By the time I began my freshman year at the University of South Carolina, I was fortunate enough to know how to write. My transition from high school to college was stress-free because I was confident in my abilities as a student and writer. During the spring of my freshman year, I watched other students struggle in my English 102 class while I found each assignment and the research project to be a breeze. I decided to become an English minor and was excited to explore all of the possibilities which came along with that. However, I soon realized how few genres I had been exposed to in high school. While I had written hundreds of argumentative essays, multiple research papers, and had a flawless resume, I had never been deeply exposed to any genres within creative writing. Yes, I had always read nonfiction, poetry, and fiction, but they were never given to me as writing assignments. Was this because of a lack of time? Was it because my English teachers were afraid to take the risk? I attended a fairly academically challenging high school where the standards were high and creative writing was an elective. Projects like the one Sarah Andrew-Vaughan incorporates within her classroom were never considered. We read all of the classics and a lot of Shakespeare, but free expression through writing was never really encouraged. I did complete an I-Search paper during my sophomore year of high school like the one mentioned in the article, but I was limited in my topic choices. During my sophomore year of college, I worried about how much this lack of exposure could potentially hurt me if I ever wanted to take a creative writing class.
When I signed up for a creative writing class for the fall of my junior year, I was terrified to take the course. I had no confidence in myself to write creative nonfiction, poetry, or fiction. However, by the end of the course, I had gained a level of confidence in myself I had never known and deciding to take that class has been the best decision I have made in college. Because of creative writing, I have so much more confidence in myself as a writer, student, and person. I now see the real value in incorporating creative writing within the classroom, as well as any genre students are not comfortable with writing. I love the idea of incorporating workshops within the classroom like Andrew-Vaughan does in hers. This allows students to receive feedback from people other than the teacher and gives them the opportunity to interact with those they might not typically talk to outside of class.
While incorporating creative writing within the classroom is important, holding our students to high standards is also important, which is why I believe the genre was never incorporated into my high school English classes. Therefore, how do we incorporate creative writing within our classrooms while still meeting up to standards and ensuring our students succeed on Advanced Placement exams and the SAT? One of my biggest takeaways from this article and a potential answer to this question can be found under "A Case for the Unfamiliar-Genre Research Project". Andrew-Vaughan argues, "This project has several purposes for high school students: to learn basic research strategies, to engage in a genre study while practicing strategies real writers use to approach real material, to identify the process we each use to learn about that which is unfamiliar, and to use research to create something students might think is otherwise too difficult". Yes, the expectation to meet up to standards can be one of the most frustrating aspects of teaching, but ensuring our students meet up to them and are college ready is important. Good teachers adequately perform their duties by ensuring their students meet up to the required standards and are college ready. However, great teachers, like Sarah Andrew-Vaughan, rise above those standards to ensure their students get the most out of each project and assignment so that they can discover their passions and reach their full potential.