“I thought you were a student!”
I hear this from both colleagues and students. My appearance has betrayed my authority for as long as I can remember. I both blame Goldie Hawn as well as adore her and esteem her as a feminist. Yet, somehow, it appears she still must prove her wits before being listened to. Unfortunately, I am not Goldie Hawn, and I don’t have Private Benjamin under my belt.
So, I utilize the concept of uniformity to progress along the path of my declared career. I commandeer my expertise on the five paragraph essay and apply it to my preliminary professional persona:
I. Appearance as Introduction
II. Greetings as Body Paragraph 1.
III. Actively Investigating the Personas of those around me as Body Paragraph 2.
IV. Actively Connecting my Agenda with the Agendas of those around me as Body Paragraph 3.
V. Improvisation as Conclusion (implement humor, like Goldie might)
As awkward and insecure as I may feel sometimes expressing my ideas during faculty meetings, I know I don’t feel as awkward and insecure as my students feel when expressing their ideas in writing. While I have students that enter college well prepared like pasteurized geniuses, many other students write complex analysis too submissively. They employ wilting phrases like “I believe,” “I feel,” “In my opinion,” regardless of how confidently they post their controversial memes online. Their online expressions sharply contrast with their academic written expressions. The strongbox called the Internet cultivates their rhetorical communication anonymously.
Then, on the other hand, in class, there are the tasks of writing your full name in a correctly formatted header, of being in charge of your own work, your own voice, of daring to take on the responsibility of your own analysis, of thinking and composing. Evidently, this scares them. Their cheeks turn fuchsia when I use the example of a lawyer in a courtroom beginning his argument with, “I think.”
Alongside all my students, I learn how to function in a world of contradictions and contrasts. I hear how the five paragraph essay is dated, confining and mechanical. I hear how the five paragraph essay is undeniably necessary for students to create effective and cohesive argument essays.
While I advocate the use of open form in an academic setting, I also advocate the use of closed form (such as the five paragraph essay)— again, another conflict of ideals. As a creative writer, I love to read and examine the results of open form, but for the novice academic writer, open form can embody slithering, rambling writing. When this noodle of writing combines with a hesitant, apprehensive tone it generates a bodiless mush. The five paragraph essay can offer the functions of an exoskeleton, an appearance of structure as well as inevitably maintaining a body. An exoskeleton protects the soft insides, the vulnerable self. With this structural armor, students feel protected. Their ideas, safe housed in closed form, grow, ironically, more freely.
As this post is structured in open form, I finally reach a thesis-like statement. The five paragraph closed form essay is an innocuous cocoon which eventually generates a comprehensive and ample open form essay writer, whose ideas, creatively documented, inevitably embody a lush and functional butterfly (aka an effective, engaging open form argument).
So, with the assumption that my closed form professional strategies mask my adjunct anxiety, I can only hope (as I hope my students will become fruitful writers), this calculated outer uniform will evolve into a confident, innovative professional self. A self, while brightly colored and unique, fashions the body of a durable butterfly that yields students as successful and self-reliant as Goldie Hawn’s daughter, Kate Hudson.