So approximately 180 days multiplied by about 1 hour is how long I’ve spent in Ziebarth’s AP language and composition class. Some days I was fully attentive and other days I (to be honest)was daydreaming. This was a class I loved going to because of the people in it and the teacher plus his great music taste so I didn’t mind when bands like Pink Floyd, King Krule, or Courtney Barnett was being blasted. When I look back on my time spent I would say that I have changed as a person which inadvertently influenced my writing style because of my ever changing perception of the world, or maybe it was the other way around. In the beginning of the year, if I wrote a simple sentence in an essay I would consider my act as inhumane to all my past English teachers. Early in the year, Ziebarth made us discuss aspects of a good essay, of course we answered with “5 paragraphs, a hook, a thesis, 3 main arguments, a rebuttal, conclusion” and all the little technicalities we were designed to believe were essential. I’ve been writing the unoriginally-formatted-essay since I was in 4th grade. My idea of an essay was comparable to parts of a mechanical clock, every little piece had a specific spot to go and only that spot or else the clock wouldn’t work in the end. After reading the book House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros was what really changed what I thought about essays. (I know we read a specific essay called essay about how essays weren’t about rigid structure, but this book made a bigger impression) It was a short book, with short sentences, and short chapters, but she always had concrete descriptions which never made the book seem lacking in any way. I don’t know what ever made me think that an excellent book had to be about the most difficult concepts or use the highest vocabulary that we don’t even use in our vernacular language, but that’s what I assumed. So this book helped open the idea that I don’t need to follow any rigid formula for a great essay or book because the point of writing is to make people understand a whole new perspective (that’s why they say people who read more are more empathetic).
Something that I’ve learned about reading various novels is that there’s always a side to a story we never hear. In fact, I think this is the most interdisciplinary realization I’ve come to this school year. In Great Gatsby I hated Daisy with a passion, I thought her mere existence was why the novel ended poorly for the characters. But then readers including myself had to realize that it wasn’t Daisy but instead Gatsby’s unrealistic expectations. I had to actively seek and understand Daisy’s perspective in order to justly make my opinion about her because the book had an underlying bias since the narrator himself sided with Gatsby. This idea is especially applicable to history and world events. My history textbook talks about how 60,000 soldier lives were lost during the Vietnam war and how the U.S. accepted the most Vietnamese immigrants, but it never mentions the 2.2 million Vietnamese civilian lives that were lost or the subsequent racism immigrants faced after coming here to seek refuge. It talks about Pearl Harbor for 30 pages and discusses the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings for 2 paragraphs. It talks about the 3,000 Americans killed on 9/11 but never the 110,000 civilians killed in the succeeding Afghanistan War alone. It’s my environmental science textbook telling us about China’s pollution problem but dismissing the fact that we shipped all our manufacturing over there or Indonesia’s rainforest alarming rate of deforestation from palm oil farms without mentioning the U.S. is the biggest buyer of palm oil. It talks about the top ten world problems according to the U.N. but forgets to mention the reason that why most of these problems exist in Africa: colonization and exploitation of their resources for coffee, minerals, cotton, and using the continent as an e-waste landfill. Not until this year did I start to question the news. I used to just be a recipient of any information thrown at me and therefore adopt the opinions that the media instilled in its viewers. But if humans just keep living like that, there is no chance for empathy and no way that we’ll ever be able to coexist.
Some class assignments that also helped me grow as a writer or overall being is the composition book. I thought it was kind of silly to document my thoughts about English class especially since it resembled a diary. But in the very beginning of school we did a post on twitter about “Why I write” and I specifically said “I write to record how my thoughts and perceptions have grown” and that’s exactly what I did with the composition book.
Similar to blog posts, I had an informal outlet where I could express basically anything I wanted to without the pressure of writing well 24/7. I think the best part of this class was teaching me to enjoy writing because it was about improving myself more than anything else, I got to develop my own ideas and my own voice. If I read my first blog posts, oh boy those are insanely cringey and angsty, but that’s alright with me because that’s how I perceived the world in that moment. That’s the same way Holden is when he talks about his life in Catcher in the Rye. Just to point out the obvious, when he says “it kills me” or “it’s depressing (or sad)” he explicitly tells readers how he feels. I think what Holden struggles with most is that he believes he is very observant and no one else cares to be so they are automatically phonies; he likes to observe Jane playing checkers, or how people tie their roller skates, or how Phoebe sleeps but he’s never met anyone else that is the same (as far as we know from his narration). A lack of understanding is what pushes Holden to his brink of his unrelatable sadness. But there are moments when he himself commits crimes of insincerity that he despises like being a bad listener while Phoebe talks about her play: “I listened, and I heard something, but it wasn’t much. “Good” I said. Then I went out to the living room” (page 174). The way he acts reflects his relationship with everyone he meets, he complains about others but fails to reciprocate the sincerity he wishes to receive.
A few things I still need to work on after this whole year is 1. Concrete descriptions and 2. Staying focused (you can probably see from the last paragraph + I had trouble incorporating the class question) but anyways I think this class has helped me most with my persistence to understand as many perspectives as I can and I’m grateful that it did because it has added to my character development and probably (subconsciously) improved my relationships with the people around me.
Peace out, junior year.