A Formula for Essays and a Roadmap for Life

Writing an Essay Doesn't Have to Be Torturous

Jessica Wozniak
26 iunie 2015

One of the things I remember most from high school was my 10th grade teacher, Mrs. Burgoni. I remember her encouragement, her positive attitude, and the life wisdom that she instilled in us. I remember her sitting on a director’s chair that she had in her classroom, as my classmates asked her to tell us more stories about her life. We were fascinated by these tales and, through them, we learned common sense and how to deal with the people and world around us (things that cannot be taught solely from a textbook).

An essay isn’t a math problem. How can you use a formula to write it?

Besides these intangibles, though, Mrs. B also taught me something else I remember to this day--how to write an essay. I can clearly picture the day that she told us she was going to show us how to write an introductory paragraph. She explained that she would break it down for us, into a type of formula. I thought to myself an essay isn’t a math problem. How can you use a formula to write it?

Before that day, writing an essay seemed to me akin to throwing some random ingredients from your kitchen into a pot and hoping that you would end up with an edible dinner. I knew that obtaining a palatable meal (or in this case, an essay) was possible and, in fact, I had succeeded myself a few times but, somehow, I didn’t know exactly how I had achieved that end product or how I could recreate it.

However, after a year with Mrs. B., essay writing made sense. I had learned that there was, indeed, a formula for writing an essay, and that formula wasn’t just staring at the computer screen for an hour, thinking about how to start the first sentence. In reality, the formula was step-by-step, and allowed me to plan out my thesis statement and topic sentences first, so I had a roadmap for where I was going. It’s a lot easier to get where you want to be if you have some idea about how to navigate there. After Mrs. B’s detailed instructions and the tasks she assigned that allowed us to practice, hone, and perfect our skills, essay writing didn’t seem like an insurmountable task. Instead, it transformed into something that was perfectly attainable with the necessary amount of time and work.

I did not stare at my university professors in utter despair when they assigned 10 or 20-page assignments.

I thought of Mrs. B when I wrote my essays in 11th grade, 12th grade, and college. Each year my teachers added something new to what Mrs. B. had taught me, and my essay writing became more complex and more sophisticated. Still, what Mrs. B. first told me laid the foundation and meant that I did not stare at my university professors in utter despair when they assigned 10 or 20-page assignments?

Every year, when I work on essay writing with my students, I remember Mrs. B., and I teach them the “secret” essay formula. I started off by saying in a hushed voice that I am about to share with them something that is invaluable. I explain that, if they listen closely, they will save themselves countless hours of pain over the years, because writing an essay will no longer be a form of torture.

What Mrs. B. taught me and my classmates was the true embodiment of “education for life.” She taught us a skill that served us for years, helping us throughout our academic careers. Although many of my former classmates do not write academic essays too often these days, I’m sure that we all remember at least a part of what she taught us, and we certainly remember how useful it was for us during those late nights in college when we had several essays due the next day.

In my opinion, this is what education for life is. It is preparing students for what lies ahead, so they can face the future with the necessary skillset to succeed and prosper.