Monday, September 23, 2013

The Barbarian and the Other Mrs. McNeill

I think I learned how to write different types of essays in middle school. Since I was placed in the Talented and Gifted program in elementary school, I had the (dis)pleasure of taking advanced English, math, and foreign language courses. So, it was pretty much expected of me to proficiently learn and execute essays at a level that was higher than my actual grade. It made me feel pretty miserable honestly. I mean, I love to read and do creative writing but not when I am forced to do it – guess that’s just the rebel in me...
But, I do remember two teachers in particular who made it their mission to stifle this rebelliousness and write academic essays, like the ones that would get me into college (which I did not EVER had to do by the way). Ms. Barbara and Ms. McNeill were the names of the English teachers I had for AP English and AP Language and Literature.
Ms. Barbara also known as The Barbarian. This one was quite the Writing Nazi and had us writing every single day we were in class. It did not matter what type of writing it was. We kept a daily journal for writing responses to writing prompts, had in class and outside class essays to complete during the semester, and practice AP exams to write periodically. UGH! And, it was clearly outlined in her syllabus that we would be writing descriptive, analytic, argumentative, narrative, compare/contrast, cause and effect, satire, process, and expository essays. My favorites were satire and argumentative essays, of course. Each month, we would learn how to write a new type of essay, and by the time I got out of her class, I could write any type of essay on command in about forty five minutes or less.
Oh, but Mrs. McNeill was different (and, yes I know it is very ironic that she was my favorite high school teacher, and we almost have the same last name). She would still make us write, but we could choose which type of essay we wanted to write for each particular novel. It was great even though we could only use them once. We also had discussions about the essay types, which really helped me to understand how to actually write them, and we gave each other tips and advice on how we constructed our own essays.

Coming to Towson University then Weber State University, I was already prepared. The only difference is now I actually care about the quality of my work, and I like writing academic essays. It is still forced upon me to write them, but nowhere near as bad as it was in high school because I am no longer in the accelerated program, and there is not so much outside pressure for me to do well on a test I could care less for. And, now that I think about it, there probably was a learning curve. I have written so many essays that it is almost second nature for me to create a satisfactory one in forty five minutes and pretty great one in a few hours. I am nowhere near to being a jack-of-all-trades essay writer though!


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