Okay, so this little jaunt back to school and poverty of mine is largely an attempt to make myself a better writer. I’m in it for an English degree, I guess, probably going to Creative Writing focus when that is allowed. I’ve only got one straight-up English class this semester, so let’s see how that’s going:
That one course is “Writing For University Students”. I have never been able to find much interest in reading essays. I’ve come right out and said that if a writer can’t make their point by telling a story, I don’t feel like reading it. There’s no harm in that. Nobody cares if you read essays, really. Except when you’re in university. Now I have to read them, and what’s worse, I’m also expected to compose essays that, unlike this one, are not merely screeds written on the spot and never given a second draft. Basically, I’m expected to know how to make an essay that doesn’t suck. I front-loaded my university revival with the “Writing For University Students” course for that specific reason. Apart from the credit, the sole reason I’m in this class is that I recognized my problem here and wanted to do something about it.
Almost everything I know about writing at this point is self-taught. I was barely interested in assembling the skeleton of an education I got in high school, so I didn’t retain much. I had to get my knowledge on the streets, son. Or, y’know, through books and the Internet and whatever. But I kinda felt like I had peaked there. I needed help. I needed someone to teach me. I don’t feel like I am being taught that in this class. This, like my worst experiences with school, is one of those times when I feel like the class is more interested in testing me than teaching me. We’re told what’ll be on the next test, then we’re expected to read up and do the test and we’re told how much we don’t know. We’re given an assignment to write an essay, and then we’re doing that essay and getting marked on how many things we did wrong. I get marks telling me I don’t know stuff and I’m like “Yeah, I know, that’s why I’m here,” but by then the test is over, the essay is written, and I’ve got a mark telling me that I’m an idiot.*
I’m not saying that they’re doing a bad job at running the class. The professor** and the TAs seem, from what I can tell, to be doing a good job at running the exact kind of class I don’t want or like or even understand. I can learn on my own on my own. Why the chunk would I be going there just to be told what to look up somewhere else? Some students probably thrive in this kind of environment. Probably. But I sure don’t. I want some help.
The class does have a weekly extra help thing set up, though, but that just bothers me more. They were smart enough to schedule these sessions at a time of day when no other English classes are being taught on campus, so obviously we students will be free to attend. Except we need more than just English classes to get our degrees. I enjoy Astronomy and I am enjoying my Astronomy class, but here’s the thing: I wouldn’t be taking it if I didn’t need a science credit. But I do, so I am. And that class, that non-English Department class, falls in the exact time period our extra help sessions are held. Fancy that. And anyway, surely Writing for University Students is a course that will not solely benefit English students. I expect almost everyone could use that course, many of them probably having classes in the same extra help window.
The school does offer some kind of writing workshop, of which I fully intend to take advantage. But now I’ll be there to get help on the class I’m taking to get that exact help. If I’d skipped out on that class altogether I’d have half the workload I have now and I could use the workshop help to get better at the essays I need to do for other classes. As it stands now the English class is doing nothing more than filling my time with more assignments, tests, and pressure, competing with the very essays in other classes that I wanted to improve.
The point of this sloppily-written, non-edited, non-Academic-level PDR-brand rant is just this: This is the only English class I’m really in so far (actually, now that I stop and think about it, Mythology probably counts toward that too, but whatever), and it is my least favorite class. This is not a good sign.
* I’ve actually done well on the tests and assignments in this class so far, but I know what’s coming. I’ve been through it before.
** I will never be comfortable saying “prof”. It is not a thing PDR can do. I once tried referring to one of my actual cousins as “Cuz” and it just wouldn’t happen. This is a similar situation.
PS – Completely unrelated, but in a History lecture the other day, the professor, speaking of the origins of the Spanish Inquisition said “nobody was expecting it” in complete deadpan. He didn’t acknowledge making the joke, or stop and wait to see if people got it. He just dropped it and moved on. I fully approved of that.