Time To Assay The Essay Situation, Part 10

, , , , , , , | Learning | June 3, 2018

(A couple of middle-aged ladies are in charge of the program I am in during senior year of high school, where I am one of 15 to 20 seniors selected to be allowed to take all classes that year in the local community college and get those credits for my diploma, in addition to being transferable to my university. These ladies are also in charge of advising us on college applications, etc. At the very beginning of the program, during the end of junior year, while we still have a full load of classes and work, they assign us “homework” to do a full-page “introduction” essay on our personal and educational background and what we expect to get out of this program. It’s not for any real grade; it’s just for their convenience in “counseling” us. I type up the entire page, and literally after finishing the last word, my computer crashes and loses all the work. I’ve spent two hours just on this essay, after doing other homework; it’s now late at night and I’m exhausted. There’s no way I can redo it. I can handwrite three to four times faster than I can type, so I write out the entire essay from memory, in as decent handwriting as I possibly can, so I can finally go to bed. I hand in the essay the next day, and the day after, the ladies return them. Note that they never stated it had to be typed, and this is a couple decades ago when handwritten homework was commonly accepted.)

Lady #1: “[My Name], why ever did you handwrite this? Essays should be typed.”

Me: “I did type it, Ms. [Lady #1], and after I finished the whole page, my computer crashed and lost all of it. It was late at night and I just wasn’t able to retype the whole thing. I know essays should be typed.”

Lady #1: “Yes, but you should have typed it. Essays should be typed.” *looks at me expectantly in confusion*

(I think maybe she just didn’t hear or understand what I said.)

Me: *patiently and very clearly* “I understand, Ms. [Lady #1]; I know essays should be typed. I did type it up. I typed up the whole entire thing. At night, after finishing a lot of other homework I had to do. And then, after I finished the whole entire page-long essay, my computer just crashed. Completely. And the entire essay was lost. It just vanished. The computer ate it. It was quite late at night and I was exhausted; it was unfortunately just not physically possible for me at that point to type the whole essay all over again. So I rewrote it by hand, since that’s a lot faster for me. It was an unfortunate, one-time necessity due to circumstances beyond my control.”

Lady #1: “Yes, I get that; but, [My Name], submitted essays are supposed to be typed, not handwritten. You should have typed it. ” *again looks at me expectantly like she’s still utterly bewildered and has not understood a single thing I said*

(I then understand this cycle will repeat forever if I say anything else… and that she appears to be missing her brain. I quietly head-desk behind her back and die a little inside. In the middle of senior year, they’re advising us on writing our college application essays. They’ve offered to review them for us before we submit them.)

Lady #2: “You can write the essay on any topic you want; it just has to match the application requirements, but really, you have all the creative freedom you could want.”

Me: “So, can you give just a vague idea of what kind of topic it should be?”

Lady #2: “It can be absolutely anything you feel like writing about. It should just show that you’re a good writer and have good grammar, and something like an example of you learning something useful from something that happened to you; any real experience or made-up story is fine.”

Me: “So, it really can be just absolutely anything? You’re sure? There’s not any certain types of stories that you, as a long-time advisor, would say it’s a better idea to write the essay about? Like, if I give you a general idea of what I want to write about, and you let me know if it’s okay?”

Lady #2: “No. There’s absolutely nothing that’s preferable. It can be any topic whatsoever. Any life event. Anything you just feel like writing about, as long as it shows the elements we discussed. There is absolutely no need to ask me to approve it first. Go wild, [My Name]!”

(I work on the essay diligently for nearly a week; I make sure it shows my decent-quality writing and good grammar, and I put in a real effort to show I learned useful things. It’s mostly on the topic of something that happened very recently, so it is fresh in my mind and seems a very obvious choice: how an acquaintance asked me on an outing with him and then just never showed up with no explanation. I discuss how I was first very disappointed but learned from it not to rely on obviously unreliable people, not to waste a lot of time waiting around or even be disappointed over mostly inconsequential events, to trust my gut feelings, and to not agree to activities I didn’t actually even want to participate in with a person I don’t trust that much just because he asks me and whines and pressures me, etc. I proof and reread the essay; I make sure it sounds good and has every component it should have, and submit it for review. A few days later, the ladies return them and give us face-to-face feedback.)

Lady #2: *with an extremely confused look* “[My Name], I just don’t understand your choice of essay at all. You wrote about a boy? Who stood you up for a date? And? Where is the point? I just mean, it seems to have no real point at all. It doesn’t make any sense to me. It doesn’t really seem to be the right sort of topic. I mean, it just doesn’t seem to have any clear point to it, or any important conclusions or learned life lessons, or a cohesive story. I just don’t get your choice of topic at all, frankly… I’m just really confused… This just isn’t the suitable sort of topic you choose for college application essays.”

Me: *head-desk*

(I rewrote my essay on something else, mostly fuelled in the effort by my sheer rage at these women completely wasting my time. No, the topic wasn’t about them, though maybe it should’ve been. It wasn’t that different in essence, though; they were different events, but still about experiencing disappointment as a teen and dealing with it productively. I DIDN’T let them read my new essay before submitting the apps. I was accepted into very good colleges, nearly everywhere I applied.)

Time To Assay The Essay Situation, Part 9
Time To Assay The Essay Situation, Part 8
Time To Assay The Essay Situation, Part 7

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Getting To The Heart Of The Story

, , , , | Related | February 12, 2018

(As part of my advanced English course, I am writing a short story. I turn to my father for tips and advice; he is fluent in English and an avid writer himself.)

Father: “I like it, but your main hero is too perfect. Believable characters need some flaws.”

Me: “He is not perfect. He suffers from extremely fragile bones and is in constant pain.”

Father: “Uh… What was his name again?”

Me: “Sydney Hart.”

Father: *perfectly calm* “So… Your story is basically about achy, breaky Hart?”

Me: *long pause* “Okay, Percy Hamish it is. Also, I hate you, Dad.”

Father: “You are welcome, honey.”

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They’re Just Explaining Biology

, , , , , | Related | December 12, 2017

(My mom is helping me study for an AP biology test. We’re doing some Punnett square examples in the textbook.)

Me: “So, does it matter if the mother or father goes on top?”

Mom: “For sex? It depends. With me and your father, he goes on top because I weigh more. But with your aunt and uncle, I think she probably goes on top, because he weighs more.”

Me: *almost too horrified to speak* “I meant on the square. I think I’ll go study alone.”

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A Story With A Happy Ending

, , , , | Learning | October 9, 2017

(I am in fifth grade, and I’ve always loved writing fiction stories. My teacher presents us with two projects: First, we have to write a realistic fiction story for language arts, and second, we have to give a report on the Holocaust for social studies. I go up to the teacher and ask if I can write a story for the social studies project, rather than do a report, and she says yes. I am ecstatic, as a report sounds like a lot of boring, pointless work. About a month later, we turn in both projects. The following occurs as I hand in my Holocaust story:)

Teacher: “[My Name], this isn’t the report I asked for. You didn’t do the work?”

Me: “Um… you said I could write a story instead of the report.”

Teacher: “No, I never said that. When did that happen?”

Me: “Th-the day you told us about the project, I asked if I could write a story instead, and you said yes.”

Teacher: “No, I said you could write a story about the Holocaust for your realistic fiction story. You still had to do the report.”

Me: “Oh.”

(I am feeling extremely nervous, as I am very shy, and I am terrified I am going to fail the project.)

Teacher: “All right, just sit down for now.”

(The rest of class seems to go by smoothly, allowing me to forget the incident ever occurred, until…)

Teacher: “[My Name], come up here for a second.”

(I go up to her desk.)

Teacher: “I read through the story. Are you sure you wrote it?”

Me: “Yes?”

Teacher: “This work doesn’t look like a fifth-grader’s writing. Are you sure you didn’t copy it from somewhere?”

Me: “No! I wrote all of it. I didn’t copy or anything.”

Teacher: “Okay, because if you did, that’s plagiarism. You can get in huge trouble for that.”

Me: “I know. I didn’t copy anything.”

Teacher: “Well…” *she flips through it a bit* “This is really amazing writing. I know you weren’t supposed to write a story, but I’ll accept it this time. Just know you have to be more careful next year in middle school, since the teachers there won’t do something like this, understand?”

Me: “Okay.”

(I managed not to fail the project, but had to write an essay with the other kids who didn’t do the report about why I didn’t do it and such. I found it completely pointless and never actually turned it in. The kicker? The next year, in sixth grade, I turned in a short story instead of a science report and received an A for creativity.)

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There’s A Lot A Motto With This Family

, , , , | Related | September 12, 2017

(My dad is going over missed vocabulary words with my nine-year-old brother. My sisters and I are sitting nearby, being oh-so-helpful.)

Dad: “What’s a sermon?”

Sister #1: “A really long boring thing Mom makes us listen to on Sundays.”

Brother: *gives definition*

Dad: “Okay, what’s a conspiracy?”

Sister #2: “Aliens built the pyramids.”

Sister #3: “No, it’s Bigfoot was the reason for earthquakes!”

Brother: *gives definition*

Dad: “What’s a motto?”

Me: “Nothing, what’s a motto with you?!”

Brother: *cracks up*

Sisters: *singing* “It means no worries, for the rest of your daaaaaays!”

Dad: “I really should have known better on that one.”

Me: “Hakuna.”

Sisters: “Matata.”

Me: “Hakuna.”

Sisters: “Matata.”

Brother: “Hakuuuu-uuuuuuna Matata.” *pause* “I don’t know what a motto is.”

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