A bit about me

Hello, cybersphere. Ben here. Welcome to the blog. I offer you two ways to get to know me: a little blip and/or the following letter.

Option 1: The little blip.

I’m a senior majoring in English education and minoring in journalism at North Dakota State. I’m from a farm and now live in Fargo.

I am the editor-in-chief of The Spectrum; ergo, I’m a fan of conciseness. Enjoy the blog.


Option 2: A long letter.

Just kidding about the conciseness thing. Thank you for expressing interest in my blog. After nearly four years at North Dakota State University, I am excited to collect and reflect on the writings that I have crafted as an undergraduate student.

I created this specific collection while taking Dr. Kevin Brooks’s Advanced Writing Workshop: English 458. Many of the texts included in this portfolio are from ENGL 458, though readers will find my work from other English and education courses, as well. I have included references to my just-completed journalism education unit from EDUC 481: Communication Methods, a research paper from last spring’s ENGL 452: History of the English Language, and a group project from last fall’s ENGL 358: Writing in the Humanities. Through these varied assignments—written at different times—I hope to convey what I have learned and how I have grown as a writer during my time at NDSU.

Through these assignments, I believe that I have completely fulfilled Outcomes 1 and 7 as outlined by the NDSU English Department. As for the first outcome, I am confident that I can “write and speak effectively for a variety of purposes and audiences in a variety of genres and media.” I have accomplished this objective specifically through ENGL 458. I crafted both traditional papers and an audio essay in Advanced Writing Workshop, using written and audial language to convey my messages. Writing, I found out, may be spun like a web, continuing through commas and dependent clauses. Audio stories are most effective when spoken pointedly and concisely.

Furthermore, my texts’ purposes were constantly changing to best serve my differing audiences. For the Little Things are Big essay, I wished to write and expand on a simple memory: my first heartbreak. I could not genuinely complete this task without harkening back to my seventh grade self and his thought process. My snobby collegiate lexicon and compound-complex sentences would need to sit this paper out to make it more authentic. This thought process would lead me to write in a different voice, one that also may mirror the way that my future middle school students might write. For example, I wrote, “The note had been clear, as all of my eloquent notes were: ‘My love: Meet an hour b4 jazz tomarrow at the cafe ❤ Ben’” (1). The text-talk and misspelling highlight a covert prestige to which my younger audience would respond well. By bringing back my inner-preteen, I was able to connect with a unique audience for a specific purpose.

I wrote for differing audiences throughout my other courses I have taken at NDSU, too, both informally and formally. In my EDUC 481 course this fall, I penned workmanlike unit plans, the last of which delved into the realm of features writing and journalism. That unit plan had two primary audiences: the students receiving instruction and the deliverer of said content. I had to write in a way that would be student-centered, engaging as many as possible. This included variation for differing students. I write in my notes, “To differentiate, the teacher can put G-T / eager students in the critical eye/editors groups” (14). I also note to the teacher the different aspects of the lesson plan, listing these elements chronologically throughout. I write in a thorough manner—so detailed, in fact, a substitute teacher should be able to pick up the lesson and teach it him/herself.

I also wrote in an academic setting, penning critical lines like, “This divorcing of terminology and practice has been mostly lost ever since, with metalanguage disappearing from teaching instruction” (“How Did We Get Here?: Grammatical Pedagogy in America” 5) and “Now with research being done – albeit, after the fracking rush – it is becoming more and more obvious that fracking causes damage to areas in which it occurs” (“A Big Fracking Energy Problem: Casebook” 4). Being attuned to audience is essential in delivering the message. By practicing changing my writing to appease specific readers, I can better formulate and articulate my words and their meaning.

As for the seventh outcome, I also believe I have achieved and exceeded expectations in all classes. I know that I have showed professionalism through “self-direction, cooperation, civility, reliability, and care in editing and presenting the final product.” These elements are intrinsic to my character, and have been throughout my undergraduate career. I was the student who took it upon myself to gather the group together for the casebook project in ENGL 358. Not only did I complete my section in that ten-page paper; I also offered my revision and editing service to ensure smooth transitions and a singular voice for the paper. Our professor gave us a perfect score on these mechanics of the project.

This year, I continued to practice this reliability, helping my peers work through the writing process in numerous courses. This was most on display in ENGL 458. With Advanced Writing Workshop’s aptly designed workshop setting, classroom participation was essential. I reliably came to class ready to contribute, bouncing thoughts and drafts off Dr. Brooks and my peers. Our class always upheld respect and decorum during discussion, even when handling hot-button topics. I scored a 96 percent on class participation, which I believe further cements my fulfillment of Outcome 7.

Outcomes, while beneficial for assessment, often overlook the processes taken to achieve the end goal. Before college, I had never fretted much about the writing process. As long as I completed the essay and received a good grade, I did not think too much about the work I put in to the assignment. After being introduced to differing writing modules in my upper-level English and education courses, though, the process has become a core concern of mine. In particular, realizing everyone has his/her own way to tackle writing assignments has been instrumental to my teaching pedagogy. In ENGL 458, Dr. Brooks showed students the multifaceted world of revision and editing. Good revision and editing should not be pedantic and filled with red pens. It should be discussion-based and contain erasable pencil marks, as we did in Advanced Writing Workshop.

In ENGL 458, we also honed in on the concept of crafting digital writing. By adding this modern application, Dr. Brooks and the mentor texts we read challenged us to consider how technology affects the writing process, including revision practices. In particular, I enjoyed the conversations our class had on the applicability of technology in the classroom, reading Troy Hicks’s aptly titled Crafting Digital Writing to guide our discussions. While the digital elements do shift core concepts of revision, the main tenets remain. Multiple sloppy first drafts are needed to ensure a strong final copy; peer discussions help generate ideas; and editing refines any text, regardless of medium. The similarities of physical crafting and digital crafting far outweigh any differences. My generation is immersed in technology; our revision process should mirror this.

During my undergraduate career, my attention to the crafting of writing has developed into one of my biggest strengths. By taking a step back and assessing a project, I am able to conceptualize what my audience wants and how I can deliver it. I attribute this higher order thinking to my work as a tutor at the Center for Writers and as an editor at The Spectrum in helping me better grasp these conversations on crafting. It shows in my classwork, too. In my lengthiest writing projects I have completed—my secondary research paper for ENGL 452 and literacy narrative in Advanced Writing Workshop—I successfully structured my essays to keep the reader engaged and propelling forward. In particular, the literacy narrative alternated among three storylines: my time with a child with special needs, my time with a woman with Alzheimer’s, and my time reflecting on those times. By adding strong order to these varying plotlines, I created a pattern and crafted an arrangement that enhanced my story.

My storytelling, I believe, is another writing element of which I am most proud. I attribute this to listening at an early age to my friends and families hold the dinner table with their humor; if you were to get a word in edgewise, it needed to be delivered effectively. These lessons are engrained into my being, and I think they are essential lessons to teach others. My features unit is, in essence, a ten-day crash course on spinning stories through a newspaper. The unit uses the Common Core narrative standard (W.3) to hold the students to clear objectives. Both storytelling and overall crafting of essays are two of my most effective tools in my writing workbox.

Entering this semester, I was not completely sold on the “writing as a process” philosophy, which is blasphemy in today’s teacher lounge. My knack for writing and general ignorance toward others’ procedures led me to this conclusion. After ENGL 458, and EDUC 482: Methods of Teaching Writing, I now understand why the aforementioned conclusion is erroneous. Just because I see its errors, though, has not completely convinced me to fully jump onto the “process” philosophy. I must continue to convince myself to read more into the research regarding writing as a crafted process. I know if I keep getting deeper into the philosophy, I am sure I will continue warming to the concept.

I warmed to the concept enough to take another look at my Little Things are Big essay. By framing the story with a better, more encompassing title and adding more analysis to the story, I was able to better fulfill the assignment requirements. These were easy enough fixes; it was mostly the initial push I needed to overcome in order to review my past work. Writers, I have learned in basically every English and education course I have completed, should never consider their work to be finalized. Writing is a messy, ever-changing practice that can be revised an infinite amount of times. Encouraging writers to take up such a task is another battle.

Lastly, I would like to take this space to briefly thank those in the English Department for their guidance in helping me become a better writer. I extend my sincerest gratitude to Dr. Adam Goldwyn, whose Literary Masterpieces class first taught me how to write a well-founded paper. I thank Dr. Bruce Maylath for exploding and rebuilding the way I view language. And, of course, I would like to thank Dr. Kevin Brooks for the guidance and glorious time had this semester.


Benjamin Norman