The Journey of Growth

It is truly amazing how much growth a college student can experience in just one semester. Looking back at my first blog post, I have realized how much of a stronger writer and student I have become. The epigraph that I chose in the beginning of the semester was, “my job is to notice…and to notice that you can notice” by Dionne Brand, which is the same epigraph I want to end the semester with. I struggled trying to interpret exactly what this epigraph meant and spent hours on my first blog post trying to make sense of it. I settled with, the epigraph means, “that our jobs as human beings is to notice the people around us and recognize that we all come from different backgrounds and have different experiences that have contributed to the person we are today.” After reading and analyzing the amazingly varied literature given to me all semester, I feel as if a lightbulb turned on in my head and I have a more in depth understanding of what the epigraph means.

First, is to notice the power of our words. What we say and sometimes what we mean, can be misconstrued. Professor McCoy stressed on the first day of class, how important thinkING and unpacking is when we speak and when we write. By not unpacking our words for our readers, we leave them with assumptions about us. This gives our readers, a single story of us. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Ted Talk called “The Danger of a Single Story”, is an example I often find myself going back to in many of my blog posts. In her Ted Talk, she discusses how her roommate felt sorry for her before she even met her, she states, “her default position toward me, as an African, was a kind of patronizing, well-meaning pity. My roommate had a single story of Africa: a single story of catastrophe.” Noticing the judgement and assumption we sometimes fall into by assuming one’s story, can help us avoid doing it in the first place. The comments that Professor McCoy left on many of my blog posts, has assisted in my growth as a student, since she points out word phrases that can be taken out of context or taken the wrong way.

In my second to last blog post, I discussed how growth is gradual. I wrote about my constant battle with procrastination and how this class has helped me combat some of that. I am nowhere close to where I want to be as far as reducing my procrastination goes, but it is only right to give credit when credit is due and acknowledge that I am continually growing and learning. I included in my post how Ricky in Big Machine, written by Victor LaValle, realizes his growth at the end of the book. He states, “I wasn’t the same man I used to be.” Ricky refused to make the same mistake twice and instead invites Ronny back in. This is the moment that Ricky notices his growth, similar to how I have been noticing mine as the semester went on. When picking my favorite quote out of Big Machine, I picked “the dread you feel when institutions fail you.” I believe that college students do not get enough credit, we are constantly struggling with balancing our priorities such as: studying, exercising, working, and other life necessities. Many times, institutions emphasize the importance of grade point value, instead of how much we are learning and how we utilize this information in our everyday lives. Progress is progress no matter how much and it is essential for us to notice this so we can continue to grow in every aspect of life.

Teaching is a career I have wanted to pursue for a long time now. Thinking back on what inspired me to become a teacher, is the amazing teachers I once had. I was able to notice the hard work and effort they put into lesson plans and how they strived to see their students grow. Writing lessons plans has shown me how much tedious and thoughtful work goes into teaching. My teachers have made a forever impact on me, and I only wish to do the same for my future students. The literature I have been exposed to this semester, has only aided in my growth as a future educator. The ability to notice how big of an impact the literature I include in my classroom has on the classroom dynamic, was a huge stepping stone for my success. I have to say, I never realized how important diversity in literature was, until I took this class. Being exposed to multiple texts avoids the notion of getting just a single story, instead we have been exposed to all different types of literature, giving us the outlook of multiple perspectives.  

In one of my blog posts called “Invisible Children”, I discussed the lack of diversity seen in children’s literature. Students who feel as though they cannot relate to a text, often feel ostracized and invisible. I compared this back to Chapter 10 of Invisible Man, when the “narrator felt that his ‘defenses were negated, stripped away, checked at the door as the weapons, the knives and razors and owlhead pistols of the country boys were checked on Saturday night at the Golden Day.’ It was if he was not even there to speak up for himself, invisible to the world.” Similar to how the narrator felt, is how those children who cannot relate feel in the classroom setting. This made me ponder the question, what makes a teacher a good teacher? Looking back at all the teachers that inspired me, I realized that it was those teachers I loved and respected most, whose classroom felt inclusive and welcoming. 

When thinking about my epigraph in terms of the question, does my epigraph form a through line for the amazingly varied literature we’ve engaged in this semester? I would have to say absolutely! Reading a various about of literature has given me the opportunity to see many perspectives and not just one. I have become more aware of what is going on around me and how powerful words can be. It has opened my mind and changed my way of thinking completely. Coming into college, I found myself falling into the same beliefs of my parents, just because they were my parents. I would never question any of their beliefs. I was able to notice this pattern due to this class, which has encouraged me to form and create my own opinions. This demonstrates growth because I have learned how to have a mind of my own. Once again, being able to notice this growth is essential as a student.

I definitely think this does matter, given GLOBE’s insistence that Geneseo students should gain practice in the ability to “reflect upon changes in learning and outlook over time.” With the world constantly changing around us, it is our job to notice our own personal impact. The heating plant visit was interesting to me, because I got to see how heat is distributed all over campus. I never considered how much work and effort it may be to constantly make sure us students, are not too warm or not too cold at all hours of the day. Noticing and appreciating what these workers do for us, not only creates a better environment here at SUNY Geneseo, but also lets us notice what others do for us. It is vital to create this mutual respect so, hard work does not go unnoticed. Just as I would not want my hard work to go unnoticed, others do not want their hard work to go unnoticed. Creating an environment and earth that other generations will be able to live in is so important. Once we are able to notice, we can educate others and encourage them to notice as well. In the text, “Farming While Black” written by Leah Penniman, there is an emphasis put on balance and the importance of creating “partnership with nature.” The ability to notice this personal impact we have by what food we consume and how we protect the environment, is key to a better earth. What we do now, can have a lasting impact on the future.

Overall, this class has had a huge impact on me as a student and a future educator. When I first signed up for this class, I have to admit, I was a little hesitant and conflicted. The idea of blog pacing was so new and foreign to me. Procrastination has always been an enemy of mine and I was not sure if I was capable of doing what this class was asking for, being that it was my second English class ever taken here at Geneseo. Hearing the advice from other students that Professor McCoy will challenge you, but you have to put in the work, I was naturally faced with the dilemma that most college students face. Should I find a class where I know I can receive an easy A? Or, should I find a class that will push me to my limits and make me a better writer? I am happy to say I made the right choice. Freshman me, probably would have settled for the easy grade, however, as I have developed as a student, I have changed my thought process and much rather learn and be challenged than just receive a good grade and take nothing away from the class. This class has given me endless confidence in my writing, something that I heavily lacked in the beginning of the semester. As I continually saw my blog post grades going up, I knew that I was doing something right, I was growing, taking constructive criticism and applying it into my future blog posts. As Dionne Brand “my job is to notice…and to notice that you can notice”, and I am forever grateful that I am finally able to notice.  

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