A reflection to my Professor on my Research Writing class.
Author’s Note: I took a class called Advanced Research Writing this semester at my college, SUNY Potsdam. This is my final relfection for this class, which I handed in today. I’m posting it on Medium because I think I touched on some really interesting things about writing, the writing process, and what I viewed as ‘valuable writing.’ I’m also including this to show college freshmen that even me, a senior in college, still struggles with the writing process. I will be taking another class, my capstone course, with this Professor next semester.
7 December 2016
I can wholeheartedly say that my performance on my project for COMP 301 fell right in the realm of what I know I can accomplish. First, let me tell you what I mean by that, and then let me tell you why I think that kind of effort won’t be enough going forward in my academic career and in my life.
What I mean. I did exactly what I know I can do, and I did exactly what I’ve been doing for so long in college. Specifically, it’s being complacent and unusually satisfied with my abilities as a writer, as well as other certain skills. It’s saying to myself, “Hey, I know I’m a good writer, and I know how to find, digest, and express information, and I know how to use digital technology to make a project look appealing. And if I put in less time on this project to focus on other things in my life and still get a good grade, that’s okay, right? I give myself permission to do that because I say so.” Essentially, what I’m doing is exploiting how good I think I am at certain things — “my abilities as a writer, as well as other certain skills” to spend less time on projects that require those abilities and skills because I think I’m good enough.
Now, you’re probably saying to yourself, “Wow, you’re being really harsh on yourself,” or maybe you, as my professor, knew this all along. Either way, let me show you the facts to prove to you why this is true. After all, when you make a claim, you have to back it up.
I started this class with excitement and enthusiasm, as I always do. I wanted to do a project about Oral History, but toward the middle of the semester I was really overwhelmed with the subject because of my other Oral History class. I was also getting overwhelmed with my Oral History project focus: death and dying. So I had to change my project idea. In my heart, I wanted to keep it in the realm of my career interests, but instead, I took the easy way out and expanded a project from last year.
It was then that I became disinterested. Why should I care about a project that has no relation to my career, right? And that’s when I started putting in average effort, still knowing that I would get a good grade. And in retrospect, that was the most immature, unauthentic, un-academic decision I could have made in this class: because every writing experience is a valuable writing experience, and no writing experience should go wasted.
Why that kind of effort won’t be good enough going forward in my academic career and in my life. In my acting classes in high school, I noticed that what made a play or a musical so special is that every actor on the stage is always trying to be better than they were the previous performance. They aim for perfection, regardless of any preexisting ideology they may have about whether or not perfection is achievable.
In a way, I see writers as a lot like actors. Writers are always trying to strengthen their craft, just as an actor is always trying to make that one certain line sound more authentic. This semester my writing was a reflection of complacency, not a desire to improve. And for that, I am sorry.
The reason this kind of effort won’t be good enough going forward is because complacency does not yield growth. Senioritis isn’t a valid reason for me to not put in real effort and give up on getting better at my writing — the focus of my major. No graduate school admissions recruiter will accept a student who didn’t try and no employer will hire a candidate who doesn’t have the capacity to grow. Next semester I plan to put in real and consistent effort and walk out of my capstone course a better writer.
Next semester, I plan to do better in all basic areas of class participation, including attendance, handing in all assignments, and fully engaging in group activities. I also plan to think about my project idea well in advance; I am fully committed to writing about something I am passionate about. At the same time, I have to remember that every writing experience is a valuable one, especially because I am not always going to be given the privilege to choose my own writing topic like I have in many of my applied writing courses. I want to plan out my writing better than I did this semester and write as if I were writing for publication. Lastly, I want to read more. But that is a topic for another essay.
There were positives about this semester. To be fair, and to practice making counterclaims, allow me to tell you what some of the positive experiences related to writing were while I worked on my project.
I enjoyed creating the Educational Activities section of my project the most because while I was drafting them, I envisioned myself leading them. When I first came to Potsdam, I was interested in becoming a teacher, and ever since I dropped that major I haven’t been able to work on an assignment related to education because of the courses I’ve taken. I put in the most effort into the Educational Activities and had the most fun with them, probably because they were the ‘applied’ part of the project. I am a big advocate for applied learning, and for every large assignment that I do, I always hope there is a hands-on component to it — that’s just how I learn. I even considered at one point during the project to donate my Educational Activities to my local ARC down at home.
Another positive aspect of the experience was the actual learning about my chosen topic, sexuality and disability. Although I expanded this from a previous project, I learned a lot more about the topic this semester, including the multidisciplinary approach to sexuality counseling, as well as the FAQ’s that I crafted myself.
Concluding thoughts… I am not totally dissatisfied with my performance this semester, but I know I can do better than what I’ve been doing in so many courses. I want to end my college career with a bang, and I think I already have the right attitude in order to do that. College can leave you with a sour feeling when you feel like you spent so much money to earn a piece of paper that reminds you of dwindled or wasted efforts. I am excited to spend another semester with you as my teacher, and I can’t wait to see what will become of my writing.