Six-pages, full sentences, “narrative” format. These could be the requirements of a middle school writing assignment. But, they’re actually Jeff Bezos’s guidelines for “pitching” plans at Amazon. According to Franklin Foer in “What Jeff Bezos Wants” (The Atlantic, November 2019), Bezos insists that his employees explain their ideas in lengthy narratives, because he knows that writing about something is important to understanding it.
According to Foer, these writing protocols “emerged from a sense that PowerPoint had become a tool for disguising fuzzy thinking.” Writing, in Bezos’s mind, “demands a more linear type of reasoning.”
By requiring his teams to use complete sentences and a narrative format, Bezos pushes them to think through their ideas before presenting them. “If you can’t write it out, then you’re not ready to defend it,” as former Amazon employee John Rossman recalls in his book, Think Like Amazon.
At Amazon, then, writing isn’t just a way of communicating ideas to others, it’s vital to the creation of the ideas themselves.
And, for a company that prizes innovation, Bezos’s approach makes a lot of sense.
Most Students unprepared for writing demands beyond school.
If the head of Amazon requires his leadership teams to write six-page narratives, schools should be making sure that students can do the same before they finish high school.
Yet, according to a NYT article from August 2, 2017, 75% of 12th graders (and 8th graders too) lacked proficiency in writing; this, based on data from the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress). ACT data from 2016 also revealed that 40% of those who took the ACT writing exam didn’t have the necessary writing skills to complete a college-level English composition class.
Two key reasons for this deficiency: many teachers don’t feel comfortable teaching writing or aren’t strong writers themselves; those adept at writing often don’t have sufficient time to devote to teaching it, given all the other curriculum requirements they face.
So, what’s the solution?
Until things change in our schools, students who struggle with writing in school need additional writing instruction or tutoring during the school year to build solid writing skills. Even one hour of tutoring a week or every two weeks can lead to vastly improved writing skills by the end of a school year.
The Learning Consultants has top notch writing tutors who work with students of all ages and ability levels. We offer a level of individualized attention that few teachers can provide in the classroom. In fact, throughout my years working with students from Old Saybrook, Westbrook, Old Lyme, and Essex, I’ve rarely seen them receive the kind of teacher feedback on their papers and essays that they need to grow as writers.
If you have a child who struggles with writing in school, contact us today to learn more about our services and schedule time with an experienced writing tutor.