to write; I come out of that class knowing what, how, and why I take writing so damn serious, and how I can help other students that I once was like, feel heard in their specific field through writing.
Rhetoric & Writing Studies are more than just “common sense of what and what not to do in an academic environment”, it’s active learning and acknowledging issues and developing ways to improve on said issues to make writing a much more efficient and useful tool in a student’s life. In a way, it’s like learning the sociology of a classroom, and learning how to make it equal and fair for everyone in it.
I related to a lot of the issues we got to discuss in that class because I was once one of those students, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, etc. I was a student who was washed out and not heard. I was a student who couldn’t get an “academic voice” packed down in their academic writing. I was a student who was ignored a lot of the time because I was always afraid of not being good enough, I was afraid of being looked at as “the student who gets pulled out of class to attend speech therapy”, I was afraid of not writing what the professor/teacher wants me to write, and I was once a student who was never heard because of my speech impediment. That feeling lasted all the way up to grad school.
So, when I decided to write my Master’s Thesis on this topic related to rhetoric & writing studies, I knew it was more than just a paper for me. It was my first piece of work that spoke my truth that I had to hide inside of me for 20 years. Because of that class, that thesis, and my professor who showed me what that world was all about, I am now a confident writer, an expressive writer, a passionate writer.
And all it took was checking out the curiosity I had for rhetoric & writing studies.
What rhetoric & writing studies taught me was that there aren’t a lot of people (especially educators) that have the background needed to run an efficient and equal classroom. There are observers of strict and traditional teaching who go into teaching and believe that’s the right way of teaching when really it’s an outdated way of doing it. Like everything else in the world, things change and things evolve to be more progressive, and yes – that does include teaching and how we run our classrooms! There are so many different techniques and ways to keep students engaged and interested in writing without forcing them to do it. I always believe that a student should always put themselves in their writing because it’s truly one of the only ways you will have students be proud of their pieces and their hard work.
Although I’ve been out of grad school for 10 months now, academics still hold a very special place in my heart because of this newfound passion I got to discover during my time as a grad student. It has given me opportunities that I wouldn’t have had if I didn’t go for it, and it wouldn’t have given me the certain drive I have to help future college students in the way I know I would’ve liked when I was an undergrad.
For where I am now: I’m looking for jobs that relate to the whole academic/college setting because I feel like it’s a place I belong to. It’s what I know, it’s where my passions lie, and it’s a place where I believe needs someone like me that continues to have that drive to change old habits and old ways. It may not be teaching yet, but I know that I want to encourage a whole new generation of writers that may not know that writing is the way to get people to listen to you, and it’s truly one of the only ways to dedicate change, speak of change, and express of change. I want to show writers that despite people telling them writing isn’t a real thing, they come out of it writing more powerful than ever.
And I owe all of my passion to that one rhetoric class, and to my former thesis advisor, professor, and now friend: Professor Carlo. Thank you.