It was the classic school situation. Some overworked student would always wait until the last minute to complete their English essay. However, at the last minute the assignment would be due in half an hour, and what teacher would encourage such flagrant procrastination by helping a student then? So who would the student turn to? Even under these circumstances, I was proud to be one of the “go-to” persons that people called upon for help editing their essays at the last minute.
Helping my peers get better grades in English lifted my own confidence in the subject. However, I had no idea that a strong dose of reality was coming my way to put an end to that silly idea, and it was in the form of AP English exams. Even though I studied, practiced, and gave the exams my best shot, I still ended up doing poorly on both the AP English Language and Composition and AP English Literature and Composition exams. The people I used to revise essays for were getting better scores than me. The whole situation made me wonder what I was doing wrong and damaged my confidence not just in writing, but my whole future. Our school didn’t have a strong science program and calculus was always just a bit out of reach for me. Therefore, I always accepted that math and science weren’t my thing, because English was my domain where I could never go wrong. But now that the unthinkable had happened and things had gone wrong, I didn’t have a plan. And so, while everyone else was so excited for college, I was terrified of the idea that I might fail and had lost confidence in my abilities as a writer.
Now at the end of UWP, my outlook on my English writing skills have improved significantly. The most dramatic areas of improvement include my writing process and usage of grammatical and rhetorical techniques. My old process consisted of simply writing the essay as quickly as possible in one sitting, and never looking at it again unless I was looking at a final score. However, one of the core aspects of UWP is revising and editing through peer workshops. This was a surprise to me because at my high school there were so many students and so little time to prepare for the AP tests that the teacher never really had time to offer individualized help. It was this eye-opening experience made me aware of my own writing habits and style. At first, it was difficult for me knowing that I kept making the same small mistakes over and over again and that they were keeping my writing from getting a higher grade. I was disappointed in myself that I couldn’t just stop the bad habit. However, it was this frustrating process that taught me that it’s perfectly normal for the first draft to have a lot of errors because it is the origin for the most ideas. The process continued by using those ideas to drive the discussion with my editors who would then provide feedback and show me how to polish the essay. In addition, reading the essays of others would give me more practice on how to revise my own essay for large and small errors. In this way, as my skills improved, so did my essay.
The class also helped me to improve on using grammatical and rhetorical techniques by completing the Language Development Project entries. Completing the entries and working through the textbook was very difficult. The lessons were incredibly specific and there was no way that I could get through them without fully understanding the topic. However, the amount of work required for the project forced me to go through the topics thoroughly; even the ones that I thought I had mastered. An example of this occurred in completing Tutorial 12 for accurate word choice and its dependence on an essay’s genre. Before I completed the tutorial, I thought that my word choices were appropriate. After completing the Apply section, I realized my writing needed a lot of improvements in word choice. In addition, working through the tutorials refreshed the topics in my head. As a result, I’ve noticed my essays possess more cohesion, smoother transitions, correct punctuation, and are simpler to understand.
The most important lesson this class taught me wasn’t a writing style or special rule to writing sparkling essays, but that there is always room for improvement. Finally, I understand that there is no best essay. As times change, so do the standards of a great essay. With this in mind, the most realistic goal I can have is to keep improving my style of writing and following those standards. As long as I stick to that goal, I will always have confidence in my skills as a writer.
Class of 2018