Remember when you finished your first Master’s program? Did you swear you would never return to school again? I did. And it’s not the first time I’ve lied to myself. I have a Master’s as an Education Specialist, which translates into: I have a deeper understanding of current practices for attending to students with differing needs, I know current legal concerns in the field of special education, and that I’ve performed and written about an action study in my classroom.
Yet, those of us in education know that one is never done. I returned to the late-night classes, overbooked weekends, coffee-binging, anything fried-food-eating, sleep-deprived-lifestyle to obtain a Master’s in English.
Finally, I’m in my final semester and 698-the culminating class-looms before me like the legendary eruption of the volcano on Santorini that destroyed Atlantis. But don’t fear, I have the Perfect-Never-Been-Written-Before-Idea for a publishable paper on Frankenstein. I’ve been collecting research and ideas for the last six months, preparing for this one class, this one paper.
The first night of class arrives, with the small, excited chatter of seeing all of the people you’ve been kludging through classes with for the past couple of years, the familiar bags of deep-fried foods and sugary delights that get Working-Professionals-Completing-A-Masters through the torturous 7pm-10pm classes. Of course, I need not mention the various coffee company logos represented around the table.
As the professor walks in, everything disappears into a cataclysmic, self-induced tornado of self-sabotage, fear, performance-anxiety, absolute and total dread: OMG, I have to do this-How will I ever find the time in my jam-packed teaching life to write a journal-length, theory driven, vocabulary-laden paper on one of the most taught books in high school??? What-the-what was I thinking? Drifting further and further into the rabbit hole, it takes me a moment to realize the professor is speaking, and has been speaking, for some time. I join the class mid-sentence:
“. . .I’m open to alternate writings to fulfill the writing requirements. Writings that will benefit you and be useful in your profession. . .”
At first I believe I’ve projected myself into an auditory hallucination and need to call a psychiatrist, stat. However, she continues to speak and students are asking about mixed media projects. A small voice inside me wonders, could my new blog be my Master’s project? For any of you who happen to blog, you know that each blog takes planning and multiple hours to write. I’d already planned to begrudgingly push the blog to the back burner until my final semester was complete. This was a near-painful decision because I’ve come to be excited each week about planning the content of my blog and also using it as a prism into my teaching practice and growth.
After meeting and discussing the idea with my writing partner (and then confirming the idea was acceptable to the professor), I’ve decided to move forward and use my blog as a platform to cultivate a professional presence on the internet and simultaneously fulfill the writing requirements for my culminating Master’s class.
Momentarily, I feel like a cheat because the drudgery of a limited-time-to-research-something-you-really-like-and-transform-this-into-a- professor-pleasing paper-that-garners-an-A is pounded into the hearts and minds of any student at the graduate level in English.
How can I get away with writing in the format I choose and write content that is important to my professional growth, and still receive credit for it? In other words, should multiple modes of writing be valued at an academic level?
The very idea that I can enjoy writing for my Master’s degree is liberating and it leads me to another important question that every writing teacher should address: What is the purpose of writing? Can this idea of choice of format and purpose be infused in the high school classroom to enrich the writing experience of all students?