2nd Period AP Lang
It is no surprise to anyone who has known me since my years as a "wee-little" first grader that language is my "Achilles Heel." The inner confusion in an up-and-coming student's head when introduced to two languages since birth is quite a mess. Having to live in a world half dominated by the colloquial English language that is spoken everyday while the other half is controlled by the strict rules of Arabic drives me insane at times. Lately science has shown that students, like me, who have been exposed to two or more languages within the first four years of life tend to remain in a "confused" state of limbo while trying to perfect the basic mechanics of each language. In many cases, these students would not become fully proficient in a language until, at least, middle school. I was no exception. D's and C's flew onto my reading and English assignments as if I had bought a surplus supply of them. My parents warned me that a continuation of such "improper and disgusting" grades would "doom" me. With middle school on the horizon, I had but one choice. I needed to improve.
The "baby" steps began in fifth grade. Whether it was the quality and lure of the books that improved or my resolve to try harder that strengthened, my writing began to improve. There, their, and they're mistakes nearly dissipated into nonexistence and subject-verb sentences became less common. Slowly I began to understand a more complex view of plays and novels. Rather than books being binded stacks of brown paper with words that happened to create sentences, paragraphs, and chapters; I saw the ill power grabbing greed of Macbeth and the true strength of friendship seen in A Secret Garden. There was now a meaning to writing beyond the usual narrative. Writing can evoke feelings through vivid description, change a viewpoint using clever rhetoric, or inform the reader through mounds of expository writing. The fifth grade teacher was slowly molding me into a stable writer to enter the middle school years. Since the count of B's rose steadily with an A scattered here and there, I felt that I was ready for whatever the sixth grade and the rest of middle school could throw at me. I was wrong.
I had advanced from the baby steps to a toddler's waddle by the time middle school started. I waddled into the sixth grade with high hopes only to get smacked down by one crucial detail. I, in the course of improving writing and comprehension skills, neglected the acquisition of new words. My word choice suffered which resulted in less than satisfactory grades. I had reached so far up the cliff-side that pulling up the rest of my body would be a nightmare. As a result, the "handy" Worldly Wise book became a pal with me along with a mini electronic dictionary named Franklin. By the time sixth grade was over, my writing had leveled out. Seventh grade was a breath of relief in the scheme of writing. Pure essay writing (as in being given an essay prompt to write about), a new concept for a seventh grader, became the new norm. Grammar, for the first time since third grade had been re-drilled into our skulls. Words like gerund and participle began to have meaning. Proper placement of the comma and subject-verb agreement occupied much of our non-essay time. It had been my fortune to get the "hard teacher" for grammar in both the seventh and eighth grade. Although this produced tsunamis of migraines at the time, I look back today and thank the maker. This teacher bestowed upon us the most memorable, influential, and important concept for our writing careers: "show, not tell." This idea became my new goal. I must strive to show the reader what I'm seeing, but I can't outright tell it. Immediately after the grand reveal, the "ESPN" of the middle schoolers' minds all rang in unison. How can you show an orange cat with black stripes without telling the reader about the cat? We were left without a complete visualization of what showing is compared to telling. The already strained mind of a semi-bilingual teenager had just become lost in his waddle as he was about to enter high school.
High school forced the waddling into a fully fledged sprint. After being left with the cliff hanger of "show, not tell," I was left to wander the wastelands of the high school scavenging whatever grades I could on writing assignments. This went rather well, especially sophomore year. During tenth grade, I realized a small niche I had: mythological epic poetry. After finding a flyer for a local mythology based poem contest, I decided to enter for the fun of it. I, by some miracle of bountiful luck and remnant skills from the "hard teacher," managed to create a 108 line [somewhat] epic poem about two Roman Legionary brothers forced to fight to a bloody and brutal death on the battlefield for their "benefactors." It was then, while engaged in the full spirit of the writing process and Roman fervor that the gold embroidered statement "show, not tell" became clear in its meaning. To show, give the full image with vivid details to describe each red flare on a cheek, the river of blood flowing down a gore-splattered sword, and the deep stare of determination etched in a legionary's eyes. Few will care about a determined Roman soldier holding a bloody sword. On the other hand, towering arenas packed to the brim with excited Roman citizens cared about the doomed Carthaginian prisoner of war whose tan, muscular arm was ripped from its socket in a bloody struggle by a starved African male lion with an infamous roar that shook Rome daily. This made sense. I had, unfortunately, forgotten this precious feeling of engaged and specific writing once I had entered the junior year. It would take a full semester to fully reignite this extremely fervent writing mechanism.
I now feel, after more than a decade of struggling with writing and language skills, that I can keep up with the pace of the upper school sprint. Writing has come more naturally over the past two years than ever before which, in turn, has opened my mind to the detailed realities of life. There always exsist methods to describe an image or situation in a fully detailed and magnificent way. Connotations have become a far more useful tool than previous teachers ever hinted at. Good will never equal magnificent. Bad will never be on par with atrocious. Clever is not as sinister as sly. A job is not necessarily a career. This aspect of writing and language has now cleared up to help me truly display the facts, opinions, and emotions that I needed to convey. The "wee-little" first grader who could barely express an interest in the vicious dinosaur, Tyrannosaurus Rex, now writes page after page on James Madison's role in creating the Constitution and a whole research paper on why US arts programs should be funded with tax payer dollars.