Friday, April 4, 2008

Reflective Essay

The last English essay I'll ever write in my high school career... Well actually, it's the second to last.

“So, I have Mr. G this year for English 12 Honors. I don’t suppose it’ll be any different from my previous English Honors classes… right?” Wrong. Plunged straight into senior year, I was disoriented, academically rusty after a nice long summer break. Thus, I didn’t quite look forward to another year of English. It was only natural for me to think lowly of my English classes; I had always disliked the subject for one reason or another, despite doing well in it each year. I found my English classes to be mostly boring, consisting of tedious discussions, pointless essays, and trivial vocabulary tests. However, upon entering Mr. G’s class, I realized that English is of course much more than just reading novels and writing about them. There’s always a deeper meaning to all those words in a novel, and the work I’ve done this past year has taught me invaluable lessons about life, art, love, fun, and everything in between.

For starters, I don’t recall ever writing an explication before senior year. Whether it was a 9th grade book essay, a 10th grade MCAS open response, or an 11th grade SAT style essay prompt, I had always written in the basic several paragraph structure with the traditional topic and concluding sentences and the basic supporting evidence sprinkled liberally on the paper. It never occurred to me that such evidence can be further expanded by critically analyzing it, and seeing how the author or subject “creates meaning”. Explications were definitely a tough precipice to scale from the beginning. Expecting a higher grade on my first explication on the poem, “Red Shift”, I was disappointed by the actual score. This motivated me to try harder next time, and indeed, my explications gradually became better and better, culminating in my A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man paper, which is probably my best explication all year. I was surprised and elated to hear Mr. G tell me, “Hey, you did really well on your explication. You could have gotten a higher grade if you wrote more”. Still, not analyzing enough, and thus, perhaps writing too little, is still a problem for me, but I’m working on it. Sometimes, the topic I’m explicating gives me trouble. For instance, to come up with theories as to why Albert Camus created his emotionless character, Meursault, in The Stranger is difficult when the story itself is out of the ordinary and hard to understand. Nevertheless, by frequently writing analytically, I have started applying analysis towards everything to appreciate the world more and for the cool satisfaction of understanding a profound topic.

Then, there were those blogs. Technology and the internet have really progressed greatly in the last several years, and it would be a shame if students did not take advantage of it. I personally found it very helpful to have Mr. G post assignments and resources on the class blog. While reading “Hamlet”, the videos he posted of numerous scenes helped me comprehend the story better. And the posted blog assignments were certainly a nice break from the normal work that’s turned in. But surely the most enjoyable aspects of the blogs were the interactions between the students and Mr. G. I thoroughly enjoyed the mini discussions in the comments, especially the independent reading club discussions. My group’s books, Snow Country and The Sound of Waves really enlightened my knowledge of Japanese culture. My heightened interest in reading the novels aided my ability to talk about them. I found myself spending hours on the blog explaining passages and theories, and presenting outside information that helped us in understanding the depth of the stories. Analyzing the text gradually became second nature to me, and my writing became more interesting and more fluent. It turned out that explicating topics that I was passionate about elicited my true proficiency as a writer.

Although I still don’t write the best essays around, I have noticed great improvements in my writing. Taking English Honors was definitely not a bad idea, because the knowledge and skills that I’ve gained will be an exceptional arsenal for the careers, ordeals, and the general chaos of life that I’ll inevitably encounter. Having Mr. G as my last high school English teacher was the best thing to happen to my academic schedule, and maybe, it’ll have even greater impact on me as I enter college and the real world.

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