Friday, May 6, 2022

Personal: I Failed Freshman English Again!



In 1967 I failed Freshman English in college. In 2022, I reprised a class from 50 years ago with the same results: I failed it a second time!

The 1967 "F" was because I went home for Christmas and did not return to college for final exams. I only remember discussions with the teacher about "Why?" I should be taking the course. I have no memories of the quality of the work I submitted during the semester. [ FWIW, I did not return from the Thanksgiving break the following fall, either.]

The 2022 repeat ended with the same grade,,, 
...but this time it was because I did not submit the work.

College - Again

I enjoyed the 2022 class at St. Pete College. It was small. We had about a dozen students ranging in age from 18 to probably near 40. We met in the classroom once a week, at 10:00 on Friday. The campus is mostly empty on Friday, because St. Pete College now schedules most of its classes Monday through Thursday.

The professor was half my age, and I was amused that she was a bit fuzzy on her history (I was there; she had only read about it.) But I did not correct her in class. I think her parents were younger than me.

My attendance was spotty, but I did attend through the end. Fortunately, I was auditing the course and I did not have to take the final exam.

Freshman English- Again

In 2022, I over-thought homework.

The first assignment was to write something about a movie. Wow! That sounded like fun. Where oh where should I begin. 
  • A movie is a creative work that tells a story. 
  • However, the movie is produced commercially, probably with a financial incentive for making it. Why? Was it to moralize a point or just tell a story?
  • A director was involved - and he has his own perspective that he brought to the set, and he used his experience to interpret the script
    • Footnote: the film editor, with his/her own agenda, will assemble the scenes in an order that may negate the director's vision
  • Ah! The script writer blocks a story into different scenes. Why did those particular scenes get picked?
  • The original story was written by the author based on their experience or imagination - and this might be completely different from what was eventually presented on the screen.
By the time I had gone through that, the assignment was over. I missed the deadline, and I never caught up . The other students completed and submitted their work on time, so I was a unique outlier.. 

It was worth my time and energy on several levels. Here is what I learned:

Academic writing is different

I have been writing for decades! But my work tends to be a bit sloppy and written in a popular voice.

Academic writing focuses on research, citations, and concise content. And, it seems, there are approved resources for research. The cited work has to be "approved" on its own. Uh... writers have to research the researchers.

Each sentence should contribute something

I was familiar with the idea that each paragraph should have only one thought. What was new was the admonition that each sentence should contribute to that. My "by the way" additions don't really belong. While they are a value that is added in a classroom, it doesn't really belong in a document!

This is a challenge because of my engineering background. I write - and talk - with parenthesis and footnotes!

Thesis Statement = Subject Line

I have struggled for years over writing a "thesis statement." The concept has proved elusive to me. Apparently, this is something taught in Freshman English 101 (I was taking English 102, composition).

The proverbial light bulb went on over my head in class one day: a thesis statement is comparable to a detailed subject line of an emailYeah, that's not an exact definition, but it works for me. 

I have tried to use effective subject lines in emails. They don't convey the substance of what I'm sending but it does tell the recipient what to expect. Sometimes I might put a detail, in the subject line, but I put the full explanation in the body of the text.


I'm glad I took the course. 

I don't feel bad about the grade. It was not recorded in my SPC academic record; only that I took the class. I think it's funny - ironic- interesting - (you back the adjective) - that over half a century later I earned the same grade: F.

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