Unit 1 Education Narrative Essay

Unit 1 Project: Education Narrative Essay 

Formal Essay Assignment #1: Education Narrative

(750-1000 words)

Rough Draft Due:  Saturday March 5 at 12 noon, two FULL pages, typed and double-spaced, 12-point font, Times New Roman, one-inch margins. TWO FULL pages is minimum.  You can write more.

  • Submit Rough Draft to Google Drive (Google Drive is on the Menu on our Open Lab site. Once there find Unit 1 and upload to your group’s folder.)
  • Title for your Google Doc: YOUR NAME — RD #1

Final Draft Due: March 12 Saturday 12 noon, THREE FULL pages, typed, double spaced.  Title for your Google Doc:  Your Name Final Draft #1

THREE FULL pages is minimum. You can write more.

Reminder:  two required visits with tutors

Together, we’ve read essays by Frederick Douglass, Malcolm X, José Olivarez, Esmeralda Santiago, and Amy Tan, narratives about the writers’ experiences with education (both inside and outside of a school setting). Now it’s time for you to write an education narrative of your own. Your goal is to show how a particular aspect of your educational experience shaped you to become who you are today.   Choose a single transformative event or memory or a set of transformative events or memories that influenced you; do not try to cover too much material. To do so, thoughtfully revise one or more of your Free Writes to explore a compelling aspect of your educational journey.  Some of you may choose to work with only one Writing Prompt; others may want to combine two or three prompts:

  1. Mentor Quotation:

At the start of “Saved,” Chapter 11 of his autobiography, Malcolm X remembers the “electrical effect” the words of his mentor Elijah Muhammad had on him in prison.  He then expresses his frustration at not being able to use proper English in writing reply letters back to him. Malcolm’s desire to address his mentor respectfully using standard English inspires him to start his “homemade education.”

Think of a time a mentor or authority figure gave you an encouraging word that moved you forward in your educational journey.  What were the precise words––and on what occasion did your mentor tell you these words?  What was the actual scene?  How did they help you move forward?  Start your piece with this quotation.  In what ways did your relationship with your mentor conform with or go against (“dismantle”) traditional hierarchies?  How do the lessons from this figure continue to impact you in college?

Conversely, think of a time when a mentor or authority figure spoke to you using negative language that caused you pain.  Starting with the words themselves–give a quotation–how did these damaging words affect your educational journey.

Remember to start your story with the mentor’s own words–that is, with a quotation–as Professor Hellman does in her essay.  She gives a quotation from Governor Cuomo before starting her essay.  If the person is speaking in another language, consider using that home language.

2. Two Different Worlds

Jose Olivarez is the son of Mexican immigrants.  He tells us that he didn’t speak English very well when he entered preschool. Throughout his difficult educational journey through public school, he writes of a double or “ambiguous” identity that has made it hard for him to feel at home anywhere, in either the U.S. or Mexico.  He is “constantly fighting” with the different parts of his identity.  Frederick Douglass feels so conflicted when he learns the hard facts of slavery that it puts him it at odds with his fellow slaves, “In moments of agony, I envied my fellow-slaves for their stupidity” (238).  Esmeralda Santiago arrives from Puerto Rico and enters an American school only to be placed in a learning disabled class instead of the standard 8th grade class although she is a bright student.  She must navigate between her 8th grade class of outcasts and the English-speaking teachers and students at her school feeling out of place in both groups.  Amy Tan shows us how she navigates her way in different worlds, each characterized by the different Englishes she uses in each of these worlds.  She believes that her family’s imperfect English language limited her own opportunities and that her Chinese background shaped how teachers and employers saw her and what they expected her to be.

Have you had the experience of living “between two different worlds” or we might say of having two differing identities?  In your own life how have “ambiguous” feelings or internal conflicted feelings–about language, identity, injustice, or opportunities that affected your own educational journey?  OR Do you feel a conflict between two parts of your identity.  Have certain mentors typecast you in a certain profile, putting pressure on you to conform to what others expect of you?  Then, are you battling with another part of yourself that seeks to be free to reach the dreams that you keep hidden in your heart, that only you can see in yourself?  What actions have you taken to address the conflict?  Or, how have you learned to live with it?  Be sure to name for your reader exactly what the two worlds or two identities are.

3. Saved

Each of our writers attempts in some way to “save” himself by learning to read or write: Malcolm X by improving his vocabulary, competing with his fellow inmates, and reading at all costs deep into the night; Frederick Douglass by bribing the little white boys and riffling through the “Columbian Orator”; JosĂ© Olivarez by starting to write poems and question his high school curriculum. We might also consider how Colin Powell saved himself at college. He reveals that he was no star student and that he floundered without direction until he joined the ROTC student group. In the military he found comradery, purpose, and discovered leadership qualities that he didn’t know he had.

Describe a difficult moment in your educational journey.  What experience or activity has saved you or helped you to cope?   What strategies did you use?  Do you believe your actions/decisions saved you?  If so, how? If not, why not? What qualities about yourself did you discover in this process? What lessons have you learned from your actions and how have you shared them with others?

*For some of you, this difficult moment may be your struggle with online learning either in high school or now in college.  Your difficult moment may also be the “loss” of your senior year of high school. How did you attempt to “save” yourself from the isolation and frustration of online learning or from the sadness of a senior year that was so much less than what you expected? What strategies did you use? Do you believe your decision/actions saved you? If so, how? If not, why not? What qualities about yourself did you discover in this process? What lessons have you learned from your actions and how have you shared them with others?


Whichever prompt you choose, develop your ideas with rich details, quotes, dialogue, description, and explanation, and at least one connection with the class texts. Incorporate at least one relevant reference to one of the education pieces we read for class.

CREATE THEATRE OF THE MIND — Create a scene with setting and dialogue so the reader can visualize and hear your story.  Make you writing come alive!  Be sure to set your piece in a particular place –- your living room?  your bedroom?  a classroom? a family party?   Also indicate the bigger setting, which country?  What language are you speaking?   And indicate the time-line?  present day?  when you were ten?  a junior in high school?  Think of the scene when Malcolm X dramatically describes outsmarting the prison guards to achieve his goal of reading and studying at night in his cell.

Note: your goal is to show how an event or memory (or set of events/memories) transformed you and shaped you in your educational journey to become the person you are today.

 Evaluation Criteria Checklist

  • An overarching point (main idea) about your educational experience(s)
  • Give your piece a title.
  • One particular event or a series of events that support your overarching point
  • Rich details/description that illustrate your claims and create THEATRE OF THE MIND
  • Narrative progression and sequence that makes logical sense: Think TIMELINE.
  • Clear sentence structure, grammar, and punctuation

Development Strategies Condensed

  • Give your essay a title, one that packs a punch. Be creative here. If you combine two or three Free Writes, give a title to each section.
  • Develop at least two extended scenes (as we’ve noticed in Malcolm X), one of your scene should use dialogue. At least 5 sentences for each scene.
  • Experiment with languages other than English, if it makes sense for your story. Remember how Oliveraz uses Spanish to show different perspectives.
  • Practice one other strategy we’ve discussed (look at our Writing Strategies) and develop it as part of your revision. For example, experiment with Using Lists.
  • Make a connection with at least one of the essays we’ve read in class at some point in your story.

Proofreading tip

  • Read your work out loud for missing words, better development, clarity, and organization.

Here is the Grading Checklist Rubric.

I. Development

  • CSD
  • 5W’s

Clear Paragraphing

Logical Order of Events

Clear Timeline / Clear Sequencing

THREE full pages 750 – 1000 words


  • Imagery
  • Vocab
  • Clarity of expression



Title Creative and packs a punch

Introduction is engaging

Story Arc is clear – obstacles, triumphs, process moves toward an ending

Main Idea about student’s Ed experience  – there is an overarching theme present    REMEMBER THIS IS AN EDUCATION NARRATIVE

Ending is meaningful, substantial, reflective and forward looking



Connection to at least ONE reading

TWO extended scenes with dialogue



Essay is Engaging / Interesting /AND/ NOT rote NOT boring NOT just telling NOT just summarizing NOT generalizing


Formatting – margins, DS, 12 pt font

Grammar – Sentence Structure – Mechanix


VI. The Writing Process – student followed this process:

  • HW 5 and HW 6 (Mentor Quote free-write and Between Two Worlds free-write)
  • RD (Rough Draft using teacher feedback on HW5/6)
  • FD (Final Draft using Peer Reviews)
  • Participation in Peer Reviews for RD
  • FD submitted on time