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Brittany Ventriglio April 7, 2013 ENC3417.

0M01 Professor Walls Project 2 – Part C I look back at the literacy practices and events in my life knowing that each of us brings forward our own awareness and values based on personal perspectives from experiences. For me, standardized writing, even as basic as the standardization of handwriting became one of the most important literacy issues that came to bear on my project. When I think about my own personal experiences in learning to write as an elementary student juxtaposed with the multitude of writing forms that I currently engage in, annoyed me enough that it became the impetus for this project. Reading the words that Baron writes, “Essentially an act of tracing or imitating letters created by a writing master, there was no room in the methodology for injection the writer’s personality into the script” started my thinking regarding the standardization of writing and can extend as far back as when I was a young emergent writer who was expected to create pencil strokes that reflect the standard of what good penmanship should look like (Baron 56). Variables such as whether or not you were right or left handed, or how tall or short you were in relation to the height of your desk, the amount of exposure to text as a model for penmanship, and your ability in fine or gross motor skills, played no role in the quality of your handwriting sample. One was expected to produce the correct product. When my fourth grade teacher was preparing me to take the FCAT Writes, we practiced for what seemed like hours every day and it seemed like not one of my peers was happy to do so. When the teacher said it was time to write, we all groaned. Talk about bringing a negative value to writing. My

goal was to produce a five paragraph expository or narrative text just like it was the goal of the rest of my classmates, and probably the goal of all other students in the state of Florida. After the interview with my mother, it is clear that the five paragraph essay still is the standard that a student should achieve. And who decided that the standard for allotted time to complete the essay should be set at forty-five minutes anyway? This forty-five minute timed, on-demand assignment included the mandatory usage of our required planning sheets. We needed to use them to plan out our writing and jot down interesting sentences that would help to infuse our creativity into the prompt. Imagine? We also wrote our ideas down on our planning sheets to limit the amount of times that we crossed out on the FCAT Writes. We were not allowed any eraser marks. “The educational philosophy was ‘think before you write,’ an ideal that few students, or their teachers ever, achieved,” writes Baron (Baron 44). What if we weren’t best suited to use a planning sheet? It didn’t matter. There was no room for individuality in this classroom. The teacher said it’s time to begin and forty-five minutes later, you were supposed to produce the best writing sample ever. No time for thinking. Baron writes, “A forced pause can actually provide a welcome distraction from the stresses of composition, permitting writers to reflect and refocus and come back to the task with renewed energy” (Baron 52). There was no time for renewed energies, for creativity, for anything much other than a regurgitation of the expectations imposed by my teacher, who I do not hold accountable for this. As I progressed through my years into middle and high school, there was really little deviation from the required standard of the five paragraph essay. My opening grabber, that was supposed to make my writing more interesting (LOL), better use of transition words, or an extensive vocabulary that was age appropriate, was the standard. Through my experiences up to this point in writing, I had no idea that this style of writing was not the norm of what everyone did. Although I read a wide variety of genre, I never made the connection that writing could look different. My high school experiences of writing in response to a text that I read in my English class, took the format of a summarization of

its key ideas. Once again, there was little room for creativity. I had learned to produce a product that my teacher expected me to and standards promoted. When interviewing my roommate here at UCF, Breanne Souza, she discusses her experiences with both public and private school and how private schools’ educations focus on things like diagramming parts of sentences and sentence structure, rather than standardized writing. She states she never was required to take the FCAT Writes because the private school she attended prepared her with the skills she needed to excel at the SAT’s. When attending public school, Breanne was required to read passages from novels and write about them, similar to my common practice of summarization of novels I performed in high school. She prefers to write in an openended format because of the freedom it grants her. Along with my roommate, I also interviewed my mother who has been teaching for thirty years and is currently an SAI (Supplemental Academic Instruction) teacher. She claims she is not fond of teaching for standardized tests because of how “regimented” and “scripted” they are. She admits that there should be a set of norms that should be in place for students, but one that does not stifle students’ creativity. “Writing should be an expression of one’s creativity.” Theresa says that in her opinion, teaching students in public schools how to write for the sole purpose of passing the FCAT Writes acts as a disservice to students who want to become life-long “good writers” (Interview 2 8:25). Similar to Breanne, Theresa also prefers open-ended writing. When I reflect on the influence that the practices of standardization of writing have imposed upon me and my individual history of writing, I have become aware of the negative values and attitude that it has put upon me. Up to today, I can take away only a few transferrable skills that serve to add value to me, which include the usage of correct sentence structure, proper grammar, an ability to be a decent speller (although I utilize spellcheck), and the mechanics of writing but overall, I believe that my education, as it relates to the method of developing our teachers, transferring learning to

students, and then we producing our writing, have done me a disservice, especially with the utilization of digital literacies have become my primary form of both reading and writing. There are so many digital genres that I now utilize as my source of communication and don’t require or necessitate me to write anything resembling the shape of standardized writing. I feel as if I have been a victim of an archaic set of established rules that make no sense in the realities of today’s world. As Baron writes, “Besides the web page, computers have spawned a number of other new genres: email, which is neither phone call nor letter; instant messaging, which goes a step beyond email; and the attest, the blog, a kind of web page on steroids” (Baron 139). Howard Besser needs to write a new article because I believe the “great digital divide” exists between the way in which we students learn and the real functions of this world as we know it.