Another semester is beginning, and the following essay – reprinted with Mr. Stone’s permission- reminds me of why I write this blog, and why I willingly do full mark-ups on 200+ papers a semester, yet get up before dawn to carve out my own writing time. Yes, the essay is unabashedly complimentary, and I am sure other students have less favorable experiences, but I wanted to reprint it because Larkin’s perspective and experience as a student speaks loudly to the potential problem of an educational system that may be veering into a quantitative system. His essay is why we, as writers and educators, should care. Mostly though, I am posting it because it’s a fine piece of writing, and expresses a tranpsersonal process. Maybe he’ll get a writing gig offer! You never know.
“ENG 112 Self-reflection” by Larkin Stone DEC 2018 ( reprinted with permission)
I’m glad that a self-reflective piece was offered as a choice for this essay. I’d like to think that I’m better suited for this style of writing, but I fear that everyone is better suited for this style of writing.
That last sentence perfectly describes my “life” as a writer. The desire to write has always lived within me. As a young child, I would “write” stories aloud while my mother wrote them down for me. As soon as I was old enough to operate a pencil, I wrote my own short stories and designed simple comic books. As a high schooler, I dove into journalism. I was the only four-year staffer on our school’s paper (three years was typical). I held all the editorial positions at some point or another. We even won state-wide awards! By high school’s end, I had been accepted to several four-year schools. I visited them all, talked to their English departments, and even picked out my programs. Everything was shaping up for me to be a professional writer. At the very minimum, I was excited to be in any field that put my abilities to use. At the last minute, I decided that I didn’t want to go.
I was an honor roll student all the way up until my senior year. Isn’t that how it goes for everyone, though? Every senior is anxious to be done with school and they all end up slacking off a little. Unfortunately, I slacked off more than a little. I slacked off harder than I’ve ever seen anyone slack off. I shouldn’t have graduated. I wouldn’t have graduated without the help of my parents and a handful of caring teachers. Kicking and screaming, they dragged me across the stage, shoved a diploma in my hands, and that was it. I tried community college on four different occasions at three different schools. Those efforts (rightfully) earned me a 0.6 GPA. I accepted the fact that college “just wasn’t for me.” I got a job, moved out, and have been working ever since. Writing completely fell off of my radar after that. In my mind, writing was unrealistic. My line of work was (is) realistic. Busting my back in the scorching heat and frigid cold was realistic.
After five years of this, I decided that enough was enough. I was going to try college one more time. At first, I didn’t even take myself seriously. Even with such little confidence, I think I just wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. I decided to take two or three classes just to see what would happen. Those classes went well, and I began to rebuild my confidence. After a semester or two, my mindset shifted. This wasn’t going to be a “bucket list” mission to prove something to myself. Maybe this degree could help me get a better job. Maybe even a real career!
I had this mindset as recently as a few months ago. I figured that a basic associate’s or some kind of business degree would advance me up the corporate ladder. At minimum, it would get me into an office and out of elements. We actually spoke about this on the first day of your class. At the time, though, I had no idea how much you and your class would do for me.
Before this semester, I viewed college as a business transaction. I give them money. I do the work and take the tests. I get a piece of paper on a nice spring day with all my family present. From there, I’m hopefully able to make more money and have an easier life. It was obvious that many of my professors felt similarly. Many of them felt more like supervisors than teachers. I managed to get through most of my classes without ever even speaking to them!
English 112 was different, though. I could tell that you actually cared and truly wanted to help your students improve. If I’m wrong, you’re really missing your calling as an actress! Your mark-ups are the most detailed critiques I’ve ever gotten and I can tell that lots of time and effort went into each one. I’ve always been able to get by with writing off the cuff in a conversational style (like this), but I feel that your class and your mark-ups have made me into a better technician. Your grading was honest, fair, and always came with a detailed explanation. I’m now more confident than ever with my ability to write academic pieces. Also, I learned more about citations than I thought was possible. I’m thankful for that, as it should keep me out of academic trouble in my future classes. Blackboard was easy to navigate and well-organized. Classes were enjoyable, which is a feat of its own. I’m sure it’s difficult to achieve that in a three-hour night class that has five students in it. I felt that we achieved a perfect balance of instruction and class time. You never kept us late, but we always covered everything that needed to be covered. As a student, I feel like your class has prepared me for any future English courses I might take.
As a person, I feel like you have done more for me than you’re aware of. After telling me about your blog, I checked it out and have enjoyed reading it. What I’ve read about your journey is truly inspiring. I see some parallels in our paths to becoming writers. I had given up on my goal of being a writer by the time I was twenty years old. I (and everyone around me) thought it was unrealistic and a job best suited for my daydreams. You overcame adversity and you’re still actively hunting down your dream to be a writer. If you can do it, then surely I can do it too. You’ve shown me that it’s not too late to do what I believe I am meant to do.
Because of your English 112 class, I am once again putting stock into the possibility of being a writer. Thank you for grading honestly and in a way that would make me a better writer. Thank you for telling me that I’m talented and suggesting that I pursue writing. Thank you for showing me that it’s not too late and that my dreams will only die if I let them. Thank you for the inspiration! I’m still not close to a perfect student (as shown by my CAJs, or lack thereof), but I am a better student and a more motivated person than I was three months ago. Thank you for everything.BIO: Larkin Stone is a graduate of Gloucester High School (2011) and currently a student at Rappahannock Community College. He hopes to continue his education and pursue writing at a University in the coming years. Larkin enjoys writing both fiction and non-fiction, and has been published in the Gloucester-Mathews Gazette Journal. In his spare time, Larkin enjoys attending live sporting events, taking trips to the cinema, metal detecting, and building Lego models.Contact him at:
Thank you, Larkin.
And thanks for reading…