When I first walked into English class this year, I was completely unsure of what I would encounter. I was supposed to be enrolled in AP English, but due to a schedule conflict, I decided to take honors. At first, I wasn’t sure if I would be challenged enough, but I turned out to be very, very wrong.
I’ll admit, when we started the year off with “Red Shift,” I got a little worried. I came into the paper about it feeling very confident in my writing but not in my ideas, but despite receiving a high grade, I learned that my analytical writing still needed work. I think I truly found my niche at analytical writing when we wrote the explication of The Stranger. It was easier for me to find the deeper meaning and purpose in the text of a book or novel than in the poem, most likely due to inexperience working with poems. After finishing the Ted Berrigan poem, however, I started to feel slightly more comfortable with poems.
My college essay also proved to be a growing experience. I always thought that nothing remarkable had ever happened to me, that I was just the run-of-the-mill student. But, when I wrote my college essay, I found something inside me that made me different and made me think deeper about myself. It was an honor to write about my cousin and his impact on me, and maybe one day I’ll be brave enough to let him read it.
Then, when we moved on to independent reading, I was so excited to choose a book that interested me. I chose Reading Lolita in Tehran and it had a profound impact on the way I view things. That book took me inside what life is like for the women in Iran, and I gained an appreciation for my own life and my own ability to read and get an education. The assignments that went along with it, namely the creative piece and explication, were some of my best work of the year, and I am very proud of them.
The most difficult, challenging, and thought-provoking unit of the year, by far, was A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. When we first began reading it, I knew that getting through a James Joyce novel would be a feat in itself. Using the dialectical journals seemed to help focus my thoughts, but learning about the criticism also was very useful in analyzing the text (once we understood it). The paper that we wrote for Portrait was the hardest paper I’ve ever written but turned out t be one of the best. Incorporating the feminist criticism and the psychoanalytic criticism was a skill that I had never learned before, but it is something that I can use in the future to write papers in college. As I said on my blog, it was the only paper that I stayed up past 1 a.m. to finish, so I hold it in a special place as a deeply challenging, yet successful, paper.
Hamlet was a welcomed relief, and turned out to be one of my favorite Shakespeare plays. Reading it together in class really helped me get everything out of it that I had hoped. From past Shakespeare experiences, reading it at home and then discussing it in class was the worst method for me, so the fact that we experienced it together as a class really helped me understand to my full potential. My Hamlet notebook was a guiding tool to help me remember what I had read and learned, so I feel as though I got everything out of Hamlet that I could.
Last but not least, the research paper was a great way to learn how to organize, categorize, and compile a successful paper that utilizes a wide variety of sources from different subjects, topics, and mediums. I never thought of myself as much of an art person, but I gained a new appreciation for the work that my artist Vik Muniz does. It doesn’t seem that analyzing art is that different from analyzing text. It’s all about the hidden meaning within and learning to interpret it with evidence. It was the longest paper I’ve ever written, but I found it easier than the Portrait paper because I found my own evidence to fit my original thesis, and that made it a lot easier to process.
Overall, my year in English has been very successful. I’ve been challenged to my fullest extent, and I especially enjoyed doing the work on the blogs. I think it is a very useful tool that classrooms should take advantage of. I will be ale to take all the skills I learned in this class and put them to good use in college. Thanks for a great year, Mr. G!