I am currently taking an English 101 course at Mesa Community College. My instructor has assigned us to read a book, Writing about Writing by Wardle and Downs. The first chapter of the book discusses the constructs of writing involving punctuation, error, plagiarism, and the general rules of writing. Constructs such as labeling, standardized tests, writers block, literacy, grammatical errors, and authority have a significant impact on students’ writing. During my time at St. Michael, having you as a teacher exposed me to some of these constructs; however, there are some with which I am unfamiliar. One of the first assignments given to us by our instructor was to read two essays from the Writing About Writing text. One was an essay by Mike Rose, “I Just Want to be Average” and another by David Bartholome, “Investing the University.” The main point of both essays is that students cater to the learning style of teachers/ instructors. Labeling and standardized test were the two constructs discussed by Mike Rose in his essay. Rose describes his experience in vocational school. He goes into detail about the atmosphere of his class and classmates, and how he notices certain personality traits in each student. However, there is one student in particular that stands out to Rose because he makes the statement “I just want to be average.” It is not until Rose is put into a higher-level course, because of a mix up of names, that he realizes what it is to be an average person (Rose). Rose advises, “Reject the confusion and frustration by openly defining yourself as the Common Joe” (Rose 29). I believe that Rose is saying that we can safely accept ourselves as average and that there is no shame in this; we do not need to deny it because in some way we are all average. What Rose’s essay teaches me is the degree to which students are labeled, and label ourselves, on the basis of standardized test and grading. From personal experience I would say this is an accurate theory. Most of the time we are judged based on what we know and are then put into certain categories. I remember in class you would always tell us this in order to prepare us for college and these types of situations. It was not until reading this essay that I understood what you were preparing us for. In Batholome’s essay, Bartholome discusses the expectations that students must strive to meet in order to satisfy the requirements or standards of writing determined by their instructor. Often students write essays with an eye on the audience who is reading their essay; they base the content of the essay on the person as well. Bartholome asserts that:
“The student has to appropriate a specialized discourse, and he has to do this as though he were easily and comfortably one with his audience, as though he were a member of the academy or an historian or an anthropologist or an economist: he has to invent the university by assembling and mimicking its language while finding some compromise between idiosyncrasy, a personal history, on the one hand and the requirements of convention, the history of a discipline, on the other hand. He must learn to speak our language” (Batholome624).
We must learn how to speak in the language of our instructors in order to meet their expectations. I can relate to this because when we had essays to write for your class I felt like I had to use a certain tone when writing. This was true not only for your class but for standardized test- taking like the ACT and AIMS. Most of the time you gave us guidelines to go by and by using them you gave me a structured way to write. I can now use these techniques in college to perfect my essays. The following week we were assigned to read two other essays, one by Joe Williams, “The Phenomenology of Error” and another by John Dawkins, “Teaching Punctuation as a Rhetorical Tool.” These two essays discussed the common error of punctuation. Often times we make common errors in