The Composition Book

mePicture this. A tall blonde sophomore staring blankly at a prompt that she is going to see next year. Her hands reach up into her mane and become tangled in a mess of waves and knots. She balances her elbow on the corner of her desk holding her head and all her anxiety with it in her bent palm. She shifts, points her pencil at random words along the paper, starts off many “well, you see,” and “okay, right here,” statements before turning to a partner and seeing kindness trying to mask disappointment. She has heard her partner explain the directions at least four different ways but continues to ask for clarity because she still can not flip the switch.

This was me at the end of my sophomore year in Honors English. I knew I was going into my first AP the coming year and I knew I loved English in general.  I doubted my abilities the moment my teacher had us try to attack an AP level prompt. No student was supposed to be prepared to do so or was instructed on how to respond to an AP prompt, but everyone around me seemed to get it. Then on the first day of English junior year I felt all those feelings of failure and incompetence rushing back. I knew AP classes could be scary, strict, and intense, so I feared repetitive, intimidating essays coming my way. I expected a year of gray paper, gray pencils, and gray discussions. The scarier part was that I knew my own learning style craved rainbows, innovations, and creativity, so I was going to have to stick with the mundane.

But then something happened.

I walked into a class nowhere near the other English classes; it was after taking this course would I be able to realize how symbolic its location was to its academic style. Instead of reading and taking notes from a booming English text-book, we were handed a composition book. Instead of writing papers on every chapter of a novel, we held Twitter discussions. Instead of discussing an outdated, inapplicable article,  we discussed articles surrounding the current elections and current people’s’ ideas on the presidential candidates.

In the previously mentioned composition book is a concoction of ideas, symbols, doodles, and analyses that have become my personal log of the academic steps, movements, and principles within AP English. One stubborn habit that I have changed since sophomore year is my refusal to do a five to ten minute brain storm before writing my essay, I thought that I did better writing as I went. Exercises that took place throughout the entire year in the compositions books were Zero Drafts. A zero draft acts as a writing purge, giving your brain and pencil duo a chance to ooze out all ideas to later be narrowed down and polished. Learning to brainstorm/ zero draft made me feel more prepared when I was working on the assignment.

In the beginning of the year our class was told we were going to have to blog. Everyone held their breaths as the directions were laid out. Blogs gave off a negative vibe, the word itself comes out like the sound of a mucous-thick swamp bubble bursting in the dusk of Southern wilderness. I  personally feared it was going to be a year of me writing in deep language about an Old English topic that meant nothing to me. But the premise of the blog was freedom. S.Q.U.I.D. posts became a routine for me to explore my world, whether I chose the philosophical wondering of Plato or appreciated the talent of my friend. This blog became my outlet to explore my own writing style, teaching me how to question my own writing, play around with interests in writing I have, like poetry, and develop my ability to express words in a blog format.

While blogs gave me an outlet to explore and progress my less formal/ no prompt writing, my formal writing style improved dramatically. I was never bad at responding to prompts in other English classes but I was not at a point where I could even tell you what a rhetorical strategy was. This year I learned how to write a synthesis essay, an argument essay, a descriptive essay, and a rhetorical analysis essay. I had some experience with description and argument in the past but nothing near what we did this year. The key point I learned with descriptive writing is to move away from the abstract to the concrete. When it came to synthesis and rhetorical analysis, I gained a whole new set of writing capabilities. I think knowing how to understand the strategies an author uses is so critical to understanding why people write and why I write. With a synthesis essay you form your own opinion then use information given to you as evidence for your opinion. A synthesis essay is the essence of every writing assignment. You share your ideas and opinions then find evidence to effectively show your reasoning.

As I go into college and what lies beyond that, I will need to share my opinions and prove why I believe what I do. I want to progress intellectually and the best way to ‘get smarter’ is to read and familiarize yourself with the other ideas out there.  This class taught me that there is no reason to limit how you express your ideas, as long as you do so with strength, support, and scholar. I took the chances I had to run with the creativity and innovation I did not know I was capable of.


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