Dear Portfolio Assessment Committee,
As I arrived to my first college class, for scary, albeit brief moments, I felt vastly unprepared and prayed that although the class was English 181, the professor would not be speaking a different language. All throughout my academic career to that point, it had been made explicitly clear that English class at college was composed of long essays, complicated readings, and late nights at the library, and thus I found my seat with my head held low (not an easy accomplishment in a full classroom).
However, when Professor Taneja gave instructions on the first assignment, to define the term “genre,” I caught myself wondering if maybe, just maybe I was wrong as my fingers effortlessly caressed my keyboard until a paragraph or two appeared on my laptop screen. Yet, it was not until she discussed the question and the many implications of the term, making my response look like I was very much still in high school, did I realize what this class would really be about. Sure, papers would be involved, but the word limits would not define English 181. Rather, it was about personal development; specifically, in rhetoric analysis, critical thinking, and writing as a process.
With no prior experience, my use of rhetoric at the beginning of the semester was non-existent. I did not write differently depending on my audience, nor did I focus on my ethos, pathos, and logos, and so forth. Parallelly, it was difficult for me to examine the rhetoric of the texts we read. The discussion of our textbook, Understanding Rhetoric, directly correlated with my growing comprehension of the matter. As we practiced rhetoric analyzing skills during in-class activities and outside readings and blog posts, my confidence grew exponentially.
The progress I made is evident in Bloody Sunday: Widgery Report. The lengthy piece was confusing to decipher at first, but upon breaking it down into different rhetoric sections, everything became much clearer. I was able to reveal the bias in the report by discussing the author’s background and its relationship with the very audience the text was purposed for. Likewise, I examined the audience in my piece on Borders: Rhetoric Diversity, in which I state: “The topic of borders is often a hard one to discuss. When writing about this disputed issue, the most essential aspect to consider is the audience,” and then go on to discuss how the U.S.-Mexico border is looked at differently depending on what side the viewer in on.
Along with rhetoric awareness, I demonstrated critical thinking and reading in Literary Analysis of Borderlands. One of my better pieces, I critically analyzed the novel by Gloria Anzaldúa, specifically her use of both English and Spanish. I have little doubt before this class I would have thought that aspect held little value; instead, it jumped off the page at me as essential to understanding the purpose of her book. In the blog post, I write “The combination of English and Spanish language strengthens Anzaldúa’s voice and ethos. . . Exhibiting her true self against popular sentiment creates an authentic parallel between her life and Borderlands, making the novel an extension of herself.” This paper in particular displays my ability to craft an argument. I was surprised to find that writing about the novel actually helped my perception of the book. This is a valuable realization; one I can exploit for future readings.
Without a doubt, the most essential skill this class has helped me with is learning that writing is a process, and an often long and grueling one at that. Through the first few blog posts and papers, I did not bother with a rough draft or seeking reviews (professor or peer) as I naively thought that as long as grammar and spelling were checked, there was no need for any other form of revision. This is evident in Bishan Singh’s Stream of Consciousness, a piece I was very proud of at the time I wrote it. Individually, the sentences and paragraphs that comprise the artifact are well written, applicable, and a fun read. However, when naturally read together, the piece lacks flow and is overall contradictory. Because I wrote the post one section at a time, I was oblivious to a true reader’s experience and thus did not realize the major flaws that were existent. Multiple drafts and outside input would have ameliorated the final product greatly.
My movie review, Abu-Assad’s Omar Borders on Perfection, that went through the meticulous development shows how I progressed in my knowledge of how important a long and critical writing process is. The assignment was simple enough – create an analytical movie review on Omar – but writing it was no simple task. After struggling during my rough draft, I decided I needed to watch the movie again to correctly review the film. This decision proved to be vastly beneficial and a testament to the progress I made as a writer in English 181. I caught important aspects of the movie, such as themes and symbols, that I had been completely unaware of the first time, and changed my thesis in entirety. Learning that multiple drafts are key to create a successful text was a skill I displayed as I progressed in the class, and will continue to display in my future writings.
Throughout English 181 with Professor Taneja, I have expanded on my ability to critically analyze, read, and write. With the help of my class, teacher, office hours, the writing center, and peers, I was not only able to improve those traits, but know what I was improving and why, which will help me in my future endeavors. Indeed, because of the practicality of the class, nothing that was learned is only applicable to freshman English. Future job interviews, resumes, applications, papers, and readings will all be aided by the progression I went through this year, and for that, I am forever grateful.
Avery Scope Crafts