Professor Gibson
Thought Bubbles

I am. I am not.

Stock photo by 6689062 at Pixabay.

We are often defined by words people place on us. You are smart. You are dumb. You are pretty. You are ugly. You are good at math. You are bad at math. You are a great writer. You are a poor writer.

I had a student in my office once seeking help for an upcoming paper. As we worked, tears filled her eyes. She wanted to become a better writer, but with every stroke of my pen, I was taking away her hope. I stopped and asked her what was wrong. She expressed her hopes and in that moment I knew what was happening. I could relate. She desired to become better but struggled to write succinctly. As the tears began to flow, I saw myself. I was once told someone will hire me for my tenacity, creativity, work ethic, but not for my ability to write. I am not a great writer. It’s taken me years to get where I am today. But my ability to write is not who I am and it does not define my ability to think and express myself.

The problem is we see these opinions as a reflection of our core identity. I am not the best writer, but being labeled a “bad writer” does not speak to my identity. It a skill that I can work on and improve. It is not a factual statement about my essence. That is the issue. For too long I took this critique as a factual statement and wore it as such. If it is a factual statement, then it becomes an excuse or evidence that can not be changed.

I loved reading until elementary school. I was placed in the remedial reading group. Our groups took turns reading out loud while everyone else in the class worked on other assignments. Everyone knew who was in the top group and who was in the bottom. It was obvious. I stopped reading for fun and have suffered from that decision. I never caught back up to my peers. What if that label did not define my identity among my peers?

Yes, I struggle with my sentence structure. My grammar can be atrocious at times. I still haven’t figured out when to use a comma or when the period goes inside the quotes. I struggle with effect and affect. I have never been able to spell “their” (until this year when someone taught me that “their”, “there”, and “they’re” all begin with “the”). I will keep working on these issues and my struggle with them is not an excuse. But, I shouldn’t be fearful of sharing my thoughts. A comma shouldn’t prevent me from participating in a public forum. And that is why I started this blog. I need to prove to myself and the students who come into my office in tears this label does not define us. We are worthy of a seat at the table. We will continue to work hard at the details. Be patient as we learn and struggle. Do not dismiss us offhandedly. We are diligent and are improving every day.

I am a poor writer. I am not a lazy writer.