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Kocher 1   Ziona  Kocher   Dr.  Jennifer  Wells   LAE  5946   17  July  2013   Reading  came  first.  I  would  like  to  say  writing  followed  along  shortly,  but  it  didn’t.   It’s  not  that  I  didn’t  write,  I  simply  didn’t  enjoy  it  —  or  at  least  I  didn’t  enjoy  what  I  thought   writing   was.   When   I   first   started   writing   in   school,   it   was   all   about   staying   within   tightly   constrained   prompts   about   our   pets,   our   favorite   meals,   what   we   wanted   to   be   when   we   grew   up.   A   few   years   later,   it   was   whether   or   not   T.V.   had   a   negative   effect   on   society,   if   students  should  have  to  wear  uniforms  in  school,  the  best  way  to  increase  the  use  of  first   aid   training   programs.   Why   on   Earth   would   we   ever   want   to   write   about   these   things?     Writing  was  boring,  but  I  knew  that  it  wasn’t  supposed  to  be.  I  tried  to  make  it  more  fun,   but   couldn’t   quite   manage   it.   As   elementary   school   continued,   I   became   less   and   less   interested   in   FCAT   practice   and   daily   writing   exercises.   I   knew   what   to   do   to   make   my   teachers  (and  the  all-­‐powerful  FCAT  graders)  happy,  so  I  stopped  pushing  the  boundaries.  I   gave   them   what   they   wanted,   and   tried   to   stop   worrying   about   it.   There   was   always   the   question   in   the   back   of   my   mind,   though:   how   could   the   process   of   writing   be   so   incredibly   dull  when  it  was  the  root  of  my  passionate  love  of  reading?     When   I   say   “passionate   love   of   reading,”   I   am   in   no   way   exaggerating.   I   was   that   kid   that  would  rush  through  her  work  to  have  the  free  time  to  read,  and  luckily,  my  teachers   were  more  likely  to  encourage  that  behavior  than  punish  me  for  it.    Looking  back  on  letters   and  cards  from  my  dad  and  great-­‐grandparents,  they  always  asked  what  I  was  reading,  and   my   report   cards   consistently   mentioned   that   I   was   reading   above   my   grade   level.   There  


Kocher 2   was  even  a  time  when  my  fourth  grade  science  and  math  teacher  tried  to  convince  me  to   read   War   and   Peace   because   after   that   I   would   never   have   to   take   another   Accelerated   Reader   test   again   —   perhaps   this   was   a   desperate   attempt   to   stop   me   from   reading   unrelated   books   while   in   his   class?   The   look   on   his   face   when   I   simply   responded   “OK”   and   went   to   look   for   it   was   priceless,   though   admittedly   I   had   no   intention   of   meeting   his   challenge.   Instead,   I   blew   through   an   unending   string   of   chapter   books.   Beverly   Cleary   and   Judy   Blume   were   two   early   favorites,   but   nearly   everything   my   teachers   threw   my   way   would   be   finished   in   a   few   days,   and   the   longer   a   book   was,   the   better.   I   am   endlessly   grateful  to  J.K.  Rowling  for  her  Harry  Potter  series,  because  it  was  one  of  the  first  times  that   my   peers   were   as   excited   about   reading   as   I   was.   There   was   some   backlash,   though,   for   while   our   teachers   would   let   us   read   these   books   in   our   free   time,   they   were   never   considered  “serious”  enough  to  be  placed  on  our  reading  list.     I  tried  to  pour  my  excitement  for  reading  into  writing  through  book  reports,  but  it   never  worked  quite  as  well  as  I  had  hoped.  There  were  certain  expectations  surrounding   the   types   of   books   we   could   write   about   (Harry   Potter   wasn’t   allowed   because   teachers   knew  we  would  all  turn  in  enthusiastically  identical  reports),  the  assignments  still  seemed   formulaic  (tell  us  the  themes  and  outline  the  plot,  but  don’t  let  it  get  out  of  hand!),  and  I  put   more   effort   into   the   creative   aspects   than   the   written   reports.   I   remember   fondly   the   elaborate   board   game   I   created   with   my   mother   for   my   project   about   Black   Beauty,   but   I’m   fairly  certain  the  report  itself  was  a  rather  dry  recitation  of  the  basic  facts  of  the  book  —  a   desperate   attempt   to   tell   my   peers   what   the   book   was   about   without   giving   anything   important  away.  On  one  hand,  I  could  understand,  because  the  point  of  the  report  was  to   get   our   classmates   interested   in   a   book   they   might   not   have   considered   without   spoiling  


Kocher 3   the  plot.  One  the  other,  it  was  torture.  I  just  wanted  to  analyze  things!  I  didn’t  even  know   what  analysis  was  in  elementary  school,  but  looking  back,  that’s  what  I  wanted  to  do.  As  far   as   writing   is   concerned,   this   creative   book   report   assignment   was   the   first   time   I   experienced   what   McLeod   describes   as   “internal   motivating   factors,”   specifically   “task   involvement   [where]   the   task   is   inherently   valuable   and   becomes   an   end   in   itself”   (429).   Though  the  paper  wasn’t  everything  I  wanted  it  to  be,  I  had  expectations  for  it  outside  of   “extrinsic  motivating  factors”  (the  approval  of  my  teachers  and  a  passing  grade)  and  that   was  a  huge  step  in  the  right  direction  (429).     Coming   out   of   elementary   school   and   entering   the   vast,   unknown   world   of   middle   school,  I  had  a  growing  appreciation  for  what  writing  could  be,  and  a  desperate  desire  to   put   my   internal   motivation   to   work.     I   knew   that   the   FCAT   was   inescapable,   but   I   was   entering  the  pre-­‐IB  program  —  things  just  had  to  get  better.  And  they  did,  up  to  a  certain   point.  There  was  one  thing  that  I  couldn’t  rid  myself  of,  though,  and  that  was  the  dreaded   five-­‐paragraph   essay.   While   it   was   an   efficient   way   to   write   for   tests,   and   surely   an   easy   format   to   grade,   I   dreaded   five   paragraph   essays   like   some   kids   dread   eating   their   vegetables.   I   was   particularly   irritated   by   the   fact   that   every   time   I   wrote   one,   I   was   plagued  with  memories  of  a  ridiculous  hamburger  diagram  we  were  given  one  fateful  day   in  elementary  school.  In  this  diagram,  the  top  and  bottom  bun  represented  the  introduction   and   conclusion,   and   the   lettuce,   beef,   and   tomato   represented   the   three   parts   of   our   argument.   There   was   something   about   that   construction   paper   sandwich   that   bothered   me   more   than   was   healthy   or   normal,   and   I   wanted   to   be   rid   of   it.   But   rather   than   giving   up   on   writing   once   and   for   all,   I   decided   it   was   time   to   take   things   into   my   own   hands.   I   was  


Kocher 4   convinced   that   I   was   going   to   be   a   writer,   and   if   school   assignments   didn’t   give   the   thrill   that  reading  did,  I  just  needed  to  start  writing  on  my  own.     That  decision  led  to  some  rather  interesting  results.  During  this  period  of  my  life,  I   was   utterly   fixated   with   retellings   of   classic   fairytales,   and   loved   nothing   more   than   stories   about   young   women   with   special   abilities   leaving   home   to   go   on   adventures.   The   next   logical   step   in   my   preteen   mind   was   to   try   it   out   myself   —   after   all,   how   hard   could   it   be?   I   had  inhaled  a  countless  number  of  similar  stories,  so  surely  I  could  figure  it  out.  The  road  to   my   own   creative   writing,   however,   was   not   as   smooth   as   I   imagined   it   to   be.   McLeod,   pointing   to   Mandler,   claims   that   “a   major   source   of   emotion   is   the   interruption   of   an   individuals   plans   or   planned   behavior,   plans   which   have   a   tendency   towards   completion.   When   our   plans   are   interrupted,   our   autonomic   nervous   systems   are   activated   and   the   physiological  evidence  is  interpreted  as  emotion  —  excitement  or  frustration”  (431).  I  had   obviously  had  an  emotional  response  to  writing  long  before  my  decision  to  venture  into  the   world  of  creative  writing,  but  that  was  nothing  compared  to  the  irritation  these  attempts  at   stories   brought   about.   My   writing   process   was   little   more   than   an   endless   string   of   interrupted  plans.  At  times  it  helped  to  motivate  me,  but  in  my  desperate  attempts  to  write   something,  ANYTHING,  I  filled  my  ancient  computer’s  desktop  with  draft  after  draft  of  the   same  basic  premise  that  never  moved  past  the  fourth  page.  For  all  that  I  tried,  I  couldn’t  get   Annabelle  or  Lorelai  or  Cleandra  beyond  her  first  few  steps  out  of  the  kingdom.  Faced  with   the  prospect  of  choosing  my  own  adventure,  I  froze.  I  swore  I  would  persevere  in  the  next   story,   or   the   one   after   that,   but   I   never   succeeded.       My   dreams   of   writing   fantasy   novels   were  soon  abandoned,  and  I  grudgingly  accepted  my  future  as  a  professional  writer  of  five-­‐ paragraph  essays.    


Kocher 5   High   school,   like   middle   school,   seemed   like   another   opportunity   to   turn   things   around,   and   fortunately,   I   was   finally   successful.   Though   I   always   had   what   McCarthy,   Meier,  and  Rinderer  refer  to  as  “strong  efficacy  expectations,”  in  high  school  I  was  finally   able  to  meet  my  own  expectations  in  addition  to  those  put  in  place  by  my  teachers  (466).   The   IB   program   allowed   me   to   flourish,   and   gave   me   the   tools   I   needed   to   talk   about   literature  in  ways  that  I  had  always  wanted  to.  Gone  were  summaries  and  annoying  papers   intended   to   teach   us   how   to   defend   both   sides   of   an   argument.   Instead,   analysis   was   the   name   of   the   game,   and   while   it   took   me   a   little   while   to   wrap   my   head   around   it,   I   was   willing   to   put   in   the   extra   work   to   see   the   huge   pay-­‐off.   I   also   stopped   beating   myself   up   about   my   failures   as   a   creative   writer,   because   I   began   to   recognize   that   picking   apart   characters   and   plots   could   be   just   as   constructive   as   creating   them.   Writing   was   finally   meeting  my  expectations  —  it  was  interesting  and  exciting,  and  I  was  allowed  to  connect   the  books  we  read  to  real  life.  I  was  one  of  the  few  students  who  seemed  to  be  interested  in   discussing   the   societal   implications   of   fiction,   but   I   was   lucky   to   find   a   support   system   in   high   school   that   pushed   me   in   the   right   direction,   and   kept   me   thinking   about   the   big   picture,  rather  than  simply  allowing  the  works  we  read  to  exist  in  a  vacuum.     It  was  this  support  system  of  teachers  that  also  really  emphasized  the  importance  of   transfer   as   I   completed   high   school.   Perkins   and   Salomon   write   about   the   difference   between   “near   transfer”   and   “far   transfer,”   and   through   the   assignments   I   was   given,   I   was   able   to   utilize   both   (2).   Near   transfer   was   somewhat   familiar   to   me,   because   throughout   elementary  and  middle  school  I  would  utilize  the  skills  I  gained  from  assignments  to  those   that  were  similar  or  related.  In  high  school,  however,  I  really  began  to  grasp  far  transfer.  I   began  to  apply  the  concepts  and  approaches  I  used  when  reading  literature  to  my  history  


Kocher 6   texts,  and  I  was  able  to  recognize  that  the  two  subjects  weren’t  that  different.  My  history   papers  improved,  and  I  found  the  topics  infinitely  more  interesting  than  when  I  was  simply   trying  to  memorize  facts.    My  Extended  Essay,  written  at  the  beginning  of  my  senior  year,   cemented   my   love   not   only   of   writing,   but   of   research   as   well.   By   combining   the   skills   I   learned   in   my   English   and   history   classes,   I   was   able   to   write   a   reasonably   thorough   analysis  of  the  different  kinds  of  propaganda  used  in  the  debate  over  abortion  rights,  and  it   was   then   that   I   decided   that   studying   English   wasn’t   enough:   a   minor   in   gender   studies   would  be  a  requirement  for  college.     Undergrad   ended   up   being   a   dream   come   true.   New   College   took   the   skills   I   developed   in   high  school  and  let  them   run  wild  over   a   series  of  courses   heavily   focused  on   the  ways  that  gender,  race,  and  class  function  in  literature  and  society.  My  papers  became   longer  and  more  complex,  and  by  the  time  I  reached  my  thesis,  I  was  unstoppable.  I  was  no   longer  constrained  by  assignments  for  class;  instead,  I  was  writing  freely  on  my  own  time,   spending   hours   picking   apart   media   and   pointing   out   the   ways   that   it   was   damaging   for   women   or   people   of   color.   Nothing   was   safe   from   me,   and   while   it   was   liberating,   it   was   also   upsetting   to   see   that   even   my   favorite   shows   reinforced   terrible   messages   about   minorities   and   oppressed   groups.   As   McLeod   suggests,   though,   these   emotions   just   pushed   me   forward.   I   found   my   voice   as   a   writer,   and   things   expanded   even   further.   I   began   writing  about  myself  —  not  for  other  people,  but  to  simply  try  new  things  and  explore  my   opinions  and  feelings  in  a  way  that  I  could  reflect  upon.  As  my  personal  writing  grew,  the   papers  for  my   classes   became   even   better,  and  I  realized  that  I  was  the  writer  that  I  always   wanted  to  be.  The  question  then  became,  “what  do  I  do  now?”    


Kocher 7   The  amazing  professors  I  worked  with  in  college  helped  me  realize  that  writing  was   something   that   I   could   actually   do   for   a   living.   I   had   previously   wanted   to   go   into   library   science,   and   help   others   develop   a   love   for   reading   like   the   one   that   I   possessed,   but   the   summer   before   my   fourth   year,   I   realized   that   teaching   could   help   me   do   that   and   so   much   more.  It  is  still  a  dream  of  mine  to  one  day  work  as  a  librarian,  but  right  now,  I  want  to  help   the   kids   like   me   recognize   that   writing   is   amazing.   I   want   to   find   the   kids   who   love   to   read,   but  can’t  quite  figure  out  what  the  whole  writing  thing  is  about  —  I  want  to  show  them  that   writing   can   take   that   love   and   make   it   even   more   powerful   through   examination   and   reflection.  This  is  a  lofty  goal  for  someone  who  has  never  really  taught  before,  but  I  think   working  in  the  writing  center  and  teaching  First  Year  Comp  will  allow  me  to  hone  the  skills   that  I  need  to  help  students  love  writing  as  much  as  I  do.  As  I  connect  with  them,  I  hope  that   they  begin  to  realize,  just  as  I  did,  that  writing  doesn’t  have  to  be  one  specific  thing.  In  order   to   be   successful,   you   must   take   writing   and   make   it   work   for   you,   not   simply   work   at   writing,  and  while  this  takes  time  and  effort,  it  will  eventually  become  a  labor  of  love.    


Kocher 8   Works  Cited   McCarthy,  Patricia,  Scott  Meier,  and  Regina  Rinderer.  “Self-­‐Efficacy  and  Writing:  A  Different   View   of   Self   Evaluation.”   College   Composition   and   Communication   36.4   (1985)   :   465-­‐ 471.  Print.     McLeod,   Susan.   “Some   Thoughts   about   Feelings:   The   Affective   Domain   and   the   Writing   Process.”  College  Composition  and  Communication  38.4  (1987)  :  426-­‐435.  Print.     Perkins,   D.N.,   and   Gavriel   Salomon.   “The   Science   and   Art   of   Transfer.”   Web.   1   July   2013.   <http://learnweb.harvard.edu/alps/thinking/docs/trancost.pdf>    

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