Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Syllabus week.

Welcome to syllabus week: the few days that mark the transition between the relaxed days of summer and the strenuous days of fall semester. A combination of angst over homework and exams, and excitement to reunite with college friends overwhelms the student body on that first Monday morning trek to class. I think teachers are generally more opposed to ending their summers, because unlike students, they don’t have the opportunity to enjoy the exhilarating feeling of being surprised by a professor with an unanticipated “No Quiz Friday” policy or unexpectedly sitting next to a friend they haven’t seen in three months. (Not to mention it isn’t socially acceptable for them to take advantage of the $2 Pitcher Tuesdays when the school year starts up again.) No, teachers are bummed to start work up again. In fact, I’m pretty sure they gather at some sort of teaching anxiety intervention the day before classes start up and swap strategies to make the first class as easy (for them) as possible. It probably goes a little something like this: 

-“Well first let’s read off the attendance sheet and not look at their faces.”

--“Yes, good idea! This way we can take another half hour our of class time later in the week to actually learn their names.”

-“Let’s all print out our policies and hand them out to the students, then read it to them word for word as if they are illiterate third year students. And for homework let’s make them write an autobiography.”

Cue syllabus week.

As a junior (?!) now at the University of Maryland, this is my fifth syllabus week, and as it goes, probably my fifth “autobiography” or “introduction”, or my personal favorite, “self-reflection.” I like to give credit where it is due - so bravo, teachers, for at least having some variation in the assignment’s title. 

Don’t get me wrong, I really don’t mind these self-reflection papers. They’re short and easy (who doesn’t love writing about themselves?) and if they actually do facilitate the professors in creating a more personal bond with their students, I’m all for it! 
My first class of Junior year I was assigned an “Introduction” by my “Professional Writing” professor, Mark Forrester. The guidelines included six points focusing on writing, with an extra emphasis on the role writing has in making you who you are. 

Here goes nothing....

The question “Who am I?” is one that has been haunting me for over three years now; from the times of plaguing college application essays, to now, a junior in college, contemplating my fifth-semester-version of a self-reflection. My professors might categorize me as respectful, while my parents refer to me as their “absent minded professor.” To my boyfriend, I’m a nerd because I like to read. And to my friends, I’m loud and high maintenance. In my own eyes, I’m a walking conundrum. I am an elementary education major with a concentration in literature and a minor in human development; I would rather write creatively than read literature and sometimes I wish I was learning Spanish as opposed to teaching English. I am twenty years old, a Junior in college but I wish I could revert back a decade to pre-junior high school. Although I absolutely love my classes as an Education Major, I have fears for post-graduation. I think people expect me to hold strong opinions as a future teacher, but I don’t. I would much rather hear everyone else’s opinion in the world before voicing my own when it comes to important issues. I guess you could call me a good listener. Or maybe I just have a yearning for learning. I am extremely indecisive. Ergo, here I am after three years and I still can not decide “who I am.” 

Yes, I like to read. I like reading trashy magazines on the beach, juicy teenage drama novels before I fall asleep, and I love reading the classics over and over again once I’ve discovered them. To Kill A Mocking Bird is my favorite book of all time, I think I’ve read it five times. I want to name my next dog Atticus Finch (maybe I should adopt an older dog, one who is smarter and braver than the others.) I will admit that it is hard for me to pick up a classic novel when a popular vampire saga sits beside it; however once I delve into thematic issues and symbology of the text I want to read it and discuss it with anyone that will listen. (Now do you see why my boyfriend calls me a nerd?) Right now I am reading Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility,” although it is taking me a while to get through due to the fact that my new journalism teacher is forcing me to read newspaperS daily. Most newspapers bore me.... If the New York Times was one giant tabloid I think I'd be better off. At least I'll feel like a better citizen after this class is over.
My weakness to writing is my attention span; I fall victim to multitasking and sometimes the three conversations I am having over my favorite television show distract me from writing a conclusion. I also find weakness in properly researching my academic papers; I wish I could just write without interruption of hidden fact in need of being found. A creative writing workshop I took last semester helped me immensely because I was able to “find my voice” in my writing. However, this is also another downfall because now I can’t seem to get rid of this newfound voice when it is inappropriate (like this essay for example?). 

Like the rest of my classmates, I have written countless academic essays. This past semester I added poetry to my repertoire, and I aspire one day to publish a poem, short story, or maybe even a series of dramas for young readers. This summer I began a blog while I studied abroad in Spain to stay connected my friends and family, and now the blog has continued post-return to the United States. I will admit that writing the blog has been advantageous in discovering who I truly am. I can now add to my list of contradictions - I mean characteristics - that I love to travel (but I wish I had someone to carry my suitcases), trying new things excites me despite what my 20 comfortable years in Edison, New Jersey lead me to believe, and although I love being surrounded by the beautiful people in my life I am much more of an individualist than I gave myself credit for.

The English teacher in me wants to conclude this essay by tying together all points presented into one succinct conclusion paragraph; but I will refrain from doing so as I know this is the beginning of a long semester fighting the urge to write the infamous “Five Paragraph Essay.” However, what I will say is this: as a student and future teacher I hope this writing course will teach me discipline in the writing field not only for my profession but also for my passion. 

Three days in, five syllabi read aloud, one self-reflection down....I think Syllabus Week has finally come to an end. 
And so begins fall semester as a Junior...wish me luck!

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