Boring. Be honest. That’s what springs to mind when I say, “essay”. But what if an essay gets you a raise at work? Or time off work to thaw out in Mexico when it’s minus thirty here? Is an essay boring then? Because that’s what an essay is: the ability to persuade and get what you want. It’s the power of negotiation on paper or in spoken words.
What else does negotiation get you? It might save a life. Consider our visit to the fire hall with my English class. Here’s how it went down:
The volunteer Fireman gathered our group together. We were a mix of various cultures and ethnicities. He told us stories of fighting fires and how homes, businesses, and farms had been lost because of careless little mistakes. He had a casual saying that he repeated over and over, and it caught our attention. “The biggest thing,” he would say, and then he would explain what he meant. He said, “The biggest thing is to get yourself a fire extinguisher. Make sure it is an A,B,C extinguisher.” My students took notes. He carried on. “The biggest thing is to have a fire plan. Sit down with your family and plan your exits.” He had more ideas. “The biggest thing is to have a smoke detector. Check the batteries every month.”
How does that relate to essay writing? That fireman convinced all of us to buy fire extinguishers. He was persuasive, and he got what he wanted – safety in our community. How did he do it? By speaking several mini essays. What was his opening line for each one? “The biggest thing…”
I borrowed that line from him, and now my students are using it in class. They are practicing persuasive language so that they can talk to their managers. They might open with, “The biggest thing…” and they will flesh out what they want to say. One of them already got his point across to his manager, and is relaxing on a beach over Christmas.
Suddenly, their essay writing isn’t so boring after all.
Next week we’ll look at how to determine what the “biggest”, most important thing might be for you. You might be writing essays sooner than you think. On the beach. In Mexico.
If Pam Mytroen could spend all day in her kitchen baking pies, brownies, and making turkey dinner for friends, she would. But Murray Pura once told her to write first and then bake—advice that she is trying to stick with these days, except, of course, when her grandchildren stop in for milk and cookies.