Opinion | Encourage students to write about their multifaceted identities
November 7, 2019
The way we identify is anything but static. There is no singular category that explains every part of us. The people we are, how we choose to identify and how we choose to express ourselves are constantly changing and shifting.
Being allowed to write in accordance with and about one’s multifaceted identities can make a huge difference to a student, so professors should encourage and welcome students to do so.
A singular person belongs to a multitude of different groups and is associated with multiple identities. Whether it’s race, sexuality, ethnicity, religion or geographical location, there isn’t one singular attribute that identifies the people we are.
For example, my parents are from Mexico, which makes me Mexican, but I was born and raised in America, which makes me Mexican-American.
While I understand not every course or assignment will fit this, when applicable, professors should strive to enable students to write about their multifaceted identities.
When I was in high school, my Advanced Placement Literature teacher, who was also my journalism adviser, allowed me to mix some Spanish into my writing. In assignments like blog posts and personal narratives, the choice to write in my first language not only made me excited for the assignment, but also enabled me to establish my voice in a way I previously wouldn’t have been able to do.
Spanish is a huge part of who I am. The first time I was encouraged to use it in my assignments, even if it was just a word or two, I allowed myself to be vulnerable, honest and completely me.
I never asked or thought about using Spanish in assignments like a character analysis essay, but in assignments like writing poetry, the use of another language strengthened my voice and my writing.
This also helped me form a great relationship with my former teacher and adviser, which cultivated a better environment and classroom experience.
It’s more than just letting students write in a different language or talk about the way they identify. By granting students creative freedom, professors are able to engage their students in new ways otherwise unreachable, all while establishing a new level of trust between the professor and student.
When I was able to write in Spanish, or about my other identities, I felt excited, welcomed and more attentive in class. If professors want students to write essays with complete effort and wish to create an atmosphere where students feel welcomed and comfortable expressing their ideas, they need to take the first steps in making a student feel comfortable writing about the concepts that interest them.
Abril is a freshman in Media.