Going into AP Lang, I knew what I was getting into. I knew it was going to be one of the most difficult classes I’ve ever taken. I knew that I was going to be challenged into thinking in new and different ways, especially since I was even struggling to do the summer homework. However, I didn’t know how much Mr. Ziebarth’s class would change my outlook on how I learn.
The very first thing that stood out to me and will forever be in my memory is Mr. Ziebarth always making thumb jokes throughout the year to lighten the difficulties of the class and skateboarding around the classroom. Although I didn’t learn anything from the numerous thumb jokes besides learning how funny Mr. Z is, I did learn something from him skateboarding around the classroom. After skating around the classroom, he went on to show us the Youtube video about “how skateboarding can save schools” by Dr. Tae. Upon reading the title of this Youtube video, I thought that this was some kind of joke, to be totally honest. Little did I know, I will forever remember all the concepts I learned from this lesson Mr. Z was trying to teach us. It was the first thing that I thought, set a standard for the class, and stayed lingering forever in my memories.
I have always been afraid of failing when I start to apply something new that I just learned, but I realized that it is normal. This is because you need to practice something multiple times for it to click because everything takes practice and failure for you to learn. This all seems very vague, I know, but let me take you through my journey with learning how to learn.
I have to admit, I thought I’d work hard enough to receive an easy “A” in this class, but I found myself getting slowed down. Whenever I’d maybe fail a reading check quiz even though I read the reading due, or maybe received a low grade on an assignment I worked really hard on, I was disappointed in myself. I realized that this class wasn’t going to be as “easy peasy” as I thought in the beginning. I ran into those bits of failure and got easily discouraged because I never want to see myself going down as a failure for anything at all.
Something this class is heavily centered around is discussing everything we learn about or read in class to share and analyze ideas. At the beginning of the year, I found myself comfortable with raising my hand and participating, but as the year progressed, my mind shifted in the negative direction. I didn’t think I was adding anything to the discussions, or rather, saying the wrong thing, so I kept my hand down for most of the second semester. I was simply just afraid of failure and judgment from my witty classmates. However, nearing the last few weeks of school, I realized that participating gives you a voice and it actually feels empowering to speak out. In class one day, Mr. Ziebarth forced us to discuss chapters 6 and 7 of Great Gatsby with classmates outside of our regular table group, something the whole class dreaded. I was finding that discussion fun actually, it felt like I was able to voice my ideas however I wanted without feeling judged in front of people I am not used to. In addition to this instance, I have noticed that Mr. Z has been repeatedly saying “There is no exact right answer” which really helps in breaking me out of my shell. Although I came to this realization near the end of this school year, it is better late than never, and I can use this lesson in the future. If I want to be heard, all I need to do is speak up and know that there is not only one correct answer, but there can be several. I know that by using my voice, I can change the perspectives of those around me as well.
Besides discussion, giving and receiving feedback in class was a regular aspect of the class. In Dr. Tae’s video, one thing he talked about was “real-time meaningful feedback” and that is still ingrained in my head because Mr. Z put emphasis on it. Turning in a writing assignment isn’t helpful if we don’t receive feedback right away to better ourselves, so we are always giving each other feedback on rough drafts before submitting the perfected final to Mr. Z. The feedback I received would help me improve, but again, I was always scared of any hint of failure since we’ve all been trained to be “perfect” students. These thoughts held me back from accepting any feedback, but as we continued to do more “grow, glow, know,” I adapted to it and realized that other opinions and perspectives change yours too. As I started implementing feedback from my peers into my essays and writing assignments, I saw the quality of my writing skyrocket.
In the second semester, we read the Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck and it taught me the most. The book itself taught me that when you fall, you have to keep getting back up to keep up. The Joad family and other migrant families would be knocked down by obstacles like unfair work pay, but they still stood back up and continued their duties and fought for themselves. I was inspired by this and further accepted the idea that you need to fail, to learn something from it. We also did an in class style analysis essay exam on Chapter 17 of Grapes of Wrath. It was probably the most nerve wracking thing I have ever done because under pressure, I am not at my best. When it was time to write the essay, I found myself well prepared and I wrote the first two paragraphs with strength. However, my last paragraph tapered off and was weak in support because of the pressure of time. Mr. Z gave us the closest thing he could get to “real-time meaningful feedback” which was taking a couple days to meet with each and every one of us to talk about how we all did on the essay. In my opinion, that carried significance because it helped tremendously. I saw where I erred and took note of it for future essays I had to write. This in class essay especially assisted me in producing well-written essays on the AP exam. I learned how to manage my time when writing an essay and made sure on the AP exam that the quality of my writing was consistent throughout.
Additionally, the College and Career Project opened my eyes up to my actual future. It was something I wouldn’t do on my own before doing the real thing so I am really glad it was made an assignment. At the beginning, I saw that my GPA wasn’t high enough to get into certain schools that I have always wanted to get into. This, once again, made me feel like a failure, but I will always remember what Mr. Uribe told me. He said “You will be alright if you get straight F’s.” I also combined that idea with Mr. Z saying that going to community college is actually a smart idea, especially to save money. The discussion about the colleges and universities that only cared about money also affected how I changed my mindset into a positive one about going to community college. I knew that the mistakes I made in highschool in my past classes will push me to do better in college and then I am able to succeed to the best of my ability.
As time went on and neared the end, I saw failure as a normal thing. I realized that I need to fail and fall down sometimes to end up stronger than I was before. I can apply this lesson I learned in Mr. Ziebarth’s AP Lang class to anything really. As I become a senior next year with harder classes, I will always remember the struggles I went through in this class to learn as much as I can. I can even apply this lesson of failure to my driving test. I couldn’t pass the first time and received several critiques from other people and saw how I can improve my driving. The second time, I passed my driving test with only one error, I came back stronger. In addition, I can apply this lesson to my future, college and beyond. I will most likely be taking many difficult classes in college and I will never forget the sight of Mr. Z skateboarding around the classroom and then receiving a rush of flashbacks of his class that made me a stronger student and essentially, taught me how to learn. Failure is essential to success and success is nothing without failure.