A student came to me yesterday, to ask for feedback on her essay before submitting it. She told me she never realized how important her literacy was for her, in coping with her life, until she wrote about it. And she got tears in her eyes. This is why personal narratives are important for our students. Teaching writing is more than formatting, organization, finding valid sources. It’s teaching them to understand themselves, and by extension to understand their place in the world, and how to understand others.
Teaching writing is a holistic practice, whether we practice that pedagogy or not. Our students are not just the essays they submit, the mistakes they make, the instructions they don’t follow. They are not a well-written essay, a well-crafted argument. They are naive, they are ignorant, they are sometimes recalcitrant, and just downright frustrating. They are human. They have depth. They are richer and more complex than any text we could teach them. They are whole.