Before I move on to the next writer’s profile, I thought would mention another blog with ambitions similar to this one, one that’s been in operation longer and is produced by a more established scholar than I’ll ever be—Mike Rose of UCLA. Dr. Rose discusses this blog in a recent article in College English (See below.) in which he writes that he “wanted a blog that encouraged a more reflective, deliberative discussion of the purpose of education, and the essay more so than the typical blog post seemed the right genre. I wanted to use this new medium to write old-school, small essays about school. What is interesting is the degree to which the readers of the blog have responded in kind.” Well that’s my hope as well. My subject matter is obviously a bit different, but our overall intent is remarkable similar. And now on to the next profile.
Our third graduate from the professional writing program is a teacher and adjunct professor of English in a small, but rapidly growing, suburban community just north of Orlando, Florida. Because of the distance, she agreed to answer the interview questions via e-mail. Much of her persuasive writing involves communication with her sixth-grade students’ parents, and couldn’t be supplied as samples because of her school’s privacy policies. In these e-mails and notes, she seeks to ensure “my students are getting the support they need to succeed academically.” She also mentions a grant proposal submitted to the school district for “blank hardback books for my students to self-publish some of their own work.” The proposal was successful, so the subject assumes “I must have been pretty persuasive.” The writing sample she was able to supply was an op-ed piece she had published in the Orlando Sentinel at the end of May, 2008. The essay is a cleverly constructed, anecdote laden argument for young adults learning how to manage their money. “I was writing for the paper’s ‘New Voices’ column,” aimed at readers 18 to 30 years of age.”
As with the three other e-mail interviews, many of the responses were brief because the researcher was not present to prod the subject to provide examples or go deeper into possible answers. In this case, the subject’s youthful insouciance also comes through at times. “With the newspaper article, I didn’t have to really restrain myself. I avoided saying anything truly incendiary (i.e. ‘You’re all a bunch of idiots.’), but that’s mostly because I’m a more articulate person than that.” Her comments about style when communicating with parents were more detailed. “Sometimes I simplify my language and sometimes I don’t. Most parents appreciate being spoken (or written) to as fellow adults and professionals (which most are), but my area also has many recent immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries, and I have to be careful not to complicate my writing too much when communicating with them because they are not as familiar with the English language.” She also says she takes care not to be insulting about the students themselves—one she considers “lazy” is characterized as “unmotivated.” (At the same time, she says she did not have to be careful in the grant application because “there’s nothing I enjoy more than bragging about my students and how much they would appreciate the supplies.”) She was conscious, in the newspaper article, of the need for “shorter sentences” and to appear “educated” but not “arrogant.” This consciousness probably explains the conversational style she succeeds in conveying, even though she is fairly disdainful of her generation’s lack of “common sense” about money.
The subject composes using both pen and paper and the computer, “depending on my mood, the amount of time I had available, and the requirements of the situation.” The first draft of the newspaper column was hand-written, while the grant proposal was composed directly onto an online form. Notes to parents are either in the form of an e-mail or hand-written notes “in the student’s planner.” The only software mentioned is Microsoft Word. Her “business writing classes” taught her the format for grant proposals, while her “grammar class never leaves me,” including the professor’s emphasis on “left-leaning sentences.” Regarding possible changes in curriculum, she believes education majors should receive instruction in dealing tactfully “with angry people.” The subject apparently did a Masters in Education at the University of Central Florida after receiving her undergraduate degree, and said her knowledge of “how to efficiently use a college library was invaluable” when writing her thesis. Currently, she says she doesn’t do much research beyond “looking up a web site or e-mail address,” but added that learning to use book reviews was one research process she learned after graduation.