A Few Hellish Reflections on English 101

Dear Uncle Satan,

     As you know, I went back to college this quarter in the hopes of getting a degree to change career paths. Career paths! That’s a joke, I wasn’t on a path to begin with.  I was just tired of doing jobs I didn’t care about while writing in my spare time and hoping someday to have something accomplished. Due to a difficult year of no employment, I decided to get a degree in Web Design. I would learn something I liked while also gaining some skills I could use to make good money.

     The first class I enrolled in was English 101. It fulfills the minimum general education requirement that my degree calls for. Of course, I’m  already a writer, so that makes this class a natural and easy decision for me. When I showed up for class on that first day about a month and a half ago now, I was so excited I had to contain myself so I wouldn’t outtalk the instructor.

    Oh, Uncle Satan, you would have loved Jen! Jennifer Whetham was the instructor for this class and she is so dynamic and engaging it was like love at first sight. I missed being inspired by a great teacher, and in a rush she made it all come back to me. Immediately, we did a freewrite about a time when we learned something deeply. She turned out the lights in the classroom which created a more intimate setting. I partly expected her to start passing around wine and small plates of gourmet foods! Once we had written for a while, we got into small groups and shared our stories. Then, we told the class about the overall themes that each of our stories shared. It was an incredible first class period.

     Jen also told us we would create a blogpage on the web and post blogs every week. I think most of us gasped at that. I actually had severe misgivings about the blogs. Which, of course, I blogged about. And as soon as I put up my page and posted the first real blog, I was hooked on it. I’ve actually posted double the number of blogs that are required for this course, but it’s just too much fun for me to resist.  Now I wonder why every english teacher isn’t making their students do blogs. In today’s world of writing, it seems to me that everyone and their dog should have a blog. It encourages you to develop a free tone with your writing that you just can’t do anywhere else. I absolutely love the blogging and am so sad I came to it this late. I should have been blogging for years!

     Now comes the bittersweet part of my tale. Just a few weeks into the quarter, Jen informed us that she would be leaving. Like, now. And with that, she was gone in the same rush with which she had entered our lives. I thought at first that her leaving would be devastating. I mean, she was such an inspiration to us! More than a handful of the people in this class actually rate her as the best teacher they’ve ever had and we only knew her a few weeks! We might have known something was up when she went to a conference in our second week of class.

     When Jen left, the substitute Meredith took over. Mostly, she continued the same lesson arc that we were doing while putting her own stamp on it. Meredith is a bit more quiet and serious  than Jen was and that may have caused some people to have less enthusiasm for the class. To me, though, it’s all about me. What you put into a
course is what you’re going to get out of it. The teacher is almost incidental to that process. A terrible teacher has certainly derailed me a time or two in the past. But I was a lot younger then.  Now I realize that, ultimately, it’s all about the student. That is, me me me ME!

     Meredith had to follow a tough act in Jen. The transition was a little rough at times. But I really appreciate her thoughtful and insightful approach to writing. Her focus has been more on the analytical side of writing, which probably better prepares students for writing in the real world. You can tell she loves her subject and is passionate about it  but she has a quieter approach than Jen did, which was a shock to some of the class who liked when Jen pounded on their desk or yelled at them.

      Far from being devastating, the fact that we got to hear two divergent voices really helped us grow in our divergent thinking. This class was all about applying our critical thinking skills to reading and writing. Not new to me, but it was fun watching some of the young kids doing this for the first time. Their brains were swirling with so much new stuff I swear their heads were making noise. Weird analogy, but you love the freaky shit, Uncle Satan, so you’re welcome. So, as it turned out, switching teachers mid-quarter was actually a unique and interesting process. Both were good in their own way and I think we’re all the better for it.

     In the end, I’m so glad I took this particular class, at this particular time, and with these particular people. I’ve made a few good friends in this class and really enjoyed myself. I think the blogs have improved me as a writer and I intend to continue them on my own. They really serve to keep your edge sharp for your more serious writing. The choice of essays, the narrative of education and the inquiry into America’s current condition were very different, which was the point of the class. Many of us, including me, were out of our comfort zone on that research paper in particular, and that’s a good thing. Never stop growing.

     Thanks for being there for me, Uncle Satan. Hope to see you soon. (But not too soon.)

     Your nephew,

     Dylan

1020 words; 9:45 AM; 8/23/13

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One thought on “A Few Hellish Reflections on English 101

  1. Hilarious, Dylan. I did not realize you were related to Satan! Thanks for speaking kindly of me to him. Might keep him off my back for a few days so I can take a nap or do a little gardening. 🙂 Glad you got so much out of this class and were able to see the difficult transition in such a positive light. Wait. Are you sure you’re related to Satan?!

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