English curricula need balance

Maelyn Barber, Managing Editor

When I was little, writing felt like magic to me. My spirits filled with joy as my pen or pencil glided across the page. This was my way of escaping to another world.

But when I walked into my 6th grade English class, my world flipped upside down. My teachers began to lecture me about academic writing style and how some words were “dead.” I sat there angry and doubtful, and I felt as though all the confidence I had in my  writing drained out of me.

Before I learned the academic approach to writing, writing  was my  place of freedom and safety. I felt stifled by the scholarly rules like a bad writer.

I began to believe there was only one approach to writing. With constant worry over style and rules, I spent more time striving for perfection instead of getting my assignments done. 

I tried to write for fun in search of that happy place again, but that didn’t exist anymore. My inner monologue became very conscious of how I should be doing it differently.  

I am not trying to be dismissive of academic writing. It is important for college essays and it helps you think critically. But when school curricula focus on restrictions instead of what students want to convey, it can make students lose confidence and motivation to express their ideas.

Compounding the problem, whenever I asked my English teachers to edit my essays, their eyes narrowed on the errors. They would not tell me how to improve or why they thought sentences needed to be rephrased. They would just say I could do better.

At the same time, my teachers gave speeches justifying academic writing with the idea that they were doing it to “help” students in future English classes. But, it was not helping me. When my focus became the mistakes, the quality of my writing declined because I felt I could not do anything right.

However, in 8th grade, my spirits lifted again. I was organizing my room and at the bottom of my desk drawer lay a small blue notebook. Without hesitation or any thought about what the academic standards said, I began to write about what was on my heart. I felt like I had my safe place back again. 

There is a time and a place for academic writing but personal approaches should also be recognized, not only in extra electives but also at some level in every English class. Freedom of expression makes writing more enjoyable for students and it shouldn’t be ignored.