An Approach to the Intentional Essay



Download 31,67 Kb.
Date conversion23.10.2016
Size31,67 Kb.

Approaching the College Essay

  • David Schindel – Sandia Preparatory School Beverly Morse – Kenyon College
  • Jeremiah Quinlan – Yale University

An Approach to the Intentional Essay

  • NPR “This I Believe” format:
  • http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4538138
  • Essay Parameters
    • Clear statement of belief
    • Story that reveals the discovery of the belief
    • Conclusion that reflects on the belief
    • Concise (300 word maximum)

Steps

  • The educator curriculum for “This I Believe is available on the NPR website. I condense it to use in workshops.
  • Lesson One: Brainstorm
    • Head the paper with “I Believe” and write non-stop for twenty minutes.
    • It is alright to repeat, but write for the allotted time.

Step Two

  • Examine (discuss with class) the sheet for your “core” belief – the one that remains constant.
  • State your belief in a declarative sentence; for example, “I believe in the power of names.”
    • I typically write an essay along with students to illustrate.

Step Three

  • Take the statement of core belief and develop it into one paragraph which defines the belief broadly.
    • Be certain that your belief is clearly stated and specific.
    • Avoid beliefs that are too general (i.e. “I believe in friendship).”

Step Four

  • Tell your story. Show the reader through a specific illustration of how you arrived at your core belief.
    • Begin with a stream of consciousness reflection.
    • -- Be certain that the story illustrates the core belief you have stated in the intro.

Step Five

  • Write the conclusion that returns the reader to the core belief.
  • The conclusion need not restate the belief but must concretely connect your story with your introduction.

“This I Believe Essay”

  • In previous lessons I have used Eboo Patel’s “I Believe” essay “We Are Each Other’s Neighbor (November 7, 2005). This year I am using Kamaal Majeed’s essay “Being Content with Myself” (May 7, 2007). I intentionally select “I Believe” essays that will resonate with students and stimulate discussion about content and craft.

“Being Content with Myself” By Kamaal Majeed

  • Since my middle school years, I’ve been asked this question more than any
  • other. It seems to me that too many people have let society program into their
  • brains what should be expected of me, a black person, before ever interacting
  • with me. But I believe in being who I am, not who others want me to be.
  • On my first day of high school, going into math class, two of my classmates
  • pointed and laughed at me. I initially thought my fly was open, or that
  • something was stuck in my teeth. But as I took my seat, I heard one of the
  • students whisper, “Why is a black person in honors?” So my fly wasn’t open.
  • An honors-level class had simply been joined by a student whose skin was an
  • unsettling shade of brown.
  • Many people think my clothes should be big enough for me to live in, or expect
  • me to listen exclusively to “black music.” In seventh grade, a group of my
  • peers fixed their cold stares on my outfit: cargo shorts and a plain, fitting T
  • Shirt. They called out to me, “Go get some gangsta’ clothes, white boy.”

Page 2

  • In one of my Spanish classes, as part of a review exercise, the teacher asked
  • me, “Te gusta mas, la musica de rap o rock?” Do you like rap music or rock
  • music more? I replied, “La Musica de rock.” The look of shock on my
  • classmates’ faces made me feel profoundly alienated.
  • I am now in my junior year of high school. I still take all honors courses. My
  • wardrobe still consists solely of clothes that are appropriate to my proportions.
  • My music library spans from rock to pop to techno, and almost everything in
  • between. When it comes to choosing my friends, I am still colorblind. I
  • continue to do my best work in school in order to reach my goals; and yet,
  • when I look in the mirror, I still see skin of that same shade of brown.
  • My skin color has done nothing to change my personality, and my personality
  • has done nothing to change my skin color.

Page 3

  • I believe in being myself. I believe that I -- not any stereotype – should define
  • who I am and what actions I take in life. In high school, popularity often
  • depends on your willingness to follow trends. And I’ve been told that it doesn’t
  • get much easier going into adulthood. But the only other option is to sacrifice
  • my individuality for the satisfaction and approval of others. Sure, this can be
  • appealing, since choosing to keep my self-respect intact has made me
  • unpopular and disliked at times, with no end to that in sight. But others’ being
  • content with me is not nearly as important as me being content with myself.
  • Kamaal Majeed is a high school student in Waltham, MA. In addition to his studies, he works part-time at the local library, and enjoys studying foreign languages and writing a personal journal. Majeed hopes to pursue a career in journalism. Essay quoted from NPR “This I Believe” Archives.

Use of Sample

  • I have used Patel’s and now Majeed’s essay for a number of reasons
    • Story from high school and/or by a high school student
    • Story relates to a core ethical value
    • Essay is tight and uses well both personal narrative and personal reflection.
    • Story promotes discussion of content and form.

The Editing Process

  • The Editing process is the key to the Intentional essay and is student generated.
  • Brainstorm the characteristics of good writing.
  • The brainstorming process allows an opportunity to review principles of good writing and parameters of standard written English.

“On Being a Good Neighbor” Martin Luther King, Jr.

  • To illustrate Intentional writing, I use the opening of Martin Luther King Jr.’s essay “On Being a good Neighbor.”
  • “I should like to talk to you about a good man, whose exemplary life will always be a flashing light to plague the dozing conscience of mankind. His goodness was not found in a passive commitment to a particular creed, but in the active participation in a life-saving deed; not in a moral pilgrimage that reached its destination point, but in the love ethic by which he journeyed life’s highway. He was good because he was a good neighbor.”
  • I use this example to demonstrate King’s free style and his control. King exemplifies “intentional” writing.
  • I typically make copies of the entire essay and find time to discuss the Samaritan and the ethics of altruism.

Conclusion

  • You now can hear your own voice. Now
    • Write with that voice.
    • Edit with the criteria you established for good writing
    • Have another pair of eyes read your final draft with attention to spelling and mechanics, but without content comment beyond,”you are unclear here.”

An Essay that Worked

  • Madelyn Sullivan graduated VMS in 2005 and participated in my first experiment with this technique. She wrote the essay on the next slides in a flurry of inspiration and forwarded it with her application to Bowdoin College after self-editing using criteria established for good intentional writing.

An Example

  • I voted on November 2nd. As an eighteen year old woman in America, I am
  • legally allowed to exercise my right to vote. Although my heart beat slightly
  • fast, and my hands shook unsteadily at the polling booth, upon arriving home
  • from my first voting experience, I was filled with a sense of accomplishment
  • and relief. I sat on the couch that night, when I picked up a Time magazine and
  • began to read an article on Sudan by Massimo Calabresi.
  • The vast nation of Sudan is divided by both religion and culture, but mainly
  • ethnicity: Arabs and Africans. While all citizens of Sudan and African, the
  • nomadic tribes of Sudan are referred to as Arabs, while the sedentary tribes
  • are called Africans.
  • The images I saw of the battling Arabs and Africans were stark and the
  • stories I read were more horrific. The Janjaweed, “devils on horseback,” is an
  • Arabic group of local tribes funded by the Sudanese government to crush the
  • Radical Sudan Liberation Army. The group began attacking civilians, claiming

Page 2

  • that they were aiding insurgents. Janjaweed ride or fly into African villages,
  • firing guns on men and children alike. They rape the women, leave most of the
  • children, and kill all of the men. These are of course loose rules. One woman
  • described a Janjaweed rampage; “A fighter unwrapped a swaddling cloth and
  • rolled a newborn onto the dirt. The baby was a girl so they left her. Then the
  • Janjaweed spotted a one-year old boy and decided he was a future enemy. In
  • front of a group of onlookers, a man tossed the boy into the air as another took
  • aim and shot him dead.”
  • Suddenly voting did not seem as important as it had minutes earlier.Suddenly
  • I didn’t want to go to school the next day, but fly to Africa and give all my hot
  • lunches to a starving family at a refuge camp. What surprised me the most,
  • however, was a common theme throughout the article about the lack of world
  • response. We cannot let another Rwanda or Holocaust occur while we are

Page 3

  • Alive. Genocide is supposed to be a thing of the past. It is a story we read
  • about in books or a special we watch on the History Channel. Let Sudan be
  • the one time the world learned and said “never again” and meant it.
  • As I sat on the coach, brimming with tears and watching the muted images of
  • election results, I felt a desperate sense of despair. I had to remind myself that
  • I am able to affect what happens in my life.
  • I voted on Tuesday. I am a woman. I am eighteen. And I had a choice. I am
  • lucky, and I have the obligation to help people without my same rights. On
  • Tuesday, what I voted for will not only affect my local and national community,
  • but also the world. I am indebted to the citizens of countries like Sudan to vote
  • for them, to give a voice to the people who cannot speak above the gunfire and
  • violence in their country.

Page 4

  • I realized then that my trip to the ballot box was perhaps not so futile and that I
  • would indeed attend school the next day, no matter how great my desire to flee
  • the country and save the world as a self-proclaimed knight-errant. I reminded
  • myself that although I am an adult with adult responsibilities, I am still in high
  • school with plans to go to college. I can only hope that the best possible use of
  • my time right now is to attend school to better educate myself. I can only hope
  • that what I learn today will give me the courage and the knowledge to stop
  • tomorrow’s holocaust.
  • Madylyn Sullivan, November 2004
  • Madylyn now attends Bowdoin College.

Resources

  • I came to this format after struggling with the question of how much editing is
  • appropriate and after listening to “This I Believe” essays on
  • countless Monday drives home. I refer you to www.npr.org/allthingsconsidered
  • or thisibelieve.org.
  • On questions of the ethics of editing college essays, read Sam
  • Patterson’s article “Philosophically Informed: Exploring the Ethics of Help” in
  • The Journal of College Admission, Summer, 2007.
  • The Application Essay in the context of a small, selective, writing-intensive liberal arts college.

Common Application Personal Essay

  • “This personal statement helps us become acquainted with you in ways different from courses, grades, test scores, and other objective data. It will demonstrate your ability to organize thoughts and express yourself. We are looking for an essay that will help us know you better as a person and as a student. Please write an essay (250-500 words) on a topic of your choice or on one of the options listed below.”

Common Application Signature

  • I certify that all information in my application, including my Personal Essay, is my own work, factually true, and honestly presented.
  • ________________________________
  • Signature Date
  • Kenyon ‘76

Voice – starts with prewriting 1

  • Write down six or seven adjectives you would use to describe yourself.
  • What have you done in the last month or two which has made you proud or which has surprised yourself.
  • Merge these ideas and just write – don’t edit at this stage, just let the ideas flow.

Voice – prewriting 2

  • Where will you be tomorrow at 1:30 p.m.? Why are you there and how do you feel about it?
  • What are you looking forward to the most on Monday? Why? What are you least looking forward to?
  • Tell the story of your name

What’s in a name?

  • Oh, to be cursed? To bear the burden of my ancestors and be helpless to change my fate! I share with my family an affliction: not a disease, but a name. There is no need to quote Shakespeare for me. I’ve heard it many timed before: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.?” That’s easy for you to say, William. Your name isn’t Wiener.
  • I am a Wiener and, believe me, to grow up with such a name can be painful at times. In my early years, I suffered countless jeerings as to the nature of my surname, mostly of the hot dog and frankfurter motif. (It was not until I began school that the more colorful images arose.) Being a proud little man, I rose to defend my name. On most occasions I was pounded furiously. Through these altercations, I learned not only that I was incompetent in the arena of hand-to-hand combat, but also that, if I merely ignored the insults, my compatriots would lose interest. They did and I was accepted. They called me “Weenie.”
  • I was “Weenie” for my entire childhood. I will be the first to admit that, as a nickname, “Weenie” lacked some of the masculine hardness found in such classics as “Rocky” or “Tex.” Yet, I was content. At least as I grew older my friends began to approach my name with some humor.

What’s in a name? (cont)

  • Upon my entrance into junior high my curse became a blessing. Suddenly everyone found it funny and even some of the eighth grade girls found it cute. I began my assault on the world destined for greatness, armed with a sense of humor and the ultimate ice breaker, “Hello, my name is David Wiener.” Yet, it concerned me. Could my name impede my ascent? I didn’t know a congressman or an astronaut named Wiener, nor a professional athlete, for that matter. I decided to become the first Wiener to achieve some form of historical greatness.
  • Now that I am entering college, am I on my way to fulfillment? Not yet, perhaps, but having been a Wiener all these years has given me an essential tool with which I may find happiness and success. My name has given me a sense of humor, not that I have the quick wit of a great comedian or the animation of a clown. More importantly, being a Wiener has enabled me to laugh at myself. I’ve learned that to be too grave in one’s defeats is painful and unnecessary. No one can achieve anything great without first achieving some failure. I believe that a successful man is happy and that a happy man is one who can frolic in his successes and chuckle at his defeats.
  • What’s in a name? I still hear snickers when my name is revealed to strangers and, on many occasions, I still have trouble convincing others of my sincerity when I introduce myself. This, however, is a necessary byproduct, of a name for which I am thankful. I am a confident Wiener. I am a happy Wiener, and if anybody can take a joke, I can.

Hi, my name is Jim

  • Hi, my name is Jim, and since brevity is the soul of wit, I will meekly attempt to convey to you a succinct summary of my ephemeral existence. Allow me amnesty as I am often a bit alliterative. Time is of the essence throughout humankind, and with every word I write, the nearly endless ebb of extravagant expressions flows like a rushing river, fleeing futilely towards an irrelevant ocean. Dam!
  • Almost eighteen years ago, I dove headfirst into an unknown world. The same as so many before me, I was blinded by the splendor of a brave new world as I grew physically, mentally, and morally. Rapidly I realized physical maturity, and much more gradually began to realize the latter two. This is not to say that I am anywhere near completion of my self, for there is much to learn in life and much which I will never learn while meandering through this soiled sphere.
  • I am sorry that I see the glass as half empty even though I have hardly sipped life’s luxurious liquid. This is my flaw, hopefully not fatal, but nonetheless discouraging. I wish I could hold on to some transcendental hope, but at this point, an afterlife seems to me simply a self-deceiving dream, and faith connotes a need for something to depend on.

Hello my name is Jim (cont)

  • It is my belief that all humankind is really on the same ship. I hesitantly refer to the Bible in saying that we are all on the proverbial ark in the storm, albeit a dinghy with no destination, and increasing numbers of individuals grow nauseous with every passing hour at sea. There’s that ocean again, and my mind and my fingers have drawn my self into a literal circle, spiraling like an omnipotent double helix out of my control.
  • This circle was my choice, however, because it is so representative of the human condition. The specific circle mentioned in the essay contains only its author, but the human circle is very real, it is this spiraling sphere we call earth.
  • The previous 341 words have been abstract opinion and I hope I have presented myself clearly. If not, let me bore you a bit longer with relative specifics about myself. I don’t want to sound too controversial so I’ll delve into the tranquil waters of my personal religion, philosophy, and politics. I consider myself to be an agnostic existential libertarian. Say that three times fast and then think about it. On a conventional philosophical spectrum this would place me at polar ends, but I would consider this manmade device to be a spiraling circle. There’s that circle again and here comes a wave of white-capped words. Dam it, Jim!

I HAVE RIDDEN A PIG

  • I have ridden a pig.
  • Stay with me here. I mean this in the most literal sense possible. I. Rode. A Pig.
  • I was four. We were visiting Mom’s family friends on their farm. The had a hog that was roughly the size of a fridge, if you knocked that fridge over and gave it a horrible stink. Mom’s friend thought it would be just grand if I rode it awhile. I was smallish, and the hog was huge-ish… surely this was a no-brainer.
  • I’m happy to say this story does not end with me in a hospital with a fractured spleen and various other injuries. I sat on the pig, it leaped around a bit, and then I hopped off and went inside. My mother smelled me before she saw me. I didn’t see the problem. I was all right, after all. Except for being – and I cannot stress this enough – very, very smelly.
  • (I promise I am going somewhere with this.)

I have ridden a pig (cont)

  • My mother has many friends of the farmer variety. This is because Ma’s childhood took place in a small, empty tourist town. The house was tiny, especially seeing as it was crowded with eleven people. This is if you didn’t count the guns and the dogs. (Many, many guns. A few dogs). Your opportunities ranged from ‘toilet cleaner’ to ‘waitress’ in that town.
  • (I promise this essay is going to get to me.)
  • From just hearing how my mom started out, you wouldn’t be able to guess where she is now. It turns out mom has this gift for international relations. She now works in D.C. at an extremely prestigious company whose work I have trouble explaining to people. All I can really tell you for sure is she’s a consultant, she’s brilliant, and she enjoys her job.
  • The point is this: life is very much like a pig. It is very big, and it is full of life and stink. You can just sit there, but letting it go along will generally land you in slop. Nobody wants slop. Your other option is to grab it by the ears and make the crazy bugger go where you want. It’s harder, but you end up somewhere much better. I think my mom, somewhere along the line, reached forward and grabbed that life-pig by the ears. I think that’s awesome. I think she’s inspired me.
  • Finding a summer job
  • One of the problems that Karl Marx found with the capitalist system was that many people were forced into occupations where they could not have pride in their work and were, because of this, unhappy. I never would have believed that a Marxist theory could have any application to a seventeen-year-old student until this summer, when I had an experience more grueling than the SAT’s, more confusing than James Joyce, more frustrating than a dead car battery in a Minnesota winter: this was the summer I went job hunting.
  • …………………………………………………………………………………………
  • So what did I learn from this? I learned that it is easier to find a job with a temporary agency because there are fifty people competing for fifty jobs, rather than fifty people competing for one job. I learned that most of my friends who worked at places such as the ones I applied to, got the job through some sort of connections. I learned to find work using the skills and experience I already have. I learned something about working in an office this summer, and about the people who try to make the workplace enjoyable, even if the work itself is tedious. I learned that most people in low-paying clerical work do not have pride in their work, but that they stick with it because it gives them a purpose, a responsibility, and even a social environment, and that a group of people with a task to do, no matter how mundane, can find a way of having fun. I learned that Marx was maybe a bit of a pessimist.

The Application Essay in the context of a comprehensive, liberal arts college with a large applicant pool.

Reading the Sheer Volume of Essays

  • 21,000 applications. 14 or 15K have high grade points and strong testing (aka, they could do the work)
  • 20 readers. Reading 25 applications a day/ 6 days a week. 50 essays/day- 300 essays/ week.
  • What separates students out in this incredibly strong applicant pool?
  • Personality and Resonance - from extracurricular activities, recommendations, interviews and.. essays

3 Questions to Ask Before You Even Write the Essay

  • Who am I?
    • Is this essay about me? Is it reflective?
    • Is this essay about me NOW?
  • Is this essay in my own voice?
    • Does this sounds like me? Like my mother?
    • Will my counselor know it is me?
  • Does this resonate?
    • What do my activities say about me?
    • What will my teachers say about me?

An Example

  • I voted on November 2nd. As an eighteen year old woman in America, I am
  • legally allowed to exercise my right to vote. Although my heart beat slightly
  • fast, and my hands shook unsteadily at the polling booth, upon arriving home
  • from my first voting experience, I was filled with a sense of accomplishment
  • and relief. I sat on the couch that night, when I picked up a Time magazine and
  • began to read an article on Sudan by Massimo Calabresi.
  • The vast nation of Sudan is divided by both religion and culture, but mainly
  • ethnicity: Arabs and Africans. While all citizens of Sudan and African, the
  • nomadic tribes of Sudan are referred to as Arabs, while the sedentary tribes
  • are called Africans.
  • The images I saw of the battling Arabs and Africans were stark and the
  • stories I read were more horrific. The Janjaweed, “devils on horseback,” is an
  • Arabic group of local tribes funded by the Sudanese government to crush the
  • Radical Sudan Liberation Army. The group began attacking civilians, claiming

What Would I Write?

  • e1 is a mature + reflective piece on voting and making a difference in the world. Talks about voting + Darfur. Realizes that college will put her on the path to make a difference. I like the strong and sensitive person that emerges here.

What Would Resonate?

  • Maddy has strong convictions and is not afraid to follow them. For example….
  • She is respected by everyone in the building for her compassion and maturity.
  • She cares about her community and the greater world around her and as the leader of xxx, she raises the awareness of her peers.
  • Young democrats? Debate? MUN? International Relations club? Service? Any leadership?

What’s in a name?

  • Oh, to be cursed? To bear the burden of my ancestors and be helpless to change my fate! I share with my family an affliction: not a disease, but a name. There is no need to quote Shakespeare for me. I’ve heard it many timed before: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.?” That’s easy for you to say, William. Your name isn’t Wiener.
  • I am a Wiener and, believe me, to grow up with such a name can be painful at times. In my early years, I suffered countless jeerings as to the nature of my surname, mostly of the hot dog and frankfurter motif. (It was not until I began school that the more colorful images arose.) Being a proud little man, I rose to defend my name. On most occasions I was pounded furiously. Through these altercations, I learned not only that I was incompetent in the arena of hand-to-hand combat, but also that, if I merely ignored the insults, my compatriots would lose interest. They did and I was accepted. They called me “Weenie.”
  • I was “Weenie” for my entire childhood. I will be the first to admit that, as a nickname, “Weenie” lacked some of the masculine hardness found in such classics as “Rocky” or “Tex.” Yet, I was content. At least as I grew older my friends began to approach my name with some humor.

What Would I Write?

  • e1 is a funny piece about his last name. if anyone can take a joke, he can. full of metaphors and self-deprecating humor but not sure what we get out of this essay. He writes well and with enthusiasm but there is no take home.

What Would Resonate?

  • Great sense of humor
  • Other students enjoy his presence in class
  • He think outside of the box and pushes learning in the classroom.
  • Verbose in class discussion and in writing.

Bibliography and Acknowledgements

  • National Public Radio. All Things Considered, “This I Believe” Archives.
  • Patel, Ebbo. “We Are Each Other’s Business.” The Interfaith Youth Core. Chicago.
  • * Majeed, Kamaal, “Being Content with Myself” AlL Things Considered, May 7, 2007.
  • King, Martin Luther, Jr. “On Being a Good Neighbor.”
  • Fiske, Edward R. and Bruce Hammond. Fiske: Real College Essays that Work. Sourcebooks, Inc., Naperville, Illinois. 2006.
  • Sullivan, Madelyn. “I Voted on November 2nd.” Bowdoin College.
  • Lapote, Phillip. The Art of the Personal Essay.
  • The Fourth Genre
  • Patterson, Sam, The San Diego Writing Project. The University of California @ San Diego.


The database is protected by copyright ©sckool.org 2016
send message

    Main page