Tutor profile: Lisa W.
What place does writing have across the curriculum and why do most have to take a general writing course if they will not be "writers"?
I chose the above question because it one posed to me at least once a quarter. It's a good question and one that deserves a thoughtful answer. I enjoy teaching English because my sheer desire of literature; however, I enjoy teaching writing even more because of the large appeal it has to the many students I interact with. Simply put, writing is everywhere. Many people think of a writing course as simply a response to literature, but it is so much more than that. The ability to write properly and to understand the basics of rhetoric can able someone to win an argument, get a raise, and negotiate a lease. The underlyings of writing is argument. What are you writing about? What are you trying to convey? It could be as simple as telling the story of vacation last summer or it could be as persuasive as asking a senator to pass a new bill. Words have so much power, but we have to know how to craft and mold them for our purpose. What people also don't realize is how much we write everyday. In this modern world of social media, we are writing even more than we ever did. We likely argue more, too. It may not be a persuasive paper that we are writing, but we are putting together our arguments. If we can only string them together with supporting claims and evidence, our arguments would be even stronger. Writing is intricately tied to almost every career out there. From science, to nursing, to math, people are being asked to write. It is a skill required for reports, emails, proposals, grant, and charting. My fourth grader writes more in math class than he writes in his actual writing class. It's because writing is everywhere. The ability to do it well positions people for success.
How much of an impact does grammar have on composition and English courses?
There is a fine balance between grammar and content. Teachers cannot ignore the grammar, spelling, and syntax in a paper; however, it should not be the most important feature of a paper, especially in the drafting process. The content, critical thinking, and demonstration of ideas should be the main focus, while the editing, polishing, and use of Standard English should be secondary. This is not to say that grammar is not important. In society, people are judged for their ability to use grammar proficiently. In college courses, it is the duty of the instructor to point these out. It is also the duty of the student to attempt to edit a paper appropriately. However, the ability to address grammar concerns comes with time, often with use and writing experience. As such, teachers cannot expect that from one paper to the next a student will master all conventions of the English language. Students who struggle with grammar should learn to use the tools around them to help polish their papers. Tools such as Grammarly or other editing software work twofold: they help the student to learn what errors are being made consistently and how to correct them in the long-term, while also identifying them on the current paper and offering suggestions for corrections. Students should consider feedback another resource to improve their writing, both grammar, content, and critical thinking, over time. In this day of text-ease and emojis, the importance of grammar cannot be devalued. However, it will always be secondary to a student who is grappling with deep thought, complex ideas, and significant means of revision. It should always be addressed, kind of like a pinky toe who serves a purpose but is oftentimes ignored until it is needed. It's not the most important part of an English course, but should always remain in the background.
In your experience, in what ways has online education added or detracted from education?
Online education had added value to the idea of education. Prior to the advent of online education, degrees were meant for just some: the wealthy, the knowledgeable, or those put in positions to continue their education. It was not assumed that everyone could continue their education after high school. The spread of online education changed the face of education by lowering the cost of education, by bringing it to every person regardless of their geographical location, and by changing the mindset that education is only for "some." Online education has many benefits, but perhaps the most appealing is the lower cost. Books are mostly digital and are embedded into the learning interface and students no longer have to trudge to a campus to buy over-priced texts, only to return them at the end of the quarter for pennies. The costs are a fraction of traditional universities. In addition, many companies are taking the opportunity to provide additional training through online universities and the cost to the employee is nothing. This is a huge incentive for the student. Geographic location is a huge component of attending college. Many students may not want to leave home, are physically unable, or simply cannot afford to. The ability to attend college online allows those who are disabled to attend at their own convenience, in their own home. Wherever there is an internet connection, there is the ability to complete work. Students can take their work with them and never have the excuse that they couldn't attend class because of weather, illness, etc. Military men and women can access their classes even while being deployed. They no longer have to stop their education because of their career choices. The convenience of having their courses online span geographic distance, knitting the entire class together as one, no matter where they are located across the globe. Lastly, online education eliminates a discriminatory mindset that was started long ago that education is just for "some." There are no barriers with online education. A cheap Chrome book and a desire to learn is truly all that's needed to reach one's potential. Instructors are a quick chat, email, or phone call away. The material is available at all times of the day or night. The idea of online learning is convenience and customer service. It is no longer an idea about "us" versus "them." There is a universality to online instruction that becomes the great equalizer. As an online instructor, I have seen all "types" of people in my class: disabled war veterans, 80-year-old grandparents, single mothers (and fathers!) struggling to make it through day-by-day, and people who question their ability to make it. Can they do it? Are they smart enough? Do they belong here? They do. They all do. Online education is meant for them and for all of us. Online education is affordable, spans geography, and works to equalize us all in order to educate. It has definitely added to the value of education and I'm happy to be a part of it.
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