Wednesday, September 28, 2011
"Why I Used To Hate English, Or How I've Become a Bird in Words Flying Mighty High!!"
By Bethzaida Rivas
I can’t tell you the specific moment I started to hate English, but it might have been the third grade, when I had this really mean teacher named Ms. Pet-tra-zel-li. I don’t think I’m spelling it correctly, but I still remember how to pronounce her name after all these years. Why? because the way she taught English was just Petrifying.
She always gave us a list of vocabulary words and made us look for the vocabulary words in the dictionary, which I never understood. That’s why they invented the dictionary, right? We would sit in our dull, depressing classroom and look up all twenty words that laid before us on our sheets and write definitions in our notebook.
Sounds like an easy task, but it wasn’t and I often dreamed about lunch coming and rescuing me from my misery. So when we wrote the definition down we had to put the definition into a sentence. Doing this part of the task upset me very much. I never could put the stupid word into a sentence correctly and this always annoyed me. How was I supposed to do this if I didn’t know how to pronounce half these long, pointless words and I never knew if I used the stupid word correctly to begin with? The thing that really annoyed me the most was it had to be the definition that dear Ms. Pet-tra-zel-li had in her notebook and not the definition you had. So if the two did not match up, Game Over for you and you had to do the walk of shame and misery all the way back to your wooden seat. This pointless and endless process went on for about three days, no not really, more like the entire school year.
As I started to move forward during my elementary days I started to dread English more and more. When I approached fourth grade, fifth, and so on, every teacher I had emphasized the importance of writing book reports and pointless essays about your life story etc. I remember this one time I read the book The Titanic and instead of writing a book report I ended up writing a ten page summary of the book. The stupid teacher Ms. Tell (her name really was Ms. Tell, I promise this is the whole truth and nothing but the truth.) But anyways she couldn’t read past the second page because her square, pale face and small, ugly eyes didn’t allow her to.
Don’t get me wrong, teachers always told me I had the ability to turn a piece of writing what was dull, lifeless, and uninteresting into a work of art. I did enjoy writing and when I felt like it. But I never liked writing when I was forced to produce work because there was never any fun in that. As I started to approach high school I just didn’t care about the writing process anymore. There were too many rules, structures, and formats to follow when it came time to writing Document Based Essays, Thematic Essays, and so on. I never could remember all the rules and definitions for when it was appropriate to use semi-colons, dashes, and all those other fancy punctuation.
I never understood why I couldn’t write the way I spoke and in plain English. If I wanted to write a run-on sentence or a sentence fragment that was my problem not anyone else’s. When I approached high school my English skills were horrendous, or so they said. Every time a teacher assigned me an essay, it was like teaching a dolphin how to sing opera. I swear I had writer’s block or a mental impairment that kept words from being processed in my mind. To start an introductory paragraph took me hours and when it was done all I had to show was five long sentences that barely took up half a page.
As my high school career progressed I had to remember and identify a whole new set of terms and definitions just so I could read and analyze long boring stories. I never got an A on any English essays I composed and I always felt like my writing skills were inferior to those of my peers. Even when I graduated valedictorian I had to write a graduation speech and the process was long, painful, and unbearable.
When I handed my English teacher the results after so many trial and error experiments I thought it was horrible, and lacked emotion. Curiously she thought my speech was the best piece I had written thus far.
But now that I’m a freshman in college I do have to say that I think I have rediscovered my passion for writing again. Since I have to use journals a lot in my English class, writing is starting to grow upon me now. Everywhere I go I have this urge to write down my thoughts and feelings. Recently, class was cancelled and suddenly I had this urge to write in my journal -- I ended up writing four pages!!
I enjoy going to my English class and I actually enjoy writing essays, well not essays on books so much. (Last week we had to write an essay on a book called Flight by Sherman Alexie -- you know, the kind with a thesis and quotes to support your claims.)
That wasn't fun. But I like writing essays with interesting prompts and stories. I like to write these personal essays that require you to use your imagination. In other words, I love to BLAB on and on about myself.
I have always disliked English for the simple fact that you have to write in a structured way and you have to remember so many rules and complex terms.
I like to write the way that I think and feel without any lines, borders, or rules to follow. I like my writing to be free from judgment, ridicule, and red marks written all over my paper by a mean teacher.
English once cast me to the abyss of the earth, but now it shines its ray upon me like I'm a bird flying mighty high.
Bethzaida Rivas is a freshman at the University at Albany, State University of New York, where she hopes to major in criminal justice. Born and raised in the Bronx, she is the first of five siblings to attend college. She was valedictorian of her high school class. Her dream is to join the Marines and become a General one day.