When I think of academic writing, I think of a composition that utilizes sophisticated language, complex sentence structures, and, quite frequently, an abundance of sources to support its main argument. With this definition in mind, I most certainly believe that the majority of academic writing is classed for two specific reasons. The first reason is author orientated – for in order to have a firm grasp of how to successfully compose an academic piece, one must presumably have the background of a good education that has laid the foundation on which such academic writing is constructed. Education, as we have defined it within our class, is also a rather classed institution that is often seen as discriminating against the lower class, and as academic writing is a result of education (and is also intended for the use of education), it may also be seen as discriminating against lower classes in a similar manner. The second reason that academic writing might be seen as classed is audience oriented. For in writing anything, one writes with a specific audience in mind and it seems that in academic writing, with all of its complex words and flowing sentence structure, the intended audience is always meant to have achieved a “good” education, just as the author of an academic piece presumably has.
I found this essay particularly challenging to write simply because I have no experience with writing a research essay based on personal interviews. Doing the interviews, for example, was completely new to me, but I found it to be a very rewarding experience because it gave me a chance to understand another person’s perspective on a subject that I felt I was struggling to comprehend fully. Interviewing three people provided me with three fresh perspectives about socioeconomic class perceptions based on working/not working on campus, and better enabled me to form my own informed opinion on the subject. Though my first interview was a bit awkward, I felt that I gained confidence as the interviews continued and the experience has taught me a lot about how to conduct interviews in the future.
The forum on Friday really brought to light for me the idea that our campus is really quite separated between faculty, staff members, and students. This was especially obvious to me when we were asked to stand in the area where we felt the most uncomfortable and a majority of the faculty and staff members went to the dorm area where, later, a majority of the students said they felt that they had the most ownership. I feel that, though each party of the campus – students, faculty, and staff – are all essential to keep the campus running smoothly, and though we all interact with one another daily, there is still quite a significant divide between all of us. Whether caused by class, culture, “rank,” or age, it is still interesting to reflect that on a campus that is supposed to be so community oriented and inclusive, there should exist such a distinct line that these three groups so thoroughly avoid crossing. Of course, we do need to have our boundaries, but at what point do these boundaries become too distinct and actually inhibit us from understanding one another? Even reflecting on the forum now, I realize that we really didn’t have any housekeepers at the event and we discussed, prior to the forum, the fact that the housekeepers whom we did ask, turned us down because they felt that they would be out of place in that setting. This, I believe, is just one example of where the boundaries we have set get in the way of everyone understanding one another, and I really believe that we need to find a way to overcome these barriers.
I chose to write my essay on the make-shift “window seat” in my room. It’s really more of a window ledge, but it’s just wide enough for me to sit on while I read, write, and study. It’s a place where I feel very much at peace and I feel that I belong there, thus it seemed a fitting location to base my essay off of. The view from my window looks out onto Wyndham – the food service institution where I, as a work-study student, am employed. This fact made me reflect on the idea that, in M. Carey Thomas’s time, I would not have been able to attend Bryn Mawr, which forced me to contemplate where and if I fit into this campus. Furthermore, I came to the conclusion that, though some people see working on campus as an inconvenience, I find it to be a very rewarding experience that prepares me for “the real world” outside of the cloister of Bryn Mawr. Additionally, I think that my work-study program actually motivates me in terms of my academic studies, as it is a reminder that I am working to pay for my education and thus I need to get the most out of it that I can.
Thus far, I have found this class to be very informative through all of our enlightening readings. Beyond that though, I feel that this class is really helping me develop as a writer and a speaker. I feel that I have improved my ability to prove and explain the key claim of my essay and I feel more confident speaking up in class than I ever have in previous classroom settings. I think this is due, in large part, to the fact that our classroom discussions feel very open and accepting – despite the occasional difference of opinions, every opinion feels welcome in our classroom. I feel that our varying backgrounds allow us to have a wide array of opinions in class and it is interesting and valuable to hear those different opinions. Furthermore, I think that understanding the perspective of others, allows me personally, to extend my understanding of my own opinion and it asks me to analyze my own view on the various subjects and controversies brought up in class.
I think, like many other students, I am not really sure what to expect when we go to visit the high school. Though in part, I think this is because I am still not very clear on what we will be doing at the high school, I also feel that my lack of expectations relates to a comment that someone made during the silent blackboard discussion – that she wants to go into the school with an open mind and take the experience as a learning experience. I completely agree with this idea, and I too, hope to go into the school with this mentality. I know that no matter what we will be doing with the students, it will prove to be a fun, learning experience for all of us.
As we enter the high school, however, I wonder about some of the comments that were made during our silent blackboard discussion, relating to the way in which socio-economic background might play a role in these students’ lives and schooling. I also wonder if there will truly be that sense of students feeling burned out due to the pressures of trying to succeed in school and as a bi-product of teachers feeling burned out as well. It will be interesting to me, to see if these particulars of our blackboard discussion are present in the school.
In reflecting on the various readings that we have done up to this point, it seems to me that the answer to this question is both yes and no. In the case of Luttrell’s and Shorris’s students, education certainly did “level their playing fields” in a sense, for Luttrell and Shorris gave their students the educations that they had never before had. With these educations, the students were then able to move towards higher education and attend colleges and technical schools. This is education in its idealized form - for education is, at its best, meant to level the playing field as it did for these students.
But in another sense, we must keep in mind that not everyone has access to the type of education that Shorris and Luttrell gave their students. I think about the movie “Waiting for Superman” and the children in that movie who attended school and worked hard, but did not have a level playing field simply because they did not have access to the “right” schools and the “right” teachers. With this thought in mind, education is a means of leveling the playing field, only to the extent that one has access to “good” education - education in which students and teachers engage in an active classroom and where students are encouraged to learn.
I don’t think that I really had a clear idea of what to write for this essay and I found it difficult to write due to how broad the topic was. In “reflecting on the relationship between access and education” I found it difficult to get anywhere without first defining “education,” and “access.” I settled on a rather idealistic idea of what education should be which made my essay rather abstract, but I attempted to back my claims with concrete examples from the readings. The claim I attempted to explain throughout my essay was that education should include experiential learning, critical thinking and the obtainment of knowledge. Furthermore, I tried to address the idea that though everyone certainly does not have access to “good” schools, everyone does have access to experiential learning and that this learning should be nurtured in a proper school setting (therefore, there is a need for such a “proper school setting”). In addition, I tried to express the idea that this is the type of education gives a person access to many other entities (good jobs, college, etc.).
For my educational autobiography, I chose to focus on an individual who has largely shaped my education and the person I am today, rather than an experience in my educational history. I think that I chose this particular topic because I strongly believe that we are largely shaped not only by significant experiences, but also by those people that we meet and have the privilege of knowing in our day-to-day lives. I chose to write about a former teacher who certainly did have a profound influence on me, yet there were many other people that I could have written about as well. Most of these other significant individuals are not teachers in the formal sense of the word, but still they have taught me many life lessons, and I wish I could have written about all of them.