Intro to self-assessments:
Over the course of the semester, you will complete 6 self-assessments (total grade for all 6 = 10%). These are short, informal pieces of writing where you are expected to reflect on your own progress in this class. These are exploratory pieces of writing. This means that you don’t have to have a clear idea of what you’re trying to say when you sit down to write. The value in these pieces of writing in lies in the practice of doing it. Hopefully, in the writing of them, insight about your own relationship to your work will be illuminated.
There is only one stipulation in these pieces: be honest. Just be yourself and write as truly as possible. As long as you’re doing that, you’re completing the task correctly. Do not attempt to write in essay format. I won’t be grading spelling or grammar (but read it over once, just to make sure everything is clear).
These exercises are valuable for many reasons. The most important is for you to gain greater understanding of what you are doing here, in this class. It’s crucial for you to have perspective on your own work. The only opinion about your work that matters is your own. That can feel untrue in a setting like this where your work is being evaluated by your teacher. But, eventually, school will end, and you’ll be on your own. At a certain point, your work ceases to be graded.
Which brings me to the next valuable purpose of these exercises: for me to get to know you better. I have 43 strangers to get to know very quickly. Each one of you has a different writing style, a different way of reading, a different way of seeing the world. Some of you love reading, some of you hate reading. Some of you feel great about your work, some of you may lack confidence. All of this is important. Really important. The way I read your work, and (to a certain extent) the way I grade your work will be influenced by these self-assessments. These assessments are a way to hopefully level the playing field in this class. Instead of trying to achieve some external standard, you will set your own goals for this class, and you will evaluate yourself against these standards. That’s how real life works. It helps to practice.
For the first assessment, I would like you to complete the following tasks:
- Print out the Self-Assessment Survey. Fill it out.
- Respond to the following questions. You can answer in paragraph format. Once again, the only important thing is to be honest. Don’t tell me what you think I probably want to hear. Barf. Just be honest. If you have trouble answering the question, that’s fine. Explain why you can’t really answer it.
- How do you feel about your own writing skills?
- What do you hope to get out of this class? What are your goals for this class (besides getting a good grade)?
- Judging by the course syllabus and what Jeff has explained so far, how do you feel about the work you’re going to be asked to complete? Are you excited, scared, nervous, intimidated, inspired, (or anything else) by the challenges of this class? Explain your answer.
- Broadly speaking, what do you think the point of a College English class is? If you feel that there’s no real point (that’s okay!), then what should the point be? In other words, if you feel that English class is not really useful, then what can you do to make it more useful to yourself?
Your response should be about two-pages, double-spaced. You must respond to each of these questions. You don’t have to spend equal space discussing each. You can spend more time on one question, if you have more to say about it.
Print out your response and the survey, and hand them in on September 7. Please format the written response according to MLA format (see this Sample Essay for a model). You must attend class on Sept. 7 in order to submit this assignment. I will not accept any late submissions.
Hey everybody! Below is my own self-assessment. I answered all the same questions you guys are answering. Enjoy!
How do I feel about my own writing skills? Hoo boy. Loaded question. I feel a lot of different ways about my own writing skills. Sometimes I feel great about it. When I write a story that resonates with energy, it is probably the best feeling in the world. But that usually comes about as a result of many drafts. That always comes about as a result of many drafts. When I write the first couple of drafts of anything, I often feel crappy about my writing skills. Like I can’t do anything right. I’m a fraud. A phony. Then by the third draft, something interesting starts happening and I feel like a world-beater. This same thing happens every time. I guess at the end of the day I think more about the writing process than my writing skills. But I do have a visceral connection to words that are well-written, whether they’re my own or someone else’s, so I strive to make every word count. Overall, I feel good about my ability to tap into a creative space these days. I’ve been writing mostly songs lately on my free time, which is probably the hardest thing to write. A good way to continually feel inadequate about your own writing skills.
I’ll answer the next two questions here at the same time. My goals and feelings for this class. Well, my goals are to bring an exciting energy into the classroom. There’s that word again—energy—but that’s a very important word for me. That’s the only real way to measure whether something has life in it or not, I think. So, for the in-class work, I hope to use the Active Learning Classroom to its maximal potential. I want to give my students meaningful projects, meaningful work to do that they can get emotionally carried away by. Work that will have some kind of inherent self-motivation for them, that they’ll want to complete the tasks because they are interesting and challenging tasks and not just because they have to do them. Is this possible? I don’t know. I think it is.
In terms of the written work, I suppose it’s the same. Get students involved in meaningful work. I’m not all that interested in literary essays. I suppose it’s somewhat selfish, I just don’t want to read literary essays. But I want the writing assignments to feel exciting, I suppose that’s the word, exciting. I don’t know. I know the feeling of when I’m excited about a project and how much fun it is to complete. But, perhaps the most important thing is that I can only create work that is my best when I am exciting. If I’m bored, I can’t produce something good. I may be bored for moments while working on a big project, but overall I have to be excited about it or there is no point. I should probably say at this point for anyone reading this that I write plays. I’ve written like five or six plays. So these are big projects that involve a lot of ups and downs. But the feeling of excitement has to be there. So, how to do that for student assignments on literary works. Great question. I haven’t written the major assignment instructions yet, but I will get to the first one very soon. We shall.
Overall, I’m super excited about trying to come up with worthwhile assignments. There’s that word again, excited. But here’s another thing—it’s not all on me! I’m just one voice in this room. I’m going to give my students a lot of freedom to create the kind of English class that they want. Agency. Agency is important.
What do I think is the point of a college English class? A very important question. I see my role as this: teaching my students what the creative process entails. Practice the process and skills of creativity. That seems like a worthwhile goal. And as far as content goes—to start to give students the skills to read deeply into text, which they can use to read deeply into anything. Students already come in with these skills. To help them develop them further. Sounds really school-y. Oh well. And to help them understand more what writing is. That is a process that involves many drafts. To help each individual student feel good about their own writing. To leave with one thing that they can carry with them for the rest of their lives. Not ten things. One thing. That’s a lot!