Katie Wilson ’19 on the benefits of asking: “What do I want to offer in my writing?”
Something [my classmate] Kameron said in class a couple of weeks ago has really stuck with me. He suggested that we approach our tutees as if we’re asking, “What do you want to offer through your writing?” Not only is this a sentiment that calls upon the inherent, though underemphasized, generosity in crafting a piece of writing, but I think it’s a powerful way to navigate some of the trickier dynamics we’ve been trying to negotiate in our work as Writing Associates. In confronting the problematic hierarchies of different versions of English, this approach provides an opportunity for choice. While I agree with Lisa Delpit that we ought to provide all of our tutees with the skills necessary to succeed within the dominant culture of power, using this question as a guiding principle opens the door for students to make an informed choice. The idea of writing as an offering gives the student a greater sense of purpose than simply: “What do you want your writing to say?” As an offering, writing can be more than the words on the page, more than the argument. It can be a composite of the writer’s deepest beliefs and truths; it can be an informed, purposeful challenge to hegemonic powers; or it can simply be whatever the student can come up with about The Sound and the Fury (or whatever the assignment is). An offering can be benign or it can be resounding. But I do believe that an offering, by nature, requires more intentional thought. To ask oneself, “What do I want to offer?” is an invitation to expand your piece beyond its own context and its own sake within one’s schooling. More than asking a student what they want to say, it provides space for all that is left unsaid in the writing and reading process.