Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Bring a Hankie for These Blog Posts

That's a big hankie. My picture from 2010--was it really 6 years ago? Mount Mercy College had just become Mount Mercy University. And today, I'm pretty proud of my MMU writing students. Keep your blogs going, students ....

OK, that headline is a bit tongue in cheek, but still …

There are several writing classes that I teach at Mount Mercy University were I require students to maintain personal, public blogs. It’s partly because these are classes that attempt to teach professional writing skills, and professional writers need to be used to the idea that their writing is public performance. Of course, the downside of blogging is that it doesn’t teach another key point—that if you are a professional writer, you have a right to be paid for your work, but that’s a rant for another place and time, especially since I’m writing this as a blog post for free.

The blog assignment also serves to introduce students to the genre of blog writing. Doing multiple types of writing in different voices and genres is something media pros must be comfortable with—and, these days, students have to get used to thinking about their personal online “face” or media “brand”  to the world, too.

Anyway, I’ve given this assignment for several years. Many semesters, it feels like students resist and resent the blog assignment. It seems to be that something  different happened this semester.

I don’t’ know if the students who started personal blogs plan to continue them, although I hope they do. I check the blogs on a two-week rotation, and I just finished a two-week cycle.

And, well, wow. There is lots of good writing here. Writing that shows my students have the chops to be media communication pros if they keep at it. And writing that stands on its own, that’s just good to read.

Here are some examples of what was a very good recent cycle of blog writing:
  • If had fairy dust: “Race: The Factor.” A half Black, half White student writes movingly about her racial identity and what it means. “Almost any time I meet someone, I get the famous question ‘Well what are you?’” I suppose homo sapiens is really the correct answer. To quote the font of all knowledge (Wikipedia): “Homo sapiens is the binomial nomenclature for the only extant human species.” And in biological terms, it wasn’t all that long ago that all of us emigrated from Africa, a fact we sometimes seem to want to forget. Anyway, please read this post. It helped me as a middle-aged White man see the world a little bit through a different lens.
  • My life, My life, My life: “#JusticeforDanky.”  “Danky” is the nickname for an African American young man who was shot by police in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. My student writes movingly on what this case means and how she honestly feels about it. It’s a sad situation that is still unfolding, and I join her in hoping it doesn’t tear our town apart.

Well, there you have two posts on the rather heavy topic of race in America. I’ve been hoping for a sports theme for the next Fall Faculty Series, but maybe race needs more attention now in a semester-long conversation.

And, as they say in only the best quality “as seen on TV” ads: But wait, there’s more. Race wasn’t the only topic that prompted deep thoughts and good writing on recent student blog posts:
  • IowaMatt: “Transcending Baseball.” I’m not personally a baseball fan, but I like his insight into the World Series this year from the point of view of a Cubs fan. Sure, he’s happy—but he’s thinking we all need uplifting, and I think he’s right.
  • Courtney K. Snodgrass, Most days, I write: “The First Novel.” May she get to revising it so we can experience her finished product. Anyway, what does it really take to be a writer? It’s something this blogger considers.
  • One of These Snow Days: “True Heroism.” This student makes me want to see a Mel Gibson movie, which is no small feat. Then again, given that my daddy served in the ETO in WWII, I guess I’m a sucker for a WWII story.
  • Life As Kaylee Rae: “I Am Who I Am Because …” She has a positive take on small-town Iowa life, and I would want her to explore the downside, too, but if you ever wondered why people love “fly over” country, this is a good post to read. It’s only Iowa, it’s not Heaven, but there is much to love about Iowa life.

That seems like a high note to end on. There were other good blog posts in this cycle, too—interesting reviews of recent Netflix series, a track athlete’s rumination on the end of the season, a food review that made me a little hungry—but you’ll have to click the links and see what you think.

And it only seems appropriate that I promote my own blogs here, too. Check out some fall photos on my bike blog, or see my wrap-up of the 2016 Fall Faculty Series at MMU on my general blog.

I do hope that my students keep writing. They have worthwhile things to say.Check out their posts and leave them some comments--show them someone is reading!

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