Essay #1 Directions: What do you want to understand about your own community?

You have read about academic habits of mind and seen how McGhee uses them in her introduction and first chapter of her book. McGhee writes, “I did learn, though, to ask ‘why'” (4). McGhee is motivated by the question: Why don’t we have nice things? She is referring to things like good education, fair wages, functional infrastructure, and adequate healthcare. In chapter one, she talks about the questions she asked when growing up:

I asked why there were so many people sleeping on the grates on Lower Wacker Drive downtown, huddled together in that odd, unsunny yellow lamplight. Why did the big plant over on Kedzie have to close, and would another one open and hire everybody back? Why was Ralph’s family’s furniture out on the curb, and where did their landlord think Ralph was going to live now? (4)

She describes how she began her process by observing situations of poverty in her community that seem to go against her values of equal opportunity and human dignity. She then asks questions about why things are the way they are and then does research to find the answers and look for alternatives. Now it is time for you to practice your academic habits of mind as you write your first essay for this class.

Write an essay in which you answer the question: What do you want to understand about your own community? Some of you have been taught that you should never use the word “I” in an essay, but sometimes writers need to use “I” to tell their own stories. Please feel welcome to use “I” in this course when you need to, particularly when you are talking about your own experience, as this essay requires. As an example, notice how McGhee uses “I” in her book in the quotation above. Your essay should explore the following:

What values are important to you and your community?
What do you observe happening in your community that goes against those values?
What questions do your observations inspire?
What could you research about your community to find out the cause of this situation and possible alternatives? Do some preliminary research to help you understand the situation in your community. What new question does this information inspire?

How This Essay will be Graded:
This is your first essay for this class, so of course it will not be perfect. I want you to think of this first essay as a formative assignment rather than a summative one, meaning that it is a low-risk opportunity to learn how to improve your writing for your later essays. Remember Eduardo Briceno (Links to an external site.)? I want to you focus on learning instead of worrying about the impact of your performance on your grade. Therefore, on this first essay, instead of a letter grade, you will earn either “complete” with my feedback for improvement, or you will be given an “incomplete” and the opportunity to revise your essay with my feedback. Don’t hesitate to contact me via inbox to schedule a zoom meeting with me when you are at any point in your writing process.

In order to earn a “complete,” you need to fulfill this criteria:

Write at least 4 pages with an organized essay structure (introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion)
Include an introduction to McGhee’s book (the title, author, and what it is about) in your introductory paragraph and lead to your thesis about what you ask “why?” about in your community
Address all 4 bullet points in the “Task” section of the essay directions at some point in your essay
Include at least one thing you learned from your research and cite where you got the information to avoid plagiarism (Links to an external site.)
Use Noodle Tools Express (Links to an external site.) or copy citations from the library website (Links to an external site.) for your works cited page (Links to an external site.)
Proofread to ensure that the majority of the sentences in your essay are understandable and follow MLA format
After you turn in your essay, I will fill out your rubric, tell you whether or not you need to revise, and give feedback on how to improve in each of the three areas below.

Organization–Do the ideas in the essay respond directly to the essay directions and logically flow from one to the next? Was there anything out of place or off-topic?
Development– Are there places in the essay that would benefit from more specific details, evidence, examples, or explanation?
Clarity and MLA Conventions–Were there many unclear sentences? Are there any patterns of error the student should work on addressing?