Reflecting on the Semester- Olivia Ells

“It’s incredible that a sentence is ever understood. Mere sounds strung together by some agent attempting to mean something, but the meaning need not and does not confine itself to that intention.”–Percival Everett, Erasure. Over the course of this last semester I’ve had the pleasure of taking this course and expanding my knowledge of English and how there is so much that goes into writing and even more that goes into understanding the writing. I found myself being able to understand a lot throughout the course but also found myself stuck and confused a majority of the time as well. Not only within the course content but within the course itself. Coming from an education history where I took a course, followed an assignment outline, turned in the assignment and got a grade. The given assignment outline was one of the strictest things I encountered throughout my highschool experience, every rule or expectation was written down for us to follow; from where the heading needed to be to, what font and size font was expected, from what quotes we needed to include. Even how we worded different transitions within our writing. We were given zero creative freedom. Maybe in a way it was easier for our teachers if every paper they read was the same? easier to grade? We never really knew. All we did know was that all of the papers my classmates and I wrote were practically identical to each other. And our creative brains were practically destroyed. But that was what was expected from our teachers. We were applauded for following a standard of rules, for being just like our peers. 

So my first day of this English class was definitely a surprise, having it be a very creative thinking course was definitely a struggle for me for the majority of the semester. Opening up my creative brain again and being able to have creative freedom when it comes to my writing was very exciting but also very nerve wracking. I continued to have anxiety about whether I was doing assignments correctly because Professor McCoy allowed us to write based on our interpretations, but I was also afraid of being wrong. When in reality none of our different interpretations of our readings or the different things we did in class was wrong. It was a big shock that how I used to be taught in highschool was not how this course was going to run. Hearing from Professor McCoy that this would be a self graded course gave me a rush of different feelings, from eagerness, fear, anxiety and even joy. I didn’t know how to do such a thing, it was not in my nature to be able to grade my own work and ability, it was unfamiliar territory and I wasn’t sure how it would go. It was quickly learned that I didn’t have much to worry about as long as I did the readings and taught myself how to really slow down and unpack my different thoughts. The first day of class was a very interesting one, coming in with the impression it would be an essay heavy class but it has been the complete opposite. The first week of class, we looked at a specific epigraph titled “Suspicious Pants”, I think I can speak for the whole class when I say, we were all very puzzled and confused on why we were trying to figure out the meaning behind a random tweet of a pair of pants. As our class groups began talking and unpacking our differing opinions on the epigraph we determined it had a deeper meaning. That meaning being that we all interpret stuff differently. This especially happens in that scenario when a caption is connected to the picture, it makes you see things you might have not necessarily seen without the caption attached. Being able to talk with my group and explain my different thoughts towards this specific epigraph helped a lot with stating the basis of this course. 

Throughout the semester we did a heavy amount of group discussions and collaborations. They really allowed me to unpack my thoughts, slow down my thinking and really explain my thoughts with my classmates about different course topics and pieces of literature written by Percival Everett. Such as “I am not Sidney Poitier”, “re; f (gesture)”, And “The Bacchae.” Learning about Percival Everett was different from anything I have ever done as a student, in college. The complexity of his writing and the meanings behind it made it extremely difficult to understand most of the time. This is where I tie in how the epigraph I chose, “It’s incredible that a sentence is ever understood. Mere sounds strung together by some agent attempting to mean something, but the meaning need not and does not confine itself to that intention.” -Percival Everett, Erasure.”, and how it connects to what we have discussed in class this semester, regarding different pieces of literature. Percival Everett is a great writer and how he shows his thoughts through his writing. He is an even more complex writer, leaving many of his readers stumped or confused about his intentions behind a piece of writing or the meaning behind what he intended for his reader to get out of it. One example I have of this was in the “I am not Sidney Poitier ”, When we find out that the main character’s name is “Not Sidney ”, and he wasn’t saying that his name wasn’t Sidney. Beginning the book, the majority of us were confused at this, we were not sure if it was a double negative or if he was trying to avoid being called Sidney Poitier by those around him because he looked like him, and he wanted to be his own person, but his name is actually “Not Sidney”. This is the best example of how I can tie both “I am not Sidney Poitier ” and the epigraph “It’s incredible that a sentence is ever understood. Mere sounds strung together by some agent attempting to mean something, but the meaning need not and does not confine itself to that intention.” -Percival Everett, Erasure.”. 

This not only relates to some of the literature we have studied in class, but also connects to my growth and time here at Geneseo. I feel as though I am in a boat, at sea trying to figure out which direction is land, Land representing my future degree and field of work. I am lost with no map, or sense of direction, just trying my best to find my way through everything. Trying to find land. This really is the best analogy when it comes to me explaining how I feel here at Geneseo. Yes of course I have wonderful friends that help me through things, but for the most part I’m alone, in my journey. I’m away from home, my family, my boyfriend, everything I have ever known, thrown into this unfamiliar place, trying to find my way. It really is a blessing I’m able to be here, chasing my dreams, and doing what makes me happy, but there are hard parts too. Struggles I have had to overcome, with friendships, classes, health, professors. It is crazy to me that I am still able to stand here at the end of the semester with my head tall, and be able to say that I’ve accomplished what I came here to do. I came here to pursue my dream of becoming a teacher, to make lasting memories and friendships, and to overall pass all of my courses. It has been difficult doing so, due to my health this semester not being the best but I was able to push through and conquer my classes and be able to pass, finally able to say that I did what I needed to do, I accomplished my dreams, and I am one step closer to my dream job. 

This class has been a learning experience, with how much time and effort I was able to put into everything, from group discussions, to reading our different pieces of literature, to participating in group projects and essays. Such as the Nun-sense Collaboration, the Bacchae Let’s Collab! Reflection!, and even through the Assignment Care for My Growth Check-in. I have learned a lot, the main thing being; to slow down and take care of my reader, through my writing. To make sure that I give enough detail and light to what I am saying so they are left with no unanswered questions. This has been a tough thing for me to do this semester, because of what I mentioned earlier about my previous education experiences with not being able to use my creative brain, and I am proud to say that I think I finally have the hang of it. Unpacking my thoughts and slowing down has been one of the biggest things I’ve gotten out of this course and I really look forward to being able to put that knowledge and practice into my future endeavors. 

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