Student Sample: Final Draft Reflection (or Oh, that's what Rhetoric means...)

My Comp II students just completed their Rhetorical Analysis assignments, and to finish things off, they are required to write an essay-length reflection of the entire writing process. This essay/ blog post is worth as much as the final draft itself. Many students wrote about how they finally understand what "rhetoric" means, and they actually found it interesting to study "how people say what they say" (how we define it in class).
The sample I'm sharing here struck me because of the specificity about what she learned about writing conclusions. I take this as a major victory because a conclusion is one of the most demanding paragraphs to write: a critical and relevant reflection of the topic. Additionally, it seems she had an overall reaction to using a "writing process," so her comments are wide in scope at times.
With her her permission, here is one of my student's, Corina Rodriguez, Final Draft Reflection:

This assignment was a handful, but I really saw my growth as a writer through the process of writing my analytical essay. It turns out, there are many things I believed to be effective in writing that were actually hurting my grade and making my essay a weak one. Through this rhetorical analysis I learned that a conclusion is more than just a summary, that feedback from someone other than the professor is more than helpful, and that an analytical essay is more than just my opinion.
                The most difficult part of this entire assignment was coming up with a good conclusion, I struggled to answer “so what” and always seemed to end up with a summary. I know I shouldn’t, but I blame my English teachers in the past. Time and time again I would learn that a conclusion should restate my thesis and summarize my body paragraphs. Now, I understand that a summary as a conclusion is meaningless and weakens one’s writing. A conclusion should make an impression, if anything stands out to the audience, it should be your last words. During the process of writing my rhetorical analysis, I rewrote my conclusion a total of three times. I know I was not able to perfect it, and I might have still summarized a bit, but I made sure I answered “so what.” This way my writing proved something, and made an impact in the mind of the reader.
                Before this assignment, I had never used Google Docs, and I must say I enjoyed working with the application and sharing my assignment with peers, because I know it made a huge difference in my grade. Being able to share my writing with people that I did not know was terrifying, and quite frankly embarrassing. However, it was enlightening to read someone’s comments praising you for your good work, and even the criticism which allowed me to change mistakes that went unnoticed. Having someone judge my writing before the professor grades it is such a great idea, because it is someone who gives their unbiased opinion on my work, they allow me to change mistakes I did not even know I was committing before it is graded and counted against me.  It is that constructive criticism and praise that makes the difference in one’s writing, and helps one become a better writer in more ways than one.
                I heard the same comment over and over again, “this essay is not about your opinion,” I failed to understand that a rhetorical analysis has nothing to do with my opinion on a topic, and this was weakening my argument. With a topic like cancer, how was I not supposed to appeal to emotions and give my honest opinion of the dreadful disease? Well, there I go again. The rhetorical analysis, I learned, has nothing to do with the topic itself, but with how it is presented to an audience. This assignment was not for me to rally a group to support the Moonshot Program, it was an assignment that allowed me to criticize the composition of an argument that just happened to be about cancer. After editing out opinion after opinion, I was able to focus my writing on how the article was built and analyze it effectively.
                This assignment taught me that there are so many things I was doing wrong for so long when it came to my writing process. In retrospect, the assignment also taught me that the writing process is only complicated if I make it complicated by procrastinating and not thoroughly thinking it through. I enjoyed working on the rhetorical analysis and plan on using the techniques learned from this assignment not just in later assignments for the course, but in my writing for any class. After all, the changes I made through this assignment granted me a better grade, which is helpful in any and all my courses.