Thursday, June 17, 2010

Convince Me, Lady

Yesterday I played teacher. I, of all of the people currently residing in the "real-world," was asked to speak in a summer school junior English class to actual students.

I was never one of those kids who, when considering what they wanted to do when they grew up, said, "I want to stay in school forever!" Teaching is a way-difficult profession, certainly not for the faint-of-heart. Kids that are not yours to parent and discipline are a whole different adventure. You have to have patience for the young kids, but a quick wit to defend against the older kids--all while teaching them! I haven't discovered any radioactive goop to give me all of those super powers yet, so I think I am going to leave the day-to-day teaching to the professionals.

Anyway, I was asked to speak at Selma High School* about persuasive essays and writing. I am certainly familiar with this writing style. I use persuasion daily in my job, and occasionally when I have to convince my husband that I need a new top. Us Americans are getting more dependent on reading 140-character snippets of information to tell us "all we need to know." Succinct, persuasive writing is a necessary skill.

I tried to relate my job to what these kids were about to attempt. Grant applications are real, grown-up essay prompts that say, "We might want to give you money; prove that you are worthy." Grants are persuasive essays, attempts to convince the reader that the client deserves every last cent the funder is willing to offer. No grades in this class, only success or failure.

However, to keep from imploding because of how daunting that sounds, you implement the writing strategies you learned in school. Writing things like grants and press releases at work is simplified because I follow a proven formula. Instead of being tempted to be uber-creative, deeply out-of-the-box, or "wow" people with my diction, they actually understand what I am trying to say. And, when you are dealing with potentially getting a client millions of dollars, clarity beats fanciness every time.

While I didn't get totally "addicted to teaching,"** like a few people suspected I might, I did thoroughly enjoy my opportunity to present. It was a lot of fun to share the real-world application of what these kids are learning. I wish there had been more of that for me when I was in school.

* Thanks, Amy! I had a great time, and look forward to hearing how the essays turned out!

** "Sorry" about all the "quotes" "today."

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