Facilitating Learning and Assessment in Practice

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Introduction to English Studies (Eng 281)
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Sample Self-Reflective Essay #1
When I think of books, I can’t help but smile in anticipation of the journey I will embark upon from cover to cover, the secrets that will be revealed within their pages, the additions to my vocabulary I will collect as souvenirs, and the new avenues that will be excavated in the realm of my mind. Beginning as early as I can remember, books were read to me by my mother, my father and my sisters. The thrill of an outing to the public library while growing up in rural Wisconsin was every bit as exciting as a trip to the carnival or the circus because, as my earliest discoveries conveyed, books could take me any place. I believe I must have been born with a desire to travel and to be anyone but myself, and while real life did not afford the opportunity for either condition, books were a constant source of altering my reality. Dr. Seuss taught me at a very early age that the imagination has no boundaries and that anything that one can create in one’s mind can be committed to paper. Laura Ingalls Wilder lost no time in capturing my interest and showing me that simple wonders of daily life mixed with a caring, loving family can be the ingredients to happiness and fulfillment. J.R.R. Tolkien pulled me completely into his magical world of hobbits and wizards, quests and riddles, providing a pleasant escape from my teenage hormonal roller coaster ride and reminding me that, while I often felt insignificant in the big scheme of things, I had a purpose for being and I would find that purpose on my own path. My early experiences in reading soon led me to attempt various writings of my own, beginning with poetry at age eight. I kept a journal in eighth grade, writing daily entries from the word of the day presented by my English instructor. I continued to write poetry, essays, critiques and creative short works throughout junior high and high school, where I was exposed to a bevy of literary compositions such as Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, Huxley’s Brave New World, Dante’s Inferno, Hawthorne’s House of the Seven Gables and The Scarlet Letter, Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible and Death of a Salesman, Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Shakespeare’s MacBeth and Hamlet, and numerous examples of poetry by Whitman, Wordsworth, the Brownings, Poe, Dickinson, Donne, Frost, Burns, Sandburg, Longfellow, Hughes, Angelou, Cummings, Plath and others. A variety of English courses were available at my high school and I took most of them including Dramatic Literature, Fundamentals of Acting, Grammar and Usage, Creative Writing, Writing Lab, Major American Writers, Literary Heritage and Independent Writing. My attitude toward reading literature in high school varied in accordance with what I chose to read on my own and what was deemed a selected reading by my instructors. There were times when I couldn’t fathom how I could possibly apply Dostoyevsky to my life or the life of anyone I knew in 1978. I soon discovered that much of my indifference toward Dostoyevsky stemmed from my inability to understand the difficult reading and found that class discussions prodded along by my instructor were the best vehicle for understanding the work and dissecting its themes, symbols and characters. I mocked various Greek tragedies as ancient forerunners of "Days of Our Lives" until I had the historical background presented by my instructor to relate the works as commentaries and reflections of the time period. My three high school English instructors were prime motivators in my ability to interpret stories, plays, novels and poems. They provided the tools necessary to understand and take apart a work and put it together again for oneself. Their teaching styles varied from humor mingled with logic to play acting to articulate thought-provoking queries to the students....
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