Being a first semester freshman is probably the hardest thing to go through as college is a brand-new idea and an entirely new lifestyle. It is similar to this course as it causes for adjustment in not only thinking, but outlooks on topics and ideas. This course allowed me to stray away from the traditional English courses I have taken during my time in high school, and now transitioning into college. In the beginning of the semester I saw this course as just another class that would hand me a book and say “read by…”, since it’s what I’ve gotten used to doing, but as I have gone through this course, I’ve noticed it is much more than that. It is more about expanding your horizons and allowing yourself to become open-minded than it is reading each assignment and forgetting about it when moving on to the next. Throughout my time, I believe that I have grown as a reader, student, and overall person. This course has allowed me to become exposed to topics and real-life issues that I probably wouldn’t have experienced otherwise.
One major change between high school English courses and this one was having a course epigraph. In high school, we were given a piece of paper, a reading, or even a project and told to do it with little to no explanation as to why we were doing it in the first place. There was no rhyme or reason behind the concepts taught as well as having nothing to relate them back to. In the syllabus there is the course epigraph reading: “My job is to notice…and to notice that you can notice” said by Dionne Brand. To me, this means structure. Structure that I’ve never experienced in a course taken before but finally allows me to have an anchor. The anchor gives me a chance to connect topics and ideas back to something instead of taking this course as a routine; show up, do the work, leave, repeat. It gives me a chance to expand my knowledge in a different way that I have always yearned for but didn’t know how to achieve. I have been able to develop as a reader and notice things, symbols or ideas, that may not have stood out to me within a book prior to this learning experience. Reading such specific, but still diverse books, has allowed me to gain a full insight to a world I never would’ve known was out there had I not been looking for it. This epigraph also allows one to be actively thinking and expanding their knowledge in a vast majority of topics, but also noticing when they are growing as a person and can put that newfound information into practice.
I noticed that the epigraph became most evident during small group discussions. Each individual was able to notice something they may not have prior to talking with peers; I know this statement stands true to me. I have found it most helpful talking in groups, whether I had nothing to say about a book or article or I had too much to say about a reading. Certain ideas that group members brought up allowed me to see a different viewpoint and change my opinion on the book as a whole. It caused me to notice small, minute scenes and symbols that I had not even thought of before listening and referring back to the book alongside others. But in return, gave me the opportunity to point out my findings to my peers and expand on the outlooks I had on a reading.
One particular group discussion that had me thinking probably the most out of all was focused on Home by Toni Morrison. One of the concepts we questioned the most was about the zoot suit man. My group had concluded that the zoot suit man, seen by Frank, and later on Cee, was the father who had been killed by his son during the dog fight. This “dog fight” was between a black man and his son in front of a white crowd solely for their own entertainment; they were forced to fight until one was dead, the father being the one to sacrifice his life for the sake of his son’s. When Frank and Cee go to the burial site in the woods to give the man a proper burial, Cee sees this figure off in the distance. By now, both characters have seen this unknown figure around their daily lives, and it can be interpreted that this figure was indeed the man they were burying. After thorough discussion and finding points that backed up that idea, we allowed ourselves to have some type of closure within the book; as we referred to an overlooked concept that was introduced to us at different points throughout the book. Discussions such as that one helped me navigate this course most effectively. It allowed me to become open to different ideas that I never would’ve seen had I read the book and moved on with not giving any thought to it.
Much like the haunting of the zoot suit man in Frank and Cee’s life, there has been one thing hanging over my shoulder throughout the entirety of this class, and semester. That one thing is my grade. Although I did not try as hard as I could in this class, I was still obsessed with my grade as I tried to keep it high enough to satisfy both my parents and me. I have always been one to worry about my grades more so than the actual content of the class itself. It is one thing I try to have control over during all my years throughout school since I never really got to choose what type of class I took. As I made my way through the semester, I realized that I need to focus more on the content and teachings of the courses rather than the grade I received, as it is not the sole thing to help me in my overall life. Once I began to change my mindset on that topic and focused more on the content of the readings and in class discussions, I found myself to be learning more and more each day, allowing my experience and knowledge to grow. As I make my way through the next however many years of college, I will take this mindset into consideration and show myself that the content is where the grade itself is and as long as I can thoroughly understand what is going on in each course and the life around me, I will evolve into a more rounded human being and student with knowledge I never knew I was looking for.