Throughout my prior years of education, I was always interested in English courses. My interest was first sparked in fifth grade when we were given a formula for constructing paragraphs. We would restate the question as the introductory sentence, write three details using evidence, then restate the first sentence as the concluding statement. I was able to breeze through copious amounts of paragraphs and ace every single one of them. I followed similar variations of this writing formula for many years after my fifth-grade class. I absolutely loved being able to follow the same formula for each of my different writing pieces. Once I reached my senior year of high school, I realized I wouldn’t be able to write that way forever. I started engaging with literary works that had deeper meanings within them than what was only on the surface. My reading and writing skills reflected each other too much at this point. My writing was simplistic because my reading levels were too simple. I only figured this out last year, and never received a chance to change myself because we didn’t engage with many difficult literary works within my senior year English class.
When I was picking my classes at orientation in July, I was not thinking about the specifics of the classes. I was filled with nerves and choosing whatever class the advisor was recommending to me. One of the classes that caught my attention was English 203. It dealt with a specific author, Percival Everett, and I thought it would be interesting to spend the semester reading texts from only one author. I thought all of the texts would be similar and I would breeze through the semester. I was very wrong.
Upon my entrance into my first year of college, I had expectations of the English classes being somewhat easy because I had already taken college-level English classes in high school. I knew it would probably be a little more difficult than high school, but I never thought it would be to the extent of English 203. The first aspect of the class that lead me to believe it would be much different from my previous years of English study was the blog post assignment. We were given the whole semester to craft ten blog posts and post them onto a blog forum filled with other students in the class. We were given the freedom to choose topics and write about them using concepts and texts from class. This freedom was so different than any other assignment I had received before college. Another aspect of the class that surprised me greatly was the level of discussion among the class. I came into college expecting lectures, but this class was much different. During one of our first class periods of the year, we viewed a tweet and were asked to have a discussion. The tweet depicted the back of a pair of pants that appeared to look like a face. The face appeared to have an expression of suspicion. All of the peer groups within the class then began speaking aloud what they thought the meaning of the tweet was. My group thought the pants were suspicious, and we stated this out loud to the class. Beth then asked, if the pants were suspicious themselves, or are the pants suspicious of the person looking at the tweet. This was one of the first questions asked within the class that really inspired me to start thinkING. I knew texts, pictures, or anything could have more than one meaning, but I never took it upon myself to question those other meanings. As I stated throughout several of my blog posts, I used to always view things for how they appeared on the surface. I would no longer be able to do this in English 203.
As we began dealing with text by Percival Everett, I remained mostly confused. The Bacchae was my biggest struggle of the semester. I have very little knowledge regarding Greek mythology, so when I began reading the book, I had no idea what was going on. I had to do quite a bit of research regarding the topics in the book to grasp the meaning of the text. When the class began discussing deeper meanings within the text, I was completely lost. Looking back at the “suspicious pants” tweet, I knew everything contained different meanings. A reader can only find and understand the meanings if they understand what is given on the surface. If one couldn’t see a face within the picture of the pants, then they wouldn’t understand why people claimed they were suspicious. I didn’t understand The Bacchae on the surface, so I struggled very much with discussions regarding the deeper meanings. Though, discussions did aid heavily in my understanding of this text and other texts. One class, in the early period of reading the text, the class broke down sections of the reading and deciphered what happened. I was able to see other peoples’ perspectives to aid in developing my own. Different perspectives give a text more meanings than one person can see on their own. Someone can view something completely different than someone else. Thinking back to the “suspicious pants” helped me realize this throughout the semester.
The novel that solidified my goal for English 203 was I am Not Sidney Poitier by Percival Everett. We were introduced to the novel by watching one of Sidney Poitier’s films, so the only information I had going into the book was that Sidney Poitier was a black actor in the 1960s. The novel told the story of a boy growing up with the name “Not Sidney Poitier”. He is given a label at birth that he has to constantly explain to others throughout his life. When I first began reading the novel, I did not see it as a struggle with identity. I viewed the novel as a life story of a boy with a bizarre name. I didn’t think there was an underlying message or deeper meaning throughout the text. My opinion changed drastically during a discussion in class. Amanda and I were talking about the beginning of the book and I made a comment that the book wasn’t deep. Amanda agreed with me and we continued discussing the book. Beth overheard me make this statement and told me this book will be one of the deepest I will ever read. I was in utter disbelief. How could a book that appears so simple on the surface be one of the deepest books I will ever read? I continued reading the book with a more open mind and realized the novel was the deepest I had ever read. The meaning I ended up taking away from the book is a message Percival Everett often preaches. Identity shouldn’t be based on a label or a categorization. At the end of the novel, Not Sidney states, “I am not myself today”(234)after attending an award ceremony and allowing others to assume that he was Sidney Poitier. He no longer believes that his name represents who he is on the inside. He chooses to be who he wants to be regardless of his label. If I had never changed my perspective on the book, I wouldn’t have understood the ending.
This class helped me to discover a new way of reading. Nothing has only one meaning. The “suspicious pants” aided me in understanding that not everyone has the same perspective. Different perspectives aid the reader in finding a deeper meaning within texts. Discussion helps a reader see the different sides of a text and unlock concepts they might not have seen while only reading through their perspective. I will now read with an open mind and listen to people around me to help with my thinkING.