Vanessa Acheampong studied Psychology at the College of the Holy Cross before earning her M.Ed from Northeastern in 2014. She currently works as a high school English teacher in Worcester, MA. Her own urban public school education compelled her to put her background in psychology and education to use by working with urban public school students.
What media do you rely on for writing? What genres or types of writing do you do at work?
As an English teacher, I teach writing more than I actually engage in writing. As a teacher I believe that the genre of writing I do mostly at work revolves around providing constructive feedback for students on their own writing assignments.
Who do you write for, or what is your audience? What are your goals when you write at work?
The majority of time, I write for my students. Working in an urban school district, I have a wide array of students who are at all different levels in terms of literacy. As a result, when I write, whether that be to provide instructions to students, provide feedback on an assignment, etc., my primary goal for my students to understand what I am asking them to do. When writing for colleagues (in emails, in preparation for collaborative work, etc.), my goal similarly to that of the goal of my students is for colleagues comprehend the message I am trying to convey in my writing.
Have you had a challenging writing experience at work? What was the outcome?
In my current position the most challenging aspect of writing is getting students to see the benefit of writing, and the importance of improving their writing skills. I feel extremely lucky to have had English teachers who have loved writing; which in turn allowed me to develop my own love for writing and a strong desire to share that love with my own students. Writing has allowed me to express myself in ways that I am not always able to do verbally, and that alone has afforded me a plethora of career and educational opportunities. Although, I am still working on getting my students to see the benefits and the importance of writing, I have high hopes that they will soon enough.
What is your writing process like?
I write two or three drafts, and then re-read my message or writing piece for clarity and grammatical errors before submitting
Do you seek feedback on your writing?
Attending the College of the Holy Cross after graduating from an urban public high school, I learned very quickly about the benefits and often times the necessity of seeking feedback on writing. I believe that I have come a very long way in my writing; however, I do believe that there is always room for improvement, and readily welcome and seek out feedback before submitting or sending out any major writing pieces, or messages.
Can you share a memorable writing experience, at work, school, or elsewhere?
My most memorable writing experience occurred when I was in my second semester at Holy Cross. After a semester of college under my belt, I finally felt academically prepared for to be at Holy Cross. That semester, I decided to take a freshman fiction literature course, and was very excited about it because I had always loved English and thought that I was good writer. Not long after the start of the semester, our first paper was due. I worked extremely hard on my paper, and was in shock when I saw all of the red marks and the final grade on the paper. I was especially shocked by the professor’s comment about not using contractions in college essays; something I had never before been told about during my high school career. As a perfectionist by nature, the red marks and lackluster grade did not sit well with me. Instead of dwelling on the grade I received, I took it as a learning opportunity. I took all of the feedback I received from my professor on that paper, and used it to better the rest of my papers that year, and to this day, still allow that feedback to drive my writing pieces to this day. In fact, I convey to my own students the contraction rule I learned back in 2009, in the hopes that they do not make same mistake I did in college.
What makes you a better writer or helps you reach a better final product?
Writing a number of drafts, feedback from others about the content and about the clarity of the message, and constantly reading (newspapers, books, articles, etc.) are all things that I believe make me a better writer.