3 December 2015
The majority of the work I have done in EN-103 has been writing essays based on research and my own experiences. In previous classes, most of my time was spent reading texts and analyzing their significance. This course required me to write about what I believed to be significant. I also learned about many research resources available through the libraries that were not available to me in high school. I can access the library’s online databases and even contact professors that are experts in certain fields. The assignments I submitted for this course were also greatly improved by outside input. Most of my essays were peer-reviewed, and I used the Writing Center to improve my final paper. The topics I explored were all related to empathy and the environment. These two subjects led me to think about the relationships people have with both each other and nature. My experiences in EN-103 taught me how to write relevant essays, use research resources available to me, and receive outside opinions on my essays.
This course challenged me to write essays that I felt were significant. In high school, I wrote papers analyzing what authors of certain texts were trying to say. I was required to use academic databases to explore what other people saw in books, rather than provide my own opinion. My teachers told me that authors in the database were qualified to give an opinion and I was not. The essays I wrote reflected the beliefs of other people more than my own thoughts. In this class, my teacher really seemed to want to know what I thought. Assignments like the eco-literacy narrative and textual analysis required no research. The narrative was actually about my own experience learning about nature. The textual analysis gave me the freedom to choose any text and decide for myself what it was saying. I was even allowed to interview myself for a community profile. These papers forced me to think about why the subject matter was important to myself and others. My narrative and textual analysis papers were important because they made me think about the relationship between mankind and nature. The significance of my writing about Netflix was much more difficult for me to determine. The popularity of Netflix made it clear that the service was relevant, but I struggled to decide how the online streaming service was affecting people’s lives. I eventually realized that the use of Netflix encouraged people to spend more time alone than is healthy. This realization helped me see that it was important for people avoid Netflix and pursue healthy social activities instead.
This semester, I also learned how to perform research for assignments. My class met with a librarian who taught us how to use Scout, a tool that makes it easier to browse online databases. She taught me how to limit the search parameters to find credible sources that were relevant to the topic I was researching. I also learned about seeking out information outside online databases. My teacher showed me how to contact professors through their department directories online. I reached out to multiple people that were willing to help me, but none of these professors were really experts on Netflix. I actually profiled myself for my assignment, but I still learned how to reach out to strangers. I found most of my sources by using Scout and I will continue to use Scout to research topics for other classes.
This class showed me that it is important to receive feedback from others before submitting a major assignment. My high school teachers rarely required assignments to be peer-reviewed and I never voluntarily asked anyone to read my papers. In EN-103, all of my essays were peer-reviewed. My classmates were able to identify awkwardly worded sentences and occasional grammar errors. The changes my peers suggested helped improve the flow of my writing. I received even more helpful insight when I visited The Writing Center. The man I made my appointment with read my entire paper to me aloud. This helped me identify which parts of my argument needed to be improved. He also helped provide ideas for additional content in my body paragraphs. If visiting the Writing Center and receiving peer-reviews had not been required for the course I would not have realized how helpful they could be for me in the future.
I wrote my assignments this semester with the themes of empathy and the environment in mind. My teacher assigned readings from Leslie Jamison’s The Empathy Exams. These essays explored the idea of empathy through anecdotes detailing the author’s interactions with people. Empathy involves understanding the feelings and thoughts of another person. The environment can be thought of as nature or the surroundings around an individual. In my narrative essay, I described my experiences learning about nature. My early teachers encouraged me to learn about nature, but teachers in later years expressed indifference toward environmental issues. My textual analysis essay also explored the theme of the environment. I compared the relationship between Saruman and the Fangorn Forest to the relationship between mankind and nature. Saruman began to destroy the forest when he needed fuel for his factories, just as humanity began to destroy nature when people needed fuel and land. My exploratory report and argument research paper focused on how Netflix influences social interactions. Netflix discourages social interaction and promotes an environment of isolation. Television also encourages shallow conversations that make it difficult to learn enough about someone to feel empathy towards each other.
This course has helped improve my writing for future college courses. I learned to consider why a topic is worth writing about before I begin writing my papers. The Writing Center is a resource that I would not have seen the benefits of if making an appointment was not required. I was unused to writing papers that were not about texts and this course helped me learn how to write with fewer guidelines and restrictions. I am glad I had the opportunity to learn more about writing essays in college before I had any major writing assignments in courses outside of English.