Sunday, October 28, 2012

2010 English Oddity

I took English 2010 upon returning to college after a three year break and a two year mission. My last composition class was in high school, nine years prior, but it counted as English 1010 at Utah Valley University so I skipped straight to intermediate writing. I expected to be challenged, especially since it had been so long since my last actual English composition course.

I was wrong.

The class was a complete and utter waste of my time and the government’s Pell Grant money. After the first week, the “teacher” did nothing more than point to a page in The Allyn & Bacon Guide to Writing, Fifth Edition, and essentially say “do that.” Granted, she was there to answer questions about the assignment, but the amount of actual lessons she taught during the full semester course fit on one hand.

Then of course, there’s the fact that even those lessons were worthless. They consisted of her putting up a transparency (yes, on an overhead projector that I thought went the way of the phonograph) of a grammar workbook page that should not have been allowed outside of junior high school, maybe high school. I remember one was “Commonly Confused Words” of the “choose the correct word to complete this sentence” variety. “Tommy likes Jill. (They’re/Their) going to the movies.” We discussed them as a class and no one seemed to struggle. There was also an object lesson about an orange, but I can’t for the life of me remember the object of that lesson.

Most of class time was spent peer-reviewing the papers: analysis and synthesis (a fancy way of saying “compare and contrast”), argumentative research, and a few others. This might have been useful if my peers actually commented on my essays, but, despite my insistence, they didn’t feel adequate to the task of critiquing them. They received A’s, but the teacher never provided evaluative or qualitative feedback of any kind in order for me to understand why they were “good.”

The only benefit I extracted from that class, besides maintaining my GPA and fulfilling a requirement for my major, didn’t occur until I started here at the Writing Center. The teacher made us attend the UVU equivalent a few times, which gave me some idea of what to expect as a new tutor. Still, three years is a long time to wait to see any value in a course.

This may sound harsh, but I believe the class was taught in that manner because the teacher was older (60s or 70s) and an adjunct. I don’t get the sense that my fellow students in the program, who took courses from other instructors, had the same experience. It certainly doesn’t make sense to me why the college would hire glorified graders across the board to teach a foundational class, and it was the only class I honestly felt I could have taught better, as an undergrad, than the teacher did.


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