i Reflective Essay | COLLEGE WRITING: DEBATE(S) IN HIGHER EDCUATION

Zach Fritz

You can learn a lot from writing over a semester. As a high schooler, I was a sub-par writer. I could get by earning B’s because I had enough knowledge and an extensive vocabulary to make a paper sound intelligent, which seemed to me like a good approach to writing a paper at the time, but I was never taught how to properly organize and write a paper. I couldn’t tell you what the purpose of claims, reasons, and evidence were. I couldn’t give you an example of acknowledge and response, and I never knew how to hyperlink sources. When I look back on it now, in high school I had no plan of attack when writing a paper for an English class or anything in general. I would simply just wing it until I had a draft that seemed like it made sense to me. Being introduced to this college writing class did not just improve me as a writer but it changed my writing style.

At first I thought that taking this class would be easy. My English teachers in high school always said that the writing we did was at a college level so I thought that this would be a piece of cake. When the semester started however, I was confused about the lectures. The lessons made it seem like writing had so many rules that needed to be followed and I didn’t feel like that was right. I did not think that I could adopt to this type of writing style and I didn’t believe it was an effective way of writing. The class started off with how to stake your claim. The introduction of point first and last paragraphs taught me how to format my introduction paragraph into the most efficient way possible. This gave me an outline of how to create a well-developed introductive paragraph which would overall improve my paper. Another important thing that I learned during my time in this class is the use of hyperlinks to cite sources. I have always seen hyperlinks in articles that I have read throughout my life, but I had no idea how to incorporate them into my work. The use of hyperlinks makes finding a source more efficient and also easier for your reader to understand the background of your draft if they are unaware. Lastly, one of the tools that we use as a writer, is something that I had unknowingly been doing my whole life as a writer, acknowledgement and response. This is a respectful way to disagree with a counter-argument. You use it to state the points made in the counter-argument, but you explain why it wouldn’t work by stating your argument. Understanding each of these tools individually was pretty easy, incorporating them all into one piece was the hard part.

The setup of assignments for class was very beneficial for me. Being able to put one small piece from the lectures each day into a process assignment made it simple to learn. Once all the process assignments for a unit were done, we would put it all together into a blog post. For being a kid that grew up in the life of technology, I had heard of a blog post before but I could not really describe one to you. So this was my first time constructing a blog post, and I had four different topics to take about: Blog Post #1 (Why Did I Choose SNC?), Blog Post #2 (Online vs Classroom), Blog Post #3 (Should College Athletes Be Paid?), and Blog Post #4 (Diversity at SNC). My favorite of the four blog posts was the question of, should college athletes be paid? Out of each of the blog posts, this one was my strongest. Part of the reason is because I feel very strongly about this topic. The NCAA seems to make collegiate athletes their slaves of their multibillion dollar corporation. So I feel it would be right for players to receive a small compensation of spending money for “being the most important cog in the NCAA’s machine.” I agreed that the players should not be paid huge amounts like professional athletes because they are a college to earn a degree, but the NCAA blows the reasoning out of proportion. They say that “college athletes can collect their money when they go pro”. In reality though, only 2% of college athletes every make it to “The Show”. I could go on forever about my reasons why the NCAA is corrupt.

Blog Post #3 was my high point of the class, but, I am not going to lie, the blog posts were not easy. I couldn’t just fly through these like I did with long writing assignments in high school. I remember how proud good it felt when I created my first draft for a blog post because I felt like I actually spent quality time on it. I had a good friend of mine, Bel, read it and she left many comments on changes I should make. This is why writing has always stressed me out. As the blog posts went on, though, I got better at drafting them. The things that we learned in class were being drilled into my head and it became a habit of writing in the way that I am now. I was looking over my copies before I would turn them in, I would check for grammar and punctuation errors (partially because that is a huge pet peeve I have), and if I missed anything I would have my trusty friend Bel look it over. I believe that the blog posts were a big help in making me a better writer, but there were still areas that I needed to improve in. For example, I didn’t have an issue stating my claim, but once or twice throughout the paper I would contradict myself or say something that didn’t completely support my claim. That is a stressful thing to deal with because it is hard to make a small altercation like that and still have a smooth paper, I often had to change a whole paragraph with just one mistake. Another struggle I faced, that I believe will just get better with time, was properly citing my sources using hyperlinks. Being that I had never used hyperlinks before, I sometimes would forget to use them when I had evidence stated. Now hyperlinks are much better to deal with than contradicting my claim because it takes a lot less time and hassle. I believe that these two things are what I need most of my improvement on. There is never just a dark side though. The two strong points I got from the class was, one, my grammar. My whole life I have been a grammar freak. Bel and Nolan both noticed this when they would edit my paper and find little to no mistakes. I guess that was a fun task for them. The second positive is acknowledgment and response. I think I developed a good grasp on this concept as I grew up. My best friend was my neighbor and I hated fighting with him. If we differed in opinions, I would often use this method to avoid any unnecessary fights. All in all, the understanding of the concepts for the class is there, but some I will just need to learn how to create effectively as I practice more. This issue was, I just wasn’t sure if I would ever need this anytime aside from this writing class. At a liberal arts college, where they make sure you are a well-rounded student, you will obviously use this again.

Not more than a month later, I got to observe the positive effect this class had on my writing ability by doing one of my biggest projects of the semester. For theology, we had to make a persuasive paper for our belief of God. Being the only person in the class to take IDIS 100, I felt that I had the upper hand over everyone else around me. I was very confident in my writing abilities because I felt I was well prepared to draft a persuasive essay. I used everything I had learned from the class to develop the perfect persuasive essay. When these were to be presented in the class, I could already tell the difference this class made by listening to others. Without trying to sound too skeptical of my peers, I could easily notice the difference the class had made for me. Their papers often didn’t have a clear claim or enough reliable evidence to back it up. The paragraphs were not constructed the most efficient way and the lack of an acknowledgment and response part really leaves a gaping hole in the paper. Many of them just seemed to be ‘winging it’ like I once had done. After my presentation, my professor, whom had just clapped for each person presenting, personally told me what a great job I did on my speech. It felt nice to finally get that praise and actually be proud of myself for the time and effort I spent writing something.

Aside from all the things I learned through this class and how much better of a writer I have become, I was also happy of the topics that we wrote about in class. Almost every day the focus of the class was on a subject that was debatable or relatable. Whether you liked writing or not, the material was geared towards us which made it easier to pay attention and get involved in class. Another part of the class that was both educational and entertaining was the John Oliver videos that you shared with us. I enjoyed how those focused on a serious topic and while getting the educational point across, it poked fun at it too making it a delight to watch. Those videos impacted me enough that I enjoy watching them during my free time occasionally. Last but not least, one of my favorite points in the whole semester for any class, was the doughnuts that you provided us on the last day. It was a “sweet” way to wrap up my first semester of college.

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