Final Reflection

It is now the end of the semester and it is time to reflect on our courses taken this semester at Geneseo. This assignment is my reflective essay for my ENG 101 course. The course epigraph is a remark spoken by Dionne Brand at the Northeast Modern Language Association in Toronto. At the event, Professor McCoy noted down her saying, “my job is to notice… and to notice that you can notice”. This quote was introduced to us day one of class, or even before day one when I previewed the syllabus on canvas. The experience of learning in this course has been challenging, yet with each challenge that I confronted I was able to grow, even if this meant, at times, just noticing my shortcomings. In the literature assigned in this course, I was able to connect with many of the characters, which I always have enjoyed doing when I have read literature. In so doing this, I was able to read the texts critically and connect it back to the course topic and epigraph. My process of growing as a writer this semester has been set powerfully in to motion from this class, I think in large part because of being able to notice.

What is kind of ironical about the epigraph is that to notice is only one step in making progress. One can notice and do nothing. I could relate this to how most students approach their course work for their classes, for it is easy for one to have the tendency to procrastinate and ignore obligations. In my past, I have struggled with procrastination because I had the fear of putting too much effort into work and receiving results that did not correspond to the effort I put into the assignment.

It can even be said that, yes, one can notice and make others notice. In this case, it was our teacher who was guiding us to notice, and this was particularly the case with Professor McCoy. Professor McCoy at the start of the semester introduced to us the concept of growth mindset, which is important for one to have when working on their studies in the learning environment. When we come into the classroom, we are not expected to know everything beforehand. Instead, in order for learning to take place and be successful, we must be engaged in the classroom and be completing our assignments in a timely fashion.

Noticing was then tied into the discussions on informed consent, which Professor McCoy provided us with an example through our registration for the class. Informed consent is a subject that is pertinent to the studies of medicine and racism discourse, and to demonstrate its importance class time was taken to read over the syllabus and to learn about plagiarism. The exercise of taking this time out of class to read over what is expected of us was to show that by signing up and attending this course we are giving our informed consent, and that we are held accountable to those expectations. Notably, in the past African Americans have either been deceived in medical procedures, or were not given the option to provide proper informed consent. Multiple instances of broken consent are provided in Harriet A. Washington’s book, Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present. One particular example she provides in a chapter assigned, is the failure to inform people adequately about the laws in different states on organ transplants or body dissections. She asserts that in some states people must make a deliberative effort to get off the organ transplant registry, yet this must happen if they are provided the correct information. Given this, and the prevalence of individuals who may be unaware that they have consented to this by being a citizen of a state, she claims that “most people whose bodies are so used never gave their permission for medical research with living persons” (Washington 141). This negligent practice is unsettling given the long past of medical experimentation conducted on African Americans.

When an individual notices through informed consent, the individual can thereby become empowered. Noticing is a first step and being provided informed consent is empowering because the process of giving consent confirms that the individual is fully educated and has taken matters into their own hands. The informed consent we practiced by reviewing the syllabus and by reading about the learning outcomes expected by receiving our degree is important in the process of setting goals for oneself in their academic career. During this semester, making smart goals in this class has involved taking little steps. These little steps have been made particularly around my blog post writing. At first, I focused on structuring the blog post around my thesis statements, then it became about developing deeper analysis with application of literary theory or literary devices. Finally, I had to take steps back and recognize my seemingly flippant grammatical errors. Noticing when goals are not being met can be challenging. One problem in particular I had throughout the semester was staying positive and persevering, especially when the feedback I received was not what I had expected. Sometimes my negative feelings lead to my personal scheduled blog pacing to be disrupted. Learning to receive criticism without becoming discouraged is a process that will take time to overcome, yet I think this course has taught me how to start practicing this process.

Whenever I found myself challenged in this class, I would return to a metaphor that thread lines the epigraph of the course. The literature that we had to read provided help in my journey towards my academic self-growth in the class. In the novel, Zulus Percival Everett’s abecedarian chapter arrangement provoked a discussion in class about the process of accomplishing goals. Abecedarian arrangements can be a metaphor for approaching goals from A-Z, or, in other words, setting consecutive small goals to reach and achieve bigger goals one may have. Alice’s engages with this metaphor when her old head is placed into her exploded body. Once placed inside her body, Alice is forced to look at inscribed drawings and cave paintings, such as “the alphabet, A-through-Z” with these letters “speaking to her and playing, toying with her” (Everett 185). This epiphanic moment of noticing overwhelms Alice. The act of noticing is symbolized through the setting of the cavity. Alice’s body cavity was beyond bright like a divine light was about to be blown “making everything all too clear to see” (Everett 185). The character changes Alice undergoes is initiated by acts of noticing, thus she evolves from being complacent to rebelling and then, finally, to giving up. Alice concludes that the conflict at the heart of the story is beyond her ability to fix; namely, the ceaseless warfare and the hopeless future of the human species in the aftermath of nuclear war ridden earth. Alice’s fatal decision of giving up and abandoning a growth mindset is detrimental to herself and to others. Therefore, Alice’s story provides a moral lesson to readers by modeling that to have goals that are bigger than yourself is an act of self-destruction. Realizing and accepting that growth in my studies is a process that has helped me at times to be more realistic about what is attainable and what is not. Confidence in yourself is attained through a slow process of smart goal making and planning, which can help one to visualize a realistic future and to foster a more authentic version of yourself. 

Independence and trust in oneself are central to being able to make goals for oneself in order to achieve measurable progress and growth. In the books we read this semester, the characters own struggles sometimes helped me with my own academic struggles. The first book we read for the semester was Home by Toni Morrison. In this novel, Cee struggles to be independent and reliant upon her own critical thinking skills. She gets herself a job with a doctor, which seems like a respectable job except he is no ordinary doctor. Dr. Beau’s wife tells Cee that he “is a scientist and conducts very important experiments. His inventions help people” (Morrison 60). The doctor, from this description alone, is obviously not an ordinary doctor; rather, Dr.Beau most likely performs medical experimentations on the vulnerable women that Cee observes coming into his office. The medical experimentations he performs are goal oriented for the interest of his career over the welfare of the patients. This is best shown through Cee who becomes unknowingly subject to his experimental projects, which almost causes her death. She is saved, not by her own doing, but through the efforts of the maid of the house, Sarah. The character Cee directly addresses this character flaw by complaining about her having been accustomed as “doing what others wanted” and by letting her older brother notice for her (Morrison 142). She learns that in order to have control of what goes on in her life she must be on alert and noticing her surrounds, while listening to her internal voice. The internal voice is something that must be developed through practice, which is fundamental in making measurable goals for oneself.

Developing my internal voice in the writing process and knowing my writing style and error tendencies was a lesson I learned in this class. Cee’s lesson reminded me of an exchange I had with Professor McCoy at the start of the semester. During a meeting with Professor McCoy, I wanted to address how I could improve my blog writing, and I came prepared with my blog marked up with the corrections that needed to be made. In this meeting she questioned me about how I typically approach my writing and the feedback I have received in the past, particularly about the idea of making corrections. I thought it was an odd question to ask, and, I suppose, that at that time I did not fully understand what she was maybe trying to imply. What she may have been insinuating was that merely doing the corrections as instructed by a teacher without giving any thought as to why they occurred in the first place would be a mistake. Noticing the errors made on a writing assignment is not enough; rather, one must reflect on why those mistakes were made and how the writing process may account for those errors. In this practice of reflection, one is able to make goals for future assignments to make improvements. Realizing that the feedback I receive is an opportunity for me to be introspective about my writing process makes writing a paper less daunting as I continually practice at it. Additionally, I feel more hopeful of what I can accomplish when I take writing as a process of steps. Looking at the bigger picture helped me to set goals for my future writing assignments by taking the writing of a blog post as a process of steps. I felt that this semester I was doing a better job at not editing my writing as I wrote; instead, I would leave this as a last step before I would submit the paper. By doing this, I had greater confidence in my abilities to write, specifically on how to be more precise about my grammar and diction. Therefore, by noticing the role of the teacher and the role I have to myself as a student, helped me to visualize and practice on improving my writing process.

In the novel Zulus, Percival Everett shows how one’s perception of how others view them can be extremely powerful upon an individual’s psyche. Everett tires to entrap us by making his characters almost become caricatures, actually it is almost impossible not to view the characters based on a sole characteristic. Alice is defined by her weight, which she admittedly is sometimes obsessed with because of her insecurities. Kevin Peters is viewed as the stereotypical rebellious person who is extremely defiant to the extent that he refuses to be a follower of anyone. Kevin confirms the view others in the rebel camp have of him: “they think I’m special because I won’t live with them, think I’m some kind of mountain man” (Everett 129). These two character portrayals are hitting to the core of how people often times hinder their own progress in life. Alice realized the source of her own self assigned limits, for “her excuse had always been her size” (Everett 126). For myself, I feel that in the academic environment it is easy to feel like one does not belong, or is not smart enough to partake in a class conversation. I do not think that people are open about their growth in learning insomuch that it is just expected that one must know, and how they got there is irrelevant. However, noticing and reflecting on one’s academic growth in the learning environment is empowering to students. I hope that through the rest of my academic career I will continue to notice and empower myself by being vigilant and communicative about my goals and desires for my classes.

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