Reading and writing

[Column] Six good reasons to teach writing

[Column] Six good reasons to teach writing

This column was submitted to LebTown. Read LebTown’s submission policy here.

Last fall Cornwall Manor participated in a pen pal program initiated by the Wellness Committee. While the experience was rewarding, fun, and yes, even educational (for both residents and students), I wanted to share why, as Chair of the Wellness Committee, I asked committee members to establish this program in the first place.

It has everything to do with the art and skill of writing, write on paper, not text on your phone. Not only have schools lost the opportunity to teach cursive writing, they have lost the opportunity to teach writing itself.

So here are at least six good reasons to teach writing (letters or otherwise):

  1. While electronic gadgets may seem to have taken away the need to write, bringing the world together in more spectacular ways and providing us with untold amounts of information, it’s quite the opposite. They actually increased the demand for writers. In a complex and changing society, more people are needed who can write, order and communicate information and experiences.
  2. Writing, for many students, is the skill that can unlock language arts. Students who have never read often begin reading in a writing program. They must read their own words to recognize what they have said and decide how to say it more effectively. Classmates can even start helping each other out this way. This should eventually lead to an interest in reading published writers on a variety of topics.
  3. To write is to think. Writing with the language of words (think math and the language of numbers) is the most precise and disciplined form of thinking. When we see what we have written (essentially what we have said), we often need to reconsider it, to refocus it, that is, to reflect.
  4. Writing is an ethical act because the most important quality in writing is honesty. It may be particularly important at this time in our history to teach writing, where the difference between dishonest speech and honest speech, between true and false, is revealed.
  5. Writing is a process of self-discovery. It is a process in which everyone tries to find the meaning of their life. We use language not so much to report what we know, but to discover what we know. It is important that students have the opportunity to self-explore in a disciplined and intensive way through writing.
  6. Writing is art, and art is deep play. Art is making, creating, building. It’s an experience of trying to add something to the world that wasn’t there before.

Some of what I wrote here was described in the goals/objectives I gave to teachers last year. That said, I must conclude by saying that not all students will respond well to this philosophy, of which we are all already painfully aware. We just have to respect our efforts and theirs. If a student doesn’t do well at first, it’s important to understand that “failure” is an essential part of the writing process, so it helps students to understand this as they are usually put through a curriculum focused on success in schools. Your exchanges of letters during the year are not graduated (think spelling and grammar). We have created a safe place for students to reflect and compose, essentially for the first time, on paper without criticism. This allows for future communication on paper, awakening a New (writing on paper?? What a concept!) and an exciting form of contact, not only with their peers, but also with their grandparents and friends who may live a few states away.

We are, after all, listeners, an audience eager to respond to young writers who are just beginning to find their voice. Here is a fresh experience, a language being discovered, forms being explored, voices asserting themselves in their own way.

Simply put, we help them discover themselves.

John Keosseian is the Chairman of the Wellness Committee at Cornwall Manor.

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Margarita W. Wilson

The author Margarita W. Wilson