Who is Sarah Cannon!?!

I have just finished my sixth year teaching in the English department at Garner Magnet High School in Garner, NC (and no, I did not teach Scotty McCreery; although, I hear he is a lovely boy).  Due to my innate overly polite Southern woman inability to say "no", I have flip-flopped from grade level to grade level.  I have taught English I, III, and IV both academic and honors, AP Language and Composition, and Cultural Media Literacy.  Next school year, I plan to teach two sections of AP Language as well as two mystery classes (not as in the study of the mystery genre, but as in the fact that I have no idea what those two classes will be).  I know you must be wondering how I reached this esteem position in life.  Well, after a rather uneventful four years of high school in Deep Run, North Carolina, I ventured to the thriving metropolis of Greensboro, NC.  There, I attended UNCG and graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Anthropology with a minor in English.  The demand for cultural anthropologists in Greensboro was not exactly high in 2002; so, I proceeded to work at Starbucks with my college degree.  After much soul searching and flailing about, I decided to become an English teacher.  I went back to school, turned my English minor into a major, and then entered the M.A.T. program at East Carolina University.  I have enjoyed my six years teaching high school while earning my National Board Certification and sponsoring the International Festival, Cultural Awareness Club, Guitar Club, and GSA at various times.  I just completed a yoga teacher training in Raleigh, NC and am in process of becoming a certified yoga instructor.  I look forward to incorporating this passion into the secondary school climate.  I will be starting the PhD program in Curriculum and Instruction this fall at NC State. 

Sarah Cannon's Tabblo
Sarah Cannon

ECI 509 (501)
Writing Reflections!

                I have always, whether merited or not, considered myself a fairly good writer.  I remember writing my first story in first grade; it was about a shark attack on the beach.  My teacher and mother praised it so much, just as, I’m sure, all mothers and teachers praise and encourage a small child’s early efforts in writing.  After that moment, I became convinced that I know how to express myself via the written word, a sentiment that has stuck with me for the last 24 years. 

                I am mostly a writer of nonfiction.  I thoroughly enjoy writing essays, literary analysis, and research papers.  I love the process of finding a thesis based on readings and observations and then proving that thesis.  Unlike a lot of people who find writing essays to be boring, I personally find a lot of opportunities for creativity in writing nonfiction.  One can experiment with word choice, syntax, and organization quite a bit in nonfiction.  My favorite time to write nonfiction is when I feel comfortable enough to be irreverent and use humor.  This happened in the ECI 509 course when Dr. Pritchard encouraged the class to be creative in the Eliot Engel response writing.  I had a lot of fun writing this essay and feel that its strength lay in a balance of intellect and humor.  For example, in the introduction I wrote            

If one were to examine all of the great authors of the past twenty years, the past fifty years, the past one hundred years; nay, if one were to examine the lives of all of the greatest authors of all time, one would notice that all each author adheres to a certain sense of propriety in his or her writings.  According to the Oxford Dictionary Online, propriety is a noun which names “conformity to conventionally accepted standards of behaviour or morals.”   Truly, the traditional canonical British authors we study may seem to many a modern high school student to be the stuffiest, most boring, prudish people to have ever lived who must certainly embody this definition.  After all, even their nerdy English teachers admire the ancient fuddy-duddies; so, they must be the epitome of uncool.  However, if today’s secondary school scholars were to take the time to examine the lives of these authors, they would soon realize that these authors were the ultimate rebels and nonconformists.

The word choice in this introduction begins very formally with antiquated words like “nay”, “canonical”, and “adheres.”  These are not words that the majority of Americans use in their every day vernacular.  I balanced this particular style with more colloquial phrasing like “fuddy-duddies” and “uncool”.  This balance of stylistic choices allows me to not become bored writing the paper, and hopefully also adds interest to the reader.  I find that when writing a longish piece about something serious, it helps keep the reader engaged if one uses humor about the serious topic.  Some may argue that using humor like in my nerdy English teachers joke listed above may detract from the purpose of the essay.  I think that this could happen in some situations but not all.  Most people enjoy a good chuckle, even when attempting more scholarly pursuits. 

                However, I did not always love writing essays.  As previously mentioned, my first piece of writing beyond the length of one sentence was a short story about shark attacks at the beach.  I was a very creative, very precocious child.  However, in my older age I find that my creativity has waned.   I always feel so trite when I attempt to write nonfiction – especially anything that involves dialogue.  I never think it actually sounds like how someone talks.  For this reason, I choose to write one of my expressive writings – My Impressions of England – using a short story format.  I wrote a lot of dialogue in this piece, trying to capture the interactions that occurred with the customs agent and transportation employees at Heathrow International.  While I still didn’t feel great about the end result of the dialogue, the feedback I received from my writing group indicated that the use of dialogue helped add a sense of realism to the writing. 

                My favorite element of expressive writing is the freedom of form.  As previously mentioned, I chose a short story to express my feelings upon arriving in England, but I used a more poetic form to express my feelings when sitting on a hillside near Guildford.  I used short lines that mirror a poetic form, but each line was written in prose.  For example,

Just two years ago, I began my journey with Jonah walking on the misty mountaintops of O Cebriero.

I waited for him at sun set on the top of a mountain church made of stone.  I stepped around the corner and there he was.  There I was.  There we were.

I enjoyed writing these lines because I used some poetic rhythms like in the “There I was. There we were” section.  However, using sentences is a lot more comfortable for me than writing pure poetry.  This was a fun exercise to combine poetry and prose into one piece.  It is freedom.

            The last mode we had to experiment with was poetry.  As previously mentioned, I experimented with poetic rhythms and forms in my expressive writing.  That activity was a lot more comfortable for me than writing full on poetry.  I wrote a lot of poetry when I was a teenager, but it was always the typical angst-ridden teenage poetry about how no one understood me or how awful boys were. The older I got, the more cheesy I thought writing poetry was.  This changed for me a great deal when we were able to write with Sally Buckner.  The way she guided us through poetry exercises was phenomenal – focusing on description and detail.  The poetry I wrote during this workshop was completely different from anything I wrote as a teenager – it was actually happy.  I wrote about my boyfriend because I love him, not because he broke my heart.  I described little things about him like his “gangly limbs” and the way he “stomps” through the yard.  I mentioned his diesel dump truck and singing.  Who knew that poetry could be about dump trucks?  It was fun to try to create the image of someone I am with every day and convey that image to people who have never met him.  I thought I did a good job of choosing details that represent him because the reality is that it would take me a whole novel to really describe his or anyone else’s personality.  I felt that that particular poem created a snapshot of him for people to just catch a glimpse of what life is like with him in it. 

            Overall, I think my strength in these writing assignments was description.  I felt pretty good about choosing details and adequately painting pictures in the readers’ minds.  I also felt that my sense of humor and personality shone through these pieces.  I will always feel a little inadequate regarding word choice and sophistication – no matter how worldly, old, or educated I become.  It was also very rewarding to use technology to add another component to the words that I created.  Using images to enhance the words created a whole other level of meaning for myself and hopefully for the reader.  I enjoyed writing in this class and will hopefully gain the confidence to continue to write in my ‘real’ life.