Anachan's Corner

One woman's journey through marriage, motherhood, and the classroom…

Narratives

Written By: Anachan - May• 01•16

“Today,” I told my freshmen class, “you will start work on the easiest type of essay there is to write–because it is all about you!”

Thus began my lesson on autobiographical narrative essays, accompanied by groans from the various corners of the classroom.

Autobiographical narrative essays are all about personal experiences which lead to the writer learning something about themselves, the world around them, or other people. For those who are introspective and tend to look at events in their own lives, seeing how they all fit together, it is a fairly straightforward type of essay. As a matter of fact, it is the type of thing written on many personal blogs. (When you tell someone it’s like many blogs, they either relax immediately or become terribly intimidated.) I look at the blogs I have written in past lives–primarily about gaming–and I see many entries patterned after this idea, so it does not frighten me at all. I’ve done it a lot.

What really intimidates my freshmen can be summed up in the outburst I hear repeatedly from many of them, “But, Miss, nothing has ever happened to me in my life!”

Of course, they know that isn’t true, as they are not the same people they were when they were two; but, not being in the habit of actually examining their lives, through journaling or other introspective activities, they have a hard time isolating the incidents which have helped form their current attitudes. So I talk them through the process. I tell them a few examples of experiences I have had, big and small, which have taught me something or helped to form my attitudes. I ask them what has made them the people they are. When have they realized something about life? Did they have a time when they had to struggle, and they learned that if they worked hard enough, they could accomplish things they hadn’t thought they could do? Did they have a time when someone had treated them poorly, and they learned to be cautious about trusting people?

Eventually, my students can come up with something–something–which fits the criteria. And then the fun begins.

This time around, I read about encounters with a “ten-foot-tall rooster,” turkeys, a mule which didn’t stay on its side of the fence, and a crow attacking a student for her food. I read about learning to study and learning to do research instead of just asking questions all the time. And I read about learning to appreciate life as it happens.

It is as people say: “Every life has a story.” Perhaps, through this kind of exercise, my students will learn how to tell theirs.

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