Lessons Learned

janko-ferlic-174927.jpgPhotograph by Janko Ferlic

As the school year comes to an end, the time to reflect and evaluate comes near. Every year I often ask myself, “What have I learned this year? Did I improve in any way?” And every year the answer always changes. But I know, for a fact, that this year has been the year I have changed the most, learned the most, and definitely improved the most.

Being able to practice my writing and reading skills have really opened my eyes to what I need to work on in my AP Language/Comp class. Taking time to actually write something I’m proud about and getting detailed feedback allowed for me to see all the little parts in my writing that I did well on and that I could’ve done differently. Having Mr. Z actually read through my essay and makes notes, something most English teachers wouldn’t have done, made me feel as though my writing was actually a piece of art, something with worth and something that people wanted to read. I loved seeing comments on my sentence structure and questions asking what my goal of the paragraph was, especially in my argumentative and description essays. Because to me, that meant that someone actually cared about my writing; it wasn’t just another addition to my teacher’s butt load of essays to grade.


My descriptive essay with revision edits by Mr.Z


My greatest area of improvement has got to be in my descriptive writing. I learned how important the explanation of every detail while describing the subject is, and how you describe it can really make or break your writing. I didn’t know that what I thought to be descriptive writing was actually vague and confusing – I often assumed the reader had known things I haven’t even mentioned. With that in mind, my writing became more colorful and detailed, I always remember to describe my subject as though the reader has never even heard of it.

In class, we generated questions based off the classic The Catcher in the Rye:

How do words connect people?

Thinking about it, words seems to hold a great deal of power. They tell us about someone’s personality, someone’s manners, someone’s story.  In this way, words connect us to the people around us by communicating our emotions and expressions, and by telling the receiving person the thoughts stored in our messy brains. Catcher in the Rye proves just that – Holden is a socially awkward person and finds it hard to hold a decent conversation with most people. However, as Holden acts as the narrator for the novel, he often exaggerates his story to his liking, causing his reliability to be doubted. The only way we could’ve inferred this was through his actions and word choice.

Much like in reality, word choice plays a huge role, again demonstrating to power of words.

My strengths as a writer are definitely that I can make my work flow. You can never spot an awkward sentence or choppy paragraphs – my writing will always seem to flow smoothly. However, the smoothness doesn’t make up for my lack of details and diction. I discovered this year that although my writing may seem smooth and professional, its content remains boring and vague – rendering my work pretty much terrible. But that’s a good thing, because I’ve come to understand that and it has made my writing that much better. Using compelling words and unique verbs really create a hook, while adding extensive adjectives to take my writing to that next level has made me feel more confident and powerful when writing.

One thing I do regret from my experience in the class is not diving deeper into my reading. As a class, we read the classics The Great Gatsby, Grapes of Wrath, and Catcher in the Rye. However, I treated reading such legendary novels as a chore, a task I needed to finish before I could go to sleep. I thoroughly enjoyed The Great Gatsby and read every single chapter with my heart and soul. Perhaps it is because it was the first classic we read that I tried so hard, and that we would have our first few reading checks imputed into our grades. I loved the romance especially between Daisy and Nick, and the series of drama that unfold. Not only am I in love with the plot, but I also loved the whole flapper 1920s vibe that was going on.

Now with Grapes of Wrath, we read at the beginning of the second semester, which meant I had a bunch of work coming in from other classes as well. I usually put reading to the end of my homework schedule, therefore, I was beat by the time I had to read. Often at times I would skim the novel and read cliff notes. Don’t get me wrong though, I attempted to read the novel’s first few chapters. It moved way to slow for me, without an action packed plot, so reading it only made my eyelids heavier.I wish that I would have endured the beginning a bit more and pushed through to the middle and end, where the plot starts to unfold. I probably would’ve enjoyed it more then.

Catcher in the Rye was definitely something else. I loved the book, its style of writing, humor, and crafty plot line really interested me and kept me hooked. I loved the author and his imperfections, reminding me that we are all human. For this classic, I have the most regrets. Even though I fell in love with the novel and its author, I just couldn’t organize my homework schedule. I ended up pushing it to meet last minute reading deadlines, forcing me to skim the plot in hopes of understanding the chapter within a minute. I began to lose motivation to do school work as well, something I guess you may call “junioritis”. If I get the chance to, I hope to reread it and really take my time to understand and indulge myself in the book.

Word Count: 1011


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