Unit One Essay
Professor Katie Logan
Draft One due IN CLASS Monday, September 26th
Final Draft due BEFORE CLASS Friday, September 30th
Topic: In Unit One, we’ve read accounts of education from Ta-Nehisi Coates and Sarah Smarsh, we’ve discussed the way identity impacts the opportunities we receive, and we’ve created our own galleries of “the culture of scholastic achievement.” Using this work, construct a 750-1000 word reflective narrative that answers the following question: How did you get to VCU? That is, what allowed you access to this academic environment? What resources and abilities brought you here? What challenges made It difficult for you to arrive and participate in this academic environment? Note that you can interpret this question as literally or abstractly as you’d like.
Because the assignment asks you to address the question in narrative form, you will want to pick a lens through which to convey your story. You can use one of two approaches:
- Using a photo from your Gallery assignment, construct a narrative about the image that allows you to reflect on the opportunities and/or challenges that brought you to VCU.
- Just as Sarah Smarsh uses teeth as a lens for discussing education for low income children, choose an object or item that allows you to think critically about your presence at VCU.
Your primary goal is to ensure that your essay features both narrative and reflective components:
A narrative tells a story; it imposes chronological order on experience, and provides the specific cues a reader needs to follow the story through the time sequence the writer has chosen. Tell the story of what happened, to whom it happened, how it happened, and what happened as a result. Decide on an appropriate chronology for telling your story – where will it begin? End? Will it follow a straight chronology from beginning to end? Or begin at the end – or in the middle? What is the central episode and how can you pace your narrative to emphasize the most important part[s]? What kinds of vivid detail will you use to help your reader understand the importance of the event or object you describe?
Reflective writing makes meaning of an experience (or of an artifact or text). To reflect on something is to think seriously about its significance, about what it means and why it matters – to you – and others. The reflection should emerge at natural points in the narrative to express what you were thinking and feeling as the events you are describing unfold. Through the reflective elements of the narrative, readers should be able to see how your understanding of your subject is affected by events, changes over time – and gives your story meaning.
Your essay must be uploaded to Blackboard before class on Friday, September 30th. Please submit the essay as a Word Document so that I can comment on it directly in Blackboard; the essay should use 12-point, double spaced font and should include class information in the header, page numbers, and a creative title. Please note that you are still responsible for a timely submission even if you are absent from class that day. A memo addressed to me should accompany the essay; we will discuss the memo in more detail later in the Unit. No final draft will be accepted without a substantial peer review; therefore, it is essential that you make it to class with a full draft on Monday, September 26th.
Assignment Objectives: My goal for you as you work on these papers is that you learn to 1) reflect on your own experiences in the context of an academic setting 2) engage in process writing 3) identity and critique some of your central assumptions (especially as they relate to identity and education) and 4) begin to think about the ethical and civic issues at play in university settings.
Grading: The Unit One Essay is worth 10% of your final grade, and I will grade it on a 10-point scale (the memo is worth an additional 2 points). I will deduct a full point for every day that your essay is late (so if the essay earns 9 points but is a day late, it can only be worth 8 points). I will grade according to the following categories:
- Topic: Have you creatively selected an image or object that allows you the opportunity to both narrate and reflect? (2 points)
- Technique and tone: Do you make use of effective chronologies, descriptions, and characters to guide the reader through your narrative? Do I get a feel for who you are through your voice? (3 points)
- Demonstration of Reflective, Critical Thought: Does your narration have a larger purpose? Does it reflect something significant about what education or the university is or how you have come to participate in this environment? (3 points)
- Formatting and Mechanics: Did you adhere to formatting guidelines? Is it clear that you re-read your paper to catch typos, sentence fragments, and other grammar issues? If you used outside sources, did you cite them? Does your title intrigue/amuse/engage the reader? (2 points)
Keep in mind as you write that you will have the opportunity to revise one of your first two major essays this semester. In order to do so, you will need to schedule a meeting with me after papers are returned to discuss your revision goals and to write a second memo demonstrating the substantial nature of your revision. When grading a revision, I will average your grades together. If you receive a 6 on your first essay, for example, and then you rock out on revisions and earn a 10, your official grade for Essay One will be an 8.
Please note: As you work on your project, you’ll have access to my office hours–please use them! Though I will not read a full draft of any work before the 30th, I’m willing to look at shorter sections of the essay if you bring them to me with a specific concern or question. If you need more holistic revision work before submitting, please make use of the Writing Center (the Center is also a great resource to be able to discuss in your memo!)