Using your own efforts for exemplars

I often use old university essays and suchlike to show my kids how they will have to write if they get there. It both encourages and discourages them when they see how much they have to write,  and eventually understand that they only have a fortnight or three weeks at most to research, draft and produce a final version. They examine my essay on Sorely Maclean’s ‘Hallaig’ (2500 words) or my dissertation on Norman McCaig (6000 words) and tremble, then learn. I also use old History essays to show how long the bibliographies can be!

The chief learning objective here is to show them that they really should be producing even better essays when they have some nine (NINE!) months (MONTHS!) to produce two essays for their Int 2/Higher folios.

Which is why I was thrilled to find an essay from my old school magazine which I now use for W1 (Informative) and W2 (Personal) writing lessons. This is from 1975 when I was a young 16 year old with spots, a love of gliding and an unnatural (blush) ability to pull the Head Girls of each girls’ school we invited to our discos. (The ones where Brother O’Rouke used to prowl around  pushing couples apart. ‘No close dancing!’ )  And buckets of cold water were lined up along the walls….. 😎

This is me writing at 16:

gliding lower sixth article Scanned but in a Word doc.


  1. I showed my daughter a university essay I wrote on Hamlet. It was handwritten as those were pre computer days and was very neat. She was impressed…me?

    1. Did I ever write as neatly as that?
    2. Memories of hours of painful copying out to make neat copy.
    3. no spell checker…eek!
    4. Having not looked at the essay for 25ish years…I have NO memory of even writing it and was actually quite impressed by my younger self!

    How much easier life at uni must be these days with computer / internet access.
    I remember the dash to the library to pick up the copy of the recommended text – the library would only have one in stock and then the wait if you didn’t get it!

  2. My uni essays were masterpieces of cut and paste as I chucked things around AND tried desperately not to plagiarise…

    My students were horrified when I showed them a 15,000 word Education essay on the use of ICT in the classroom. White faces everywhere 😎

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