December 2nd, 2019
|Recently, I spoke with several teachers who championed the value of students writing well. In our conversation, we discussed how communication skills, and specifically writing skills, are valuable, tangible assets essential for success in the world. It only takes some cursory research online to see how important these skills remain in the modern workplace. At Selwyn, we take seriously our role as teachers of this craft. Students here learn how to develop strong arguments, defend their positions, and determine the merits of the material they read online or in print. Throughout a child’s education, from the moment she can grip a pencil until she writes her first college application essay, Selwyn takes a purposeful approach to building our students’ analytic and communication skills, growing these abilities in lockstep with our students.|
After this conversation, I asked John Ericson, a Middle and Upper School teacher, to consider putting down some of his thoughts on how he views the writing process. His passion for our students and for his craft is evident in his words:
“The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates called into question the propriety of transmitting ideas through writing. According to him, writing corrodes the mind by permanently damaging one’s capacity for memorization. Whether this argument holds water or not may be disputed, but whatever the case, it also assigns writing the unfair, merely utilitarian role of conveying information.
While writing certainly fulfills this purpose, it has—over the course of history—developed into something much more meaningful: an art. Like all good art forms, it demands careful, constant practice and revision. All of its varieties require a creative sense and an imaginative impulse, which must be discovered and tempered—that is, trained. To teach writing is to impose strict limits of grammar, syntax, and voice that are gradually widened or better explained as the student grows in confidence and competence. Since each writer possesses a unique style mirroring one’s personality, teaching the art of writing remains highly idiosyncratic. Teacher and student must negotiate the boundaries to be pushed, weaknesses to be strengthened, and difficulties to be smoothed on a one-to-one, relational level. This necessitates patience and understanding on the part of both parties, as each works to improve upon a unique authorial style and technique. Writing is a series of processes aimed at playing with and manipulating language through a particular medium, for a specific audience. As such, it takes regular experiences of trial and error, as well as ceaseless encouragement from involved educators, to master it.”
I am immensely proud that, at Selwyn, people like John teach children to express their ideas; our teachers encourage students to advocate for themselves and to speak and write with force and clarity. We teach them that, when used thoughtfully, their voices have power, that their words can impact the world around them. By writing well, they can do well. By writing well, they can give life to their ideas. We work each day to ensure that students have the skills necessary to make their ideas come to life.