My Reflective Essay: A Finished Letter to Jes

Siarra Nielsen

Professor Lindsay Christopher

English 102

27 August 2013

Reflection Essay

Dear Jesse,

As you know, this past quarter I was enrolled in English 102 at Clark College. I originally signed up for English 102 because it is a requirement for a general transfer degree. My goal is to attend Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah using my transferable credits to become a sophomore or junior. While taking English 102 I’ve learned many interesting things that I didn’t expect to learn.

One fun concept I learned was the origin of the word essay. The word essay comes from the French root word essai which translates to mean “to try.” The reason that I found the origin so intriguing is because the thought that essays are meant to be a “try,” puts the whole concept of writing an essay into a different perspective for me. An essay is an attempt. That means all you have to do when writing is to try and everything will fall into place through the editing process. I want to become a journalist, which you already know Sweetie, and I think that this thought progression will help me to become the best journalist that I can be. I also figured that this realization can be beneficial for you, too, because you like to write!

Another theory that I discovered while taking English 102 was to avoid “creepy tree houses!” Our primary instructor, Jen Whetham, taught our class near the beginning of the quarter to avoid what she called “creepy tree houses.” Jen explained that in the book The Lovely Bones, there was a kidnapper who built an underground fort for a young girl to lure her in. It’s also a movie and yes, it’s the one with the funny wailing that Jerecho and I laughed about that time in the theater. Jen likened the moodle and blackboard programs that Clark uses for students to the “creepy tree house” and explained that moodle is an adult creation meant to lure the young kids in. I think it was really funny for our teacher to caution us against adults who are trying to “get young kids to come in and hang out.” Jen always makes me laugh.

After a few classes into the quarter, Jen got a new job and we got a new English 102 instructor. Our new teacher’s name is Lindsay Christopher and I’ve really enjoyed her teaching. She definitely has different opinions than I do, but the things that she shares with me have helped to shape me into that better writer that I’m seeking to become. Last week, Lindsay hosted a student/ teacher conference for me and her in which she shared some insights regarding my 13 page paper. When I met with Lindsay she had an ENTIRE TYPED PAGE of notes for me regarding the progress of my paper. I wasn’t surprised, because I know how much a “hot- button topic” my paper is. Divorce is really trending in TODAY’S SOCIETY (lol, I just had to throw in a tired phrase from class) and I know that most people have an opinion on it. Lindsay advised me:

1. to stop being so “black and white” with my paper and to focus on “gray” areas. That means that I wrote “we” and “everybody” many times in my paper and Lindsay explained that I excluded the people who don’t follow the mainstream. I don’t want to exclude people so I’m working on fixing my essay to reflect words like “majority” and “many” in place of all my previous statements.

Here’s an example of my one of my original quotes, “Catholics don’t get divorced because they believe it’s wrong.” Lindsay reminded me that some Catholics do get divorced. I changed my essay to reflect, “The authority of the Catholic Church has “carried into future centuries and influenced…” a large group of people (“Divorce,” St. James). Catholics today have been known for their low divorce rates in comparison to the mainstream society.”

I feel like my improvements are more fact based and less alienating.

2. to show some concession to my readers! Lindsay postulated that I argued my point so fiercely that I alienated many of my readers who may not agree with me. I, in no way want to be disrespectful to anyone. My paper is not intended to place blame on people, but to explain why marriage so often fails. My goal to rectify this problem is to change the thesis of my paper (and a few other spots as well) to clearly state that my objective is to provide a general solution. I’m working to advocate marriage literacy, if you will. There’s definitely a long way to go on revising my thesis, but I quickly hammered out this additional sentence to my paper:

“It seems more appropriate to identify the culprit of the high divorce rates in America as an alteration to accepted societal standards, drastic transformations in the economy, and individual circumstances. It is imperative that Americans are well informed as to their positions on matters of society, economics, and their individual circumstances before they get married to help reduce the divorce rate.”

I feel like adjusting my current essay will prove to enhance my final copy of my 13 page essay, Divorce: An American Tradition. My goal with sprucing up my paper is to get a really good grade out of it. I’ve worked very hard on learning about reasons for the high divorce rate. I’ve created a few goals to help put doing well in perspective for myself.

My short term SMART goals are to:

  • revise my essay to better reflect Lindsay’s suggestions by tonight
  • finish my reflective essay by Thursday afternoon (which I’m writing as a letter to YOU!)
  • get an A on my last two papers for this English 102 class
  • get an A grade in English 102 this summer quarter

My long term SMART goal is to:

  • go to BYU Provo (by the end of the year) and graduate with a BA degree in the next three years

SMART goals are goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. I feel like SMART goals are the only way to get my brain moving! My short term SMART goals are like the baby steps to my long term goals. In reflection, I think that using SMART goals has helped me to become a better student with all of these assignments that I’ve been expected to tackle.

            On the topic of tackling assignments, I’m very grateful to you for your help with my 13 (should have been 10!) page paper. I’m very excited to finish it up with my final edits. I’ve been working on it for two months! I don’t think it should have been so difficult to write a stinking paper. But, I’m glad that I’m learning new skills to use in my writing. I’ve learned that it’s okay to start researching without a thesis. I’ve always been one to formulate a thesis FIRST and THEN research for a minute or two before I hammer out the goods. And of course, I really only used to read the articles that pushed my agenda along. I’ve learned that it’s okay to start researching with nothing more than an inquiry question. It’s okay to research all aspects of a topic and possibly even change your inquiry question, and THEN make a prediction and thesis. Those little nuggets of information were extremely surprising to me!

            It’s been an interesting ride in English 102. You’d have enjoyed yourself, too, if you’d been in my class, listening to the lectures and anecdotes from Jen and Lindsay. Our class was very modern. Our teachers are young and spunky. One class Lindsay even said, “Who the f*** cares about the oxford comma?” Let me tell you one thing, English 102 with Jen and Lindsay is not for the faint of heart. There should have been a sign with something like, “If you’re prone to oldness and lameness, then this class is not for you.” Something that I really liked about the class was that we didn’t really use “creepy tree houses.” Our class, being modern and all, used a free blogging site called WordPress.com instead of the moodle program provided by Clark.

            WordPress, wordpress, wordpress. Oh how I’ve grown to love blogging! I know that you know that I love to blog. Every night I basically force you to sit and read my blogs. I use an HDMI cable and hook my laptop up to the big screen and I say, “Hey Jes! Come read this!” And even though I hear an almost imperceptible groan, you always come. Which, I really appreciate Sweetie! WordPress has been sort of liberating for me. The experience of my thoughts becoming words that can spark a movement makes me feel powerful. I’ve realized that I want to become a journalist. I like the idea of working from home (which I discovered while researching my inquiry question) and still have a professional life too. The blog has been a great doorway for me into the writing world. I’ve always journaled, but now I can use my journaling skills to pave the way to an actual career.

            Another really fun thing about my English 102 class was that I had friends in my class who I’ve known for years. You’ve met Silvia Czafit; she’s a friend of mine from several quarters ago. We’ve taken (entirely on accident) the same courses every single quarter for about four terms now. And you know Brad Osier, of course! He was my childhood neighbor and I’ve known him for 18 years. He even lived across the street from you and me when we first got married. Silvia wrote her essay on free speech in El Salvador and Brad studied the importance of teaching youth to garden. I’ve been very impressed with their findings and their methods of learning.

            I also have had the wonderful opportunity to make new friends through English 102! I’ve grown attached to every person in our class and I’m grateful for the chance to stay connected with my peers on WordPress. I hope that they all keep their blogs active and regularly post. It’s nice to hear about Rachael saving kitties and Jacob’s thoughts on Asperger’s Syndrome. The students in my class have opened my eyes and helped me to become curious on so many issues! I’ve even become passionate about youth and gardening because of Brad’s blog. He posted that “The experience of Nature’s detail, whether direct or vicarious, provokes children’s need to comprehend and make sense of what they have experienced” (Blair, The Child in the Garden). I now feel that teaching a child to garden can be one of the most important things that child can learn because it gets them thinking.

            Getting curious is really important. In fact, “getting curious” was the theme for English 102. I decided to get curious about the high divorce rates (because I had to write that paper) and then a spark was ignited. I’ve grown curious about a lot of different topics. I feel like the concept of needing to make sense of things is a concept that will benefit all of our future endeavors together. I’m grateful for this class, even though I could have lived with a simple five page paper instead of a 10 page paper. All in all, I’ve learned a lot and I’ve gained many transferrable skills that I can use in other aspects of my life. I hope that by sharing my experiences in English 102 with you that you can gain some additional skills for your life too.

            To be honest, I didn’t know how I was going to write a six page letter to you that would serve as a reflection of English 102. But I figured I would take a page from the French and work on my essai and simply “try.” Thanks for your help this quarter, Sweetie.

Love you,

Siarra

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