How Words Affect Our Perception of Reality
People have always asked throughout my life, “do you like Math or English more?” I would always reply, “science.” I would only say this because science is the only subject I have always been placed in advanced classes. My freshman year of high school was the first time I took an advanced English course. It was a little nerve-racking when I looked at my freshman schedule and saw an advanced English course because it was out of my comfort zone and unfamiliar to me.
Let me start by saying even though English was never really my favorite subject, staying in advanced English courses throughout high school was one of the best decisions I have ever made. There was some doubt at first. I never felt that my writing was exceptional because I have always struggled with getting my words out in a way that made sense.
Although I have always had good grades in English, my writing has always been what I struggle with most. It has always been hard for me to gather all my thoughts before writing an essay and even harder to get them down on paper in a way that made sense. I always get anxious when I am told that I will have to write an essay because I know what that means for me.
I will go down a long spiral of thinking about what I should write, and then I will come up with a bunch of different ideas and have no clue how to string them together to create a storyline. This always ends with me opening a doc and writing random throughout all over the page and staring blankly at them until I can find a way to make it all make sense. Taking AP English in high school is something I will never regret because although it started off rocky, I felt it helped me grow as a writer.
In advanced English courses, you get familiar with timed writing. With these timed writes, you are given thirty minutes to write a complete essay based on a prompt on a little piece of paper. I am sure you can imagine why these were one of my favorite minor activities. Thirty minutes to read the prompt, come up with ideas, sort through ideas in your head, and write a solid five paragraphs seemed nearly impossible to me.
I always felt so self-conscious about this activity because, after thirty minutes, we switched papers with someone around us and read, evaluated, analyzed, and provided feedback that they were able to use since this was a weekly activity that we did. I always got embarrassed looking at my paper compared to others. After all, I felt like I never wrote a well-structured essay because my thoughts roamed all over the place, and this definitely showed on my paper.
Looking at someone else’s well-structured essay lowered my confidence in writing because I felt like everyone else’s papers looked so neat and well-organized. Comparing my paper to theirs, I felt like my paper was a jumbled mess with words scribbled all over it. After a while, I significantly improved my timed writing, but it was not easy. I would go home, look up timed write prompts online, and time myself as I wrote.
This helped me learn to gather and sort through my thoughts a lot faster because, in my opinion, that is what was holding me back the most. If you have ever taken an advanced English course, you know most of the time in class is spent learning and practicing for the AP exam. The AP exam is meant to put your knowledge to the test and show what you have learned throughout the year by making you read and analyze texts and write. Yep, you probably guessed it, you must complete a timed write at the end of the AP exam.
Every once in a while, we were given a chance to take a mock exam and get a feel of what it would be like when the time came to take the actual AP exam. I always hated the questions asked on these exams because, unlike math, where there is most likely only one precise answer, “English tests were always a judgment call, a matter of opinion and personal experience” (Tan).
This always irritated and confused me because all the answers were correct. Still, you have to pick the one that is most correct given the context. Being thrown into an advanced English class with no prior experience was difficult at first. Because most of the kids in the class had been in honors English in junior high school, they were more familiar with specific activities and knew what was expected.
Although I did feel like I did not belong and was not smart enough at first, I am glad that I pushed myself to stay in the class and continue taking it. Allowing myself to be pushed out of my comfort zone and put in a class I thought I would never take is why I am a better writer today. I learned many helpful skills along the way and had a great support system from peers and teachers who were always willing to give me feedback.
Taking AP English has impacted me in many ways and helped me be more confident and comfortable with my writing. Taking an advanced English course helped me gain the confidence I needed to go into a college English course and feel comfortable and not out of place.
Advanced classes are harder on you, and you expect more from yourself, which helps prepare you for what will be expected in college courses. It is also important to note that everyone has a different and unique writing style. Although yours might look very different from theirs, it does not mean you are less of a writer or that anyone is better than you. Find your style and purpose for writing and focus on that. That is how you become the best writer you can be.