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3690: A Journal of First-Year Student Research Writing

Author Image

Claire Sauter Photo

Keywords

MLA, Writing

Abstract

Overview: During seventh and eighth grade, I read seventy-six young adult novels aside from required reading, with book logs from middle school to prove it. But, ask me what I enjoyed reading in high school, and I would have to think for a while. High school curricula forced me to read Shakespeare and classic novels without a hint of modern young adult literature involved. Not only did the uninteresting and outdated novels make classroom reading and assignments excruciating, but the distance between my life and the books that I was required to read discouraged my willingness to read much more. Barbara G. Samuels, a professor at the University of Houston, reports in her article, “Young Adult Literature: Young Adult Novels in the Classroom?” that, based on a 1975 study of English classrooms, the most commonly used novels were A Separate Peace, The Scarlet Letter, Lord of the Flies, and To Kill a Mockingbird (86). Now, these titles are from 1975, but they were the staples of my English curricula from 2010 to 2014. Thirty-five years later, I was a student sitting in a classroom still reading, analyzing, testing, and writing essays on the same old characters, the now historical context, and the unfamiliar language and syntax that required decoding. As Junior from Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian would say, “I couldn’t believe it. How horrible is that?” (31). I still can’t believe it, it’s still horrible, and I’m still not much of a reader.

Author's Reflection: My name is Claire Sauter and I am a Media Management major with an Ethics minor at St. John Fisher College. I am also a Service Scholar, the marketing chair for Students Who Advocate Volunteering (SWAV) club, a Peer Colleague for an English 101 course, and a member of the Teddi Dance for Love committee. I grew up in the small town of Carthage, NY, but my family is moving to the Adirondacks in the coming year.

Professor Barry began the Young Adult Literature RW course by asking the class questions about our favorite books, discussing novels we read in middle school and high school, and helping us to define YAL. I found that one of my challenges was shared among other students in my class – the high school English curricula did not help to inspire reading outside of school work. Turning my experience into a thesis, I argued that integrating modern and relevant young adult novels into the instruction of the English canon may help students continue to read for pleasure or curiosity even after their class is over. Developing the structure of this argument and balancing it with examples was difficult. However, the 199 course emphasized different outlining processes that greatly helped me and my peers. The freedom of the course allowed me to practice different writing styles, which is something that I never thought would be flexible within research writing. I enjoyed taking a risk and creating a conversation between characters within The Absolutely True Diary of Part-Time Indian and my own voice.

The 199 Research Writing course is integral to a college student’s development of writing skills. As part of the Fisher Core goals, the course has taught me how to develop an argument, navigate libraries and databases for relevant research, read critically for quality information, and compose long-form pieces of writing. Each skill is applicable to all educational programs at St. John Fisher and has helped me to analyze readings and write for classes ranging from Ethics and Multimedia Writing to Public Relations and Business Communications.

Mrs. Barry's Summary: Claire came into my class with the skills of a good writer. What this class enabled her to do was couple those skills with her research skills to produce a writing that is not only worthy of 3690 but worthy of the attention of high school English teachers struggling to get their students to read the Classics. As far as my role in her writing, it was more of a conversation about her paper - where she wanted to go with it, how she went with it and what she might need to do more to make her argument solid. These conversations could be compared to what an editor might do with any good writer because Claire, herself, edited, re-edited and edited her work again before even coming to see me. So, in our meetings, we actually talked. It was truly a pleasure “talking” with Claire.

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