Monday, October 6, 2008

What I Learned in Professor Coffman’s ENG101-INT Class

Wednesday, May 14, 2008
10:27:29 PM CDT
Feeling Quiet
Hearing I swear I know this movie by heart!
Mel's English Class

What I Learned in Professor Coffman’s ENG101-INT Class

English was never a difficult subject for me in high school – don’t ask me why, to this day I could barely tell you the difference between an adjective and an adverb – but I effortlessly seemed to excel in the subject. I can only reason that it must have been a gift from the good Lord above.

As a college student, I reckoned that the time had come to pay my dues to the English department. Now I was prepared to be a “student”, to learn the ways of the literature masters and apply my knowledge and love of reading and writing to the task. Perhaps now I would finally learn how to appropriately utilize an action verb in a sentence. A month into the semester, I was wondering what the heck I was doing in this class and what I was going to get out of it. What I expected was a lot of reading of classic literature and essays attached to each one; detailed analysis of published works, lots of long lectures regarding the works of Twain or Dickens and dry diatribes of Poe’s poetry and their effects on American literature. Instead, I found myself in a position of self analysis and working harder for an answer to my limitless questions than I had ever had before. Not only was I expected to do the work; I was expected to know how to do the work – and better my skills with each passing assignment.

Oftentimes I found myself extremely irate that I couldn’t just get a simple answer. “Why can’t he just answer me?” or “why can’t he provide a little more clarification to this assignment?” was often heard cursing from my lips by the spectators of my plight. Anger propelled me to look beyond. I wasn’t about to accept a bad grade and I was determined to do whatever was necessary to ensure this fate didn’t befall my college transcriptions. I began looking outside the box for answers; asking questions from those far more experienced than I, utilizing the internet for answers they didn’t have, and stumbling through large publications on writing and literature. In doing so, I learned far more about my writing skills than I would have if I had spent listless hours examining the work of the Dead Poets Society. I learned quite a lot about myself and my writing style and I worked my carcass off to get there. Perhaps that was the professor’s goal to begin with.

Looking back on all the assignments I had completed for this class I see consistent growth in my work. Much like a baby who finally discovers he can walk without his mother’s hand, I began to see clarification and distinction within each written assignment. Particularly useful was our assignment on rhetoric analysis. At first I found no common sense reason why it was necessary to count each syllable, each word and each sentence in a paragraph until I applied my “white and nerdy” knowledge to the assignment and set it onto graph format. Suddenly, I discovered there was a rhyme. There was a reason and there was a lesson to be learnt. All of the things we were introduced to in the beginning of the semester started making sense; clarifying written work, replacing vague words with specific, invigorating the piece to retain audience attention, structuring the sentences to communicate the specific and poeticize the piece to establish a fluidity of thought - everything my work was lacking.

If it was my goal to improve on my writing skills, then in all honesty I can say that I’ve met that challenge. It did not come easy, but then again, most lessons in life don’t. I know I have to focus a lot more attention on my writing patterns, but at least I can now progress with confidence in a strong foundation of CRISP.

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