I'm not a strong writer because...


I'm enjoying the essay topic my FYC students are working on right now. They are reflecting on their own literacy history.
I've never done anything like this before, and this assignment stems from the "writing about writing" focus that the writing program at my current campus has developed.
I usually begin FYC courses with some type of personal essay, but a literacy history makes great sense. Student are immediately challenged to take stock of their reading and writing lives in order to prepare them for the rest of the semester. So, it's not simply, "accept the fact that I am a crappy writer."
No. This assignment takes this idea a step further: "Why do you think you are a crappy writer? What experiences in your life have made you reach this conclusion?"
Through brainstorming and discussion, my students are beginning to reach more specific answers, and while some many responses are a bit simplistic, one student I sat with this week had a lot to say about what she discovered.
She opened up about how she feels she has really nothing to write about.
When I asked her what she meant, she explained that she felt she had nothing interesting to say. So I prompted her again to consider why she felt that way. She replied how she felt uninspired, but admitted then even that was not what she meant. Suddenly, she made a connection with reading.
"I'm not a strong writer because I don't read enough. I feel like I don't know how to write what I'm feeling because I haven't read enough good writing that I could learn from."

Then the heavens opened up...

Just Kidding..

But, the conversation really did happen, and the student really did make the connection. She saw the need for reading, and she saw how reading would make her a more effective writer.
While I do have many other students blaming Mrs. So and So in high school for their bad reading and writing habits, or Mr. So and So made them read irrelevant novels, I was encouraged how one student is able to take responsibility for her own literacy.
Yes, there are plenty of bad teachers... bad English teachers, and they do exacerbate an already tragic state of literacy in our community. But hopefully, my students will reach a conclusion by the end of this assignment that shines a light on their own reading and writing choices, consequences and prejudices.