My feelings about the English language, including both grammar and literature, have changed several times throughout my life. These changes took place as I was influenced by my family and by the different teachers that I have had throughout my academic career. As a young boy, I knew very little about the English language, but the instruction which I have received throughout my academic career has worked to shape my feelings about the English language. My parents began reading to me when I was very young. When I was only six months old, my parents bought me a number of plastic books.
Using simple picture books, my parents taught me to recognize pictures of objects and how to associate those objects with their specific names. I learned how to talk when I was only a year old, and my parents continued to read to me in order to help me build up my vocabulary. I specifically remember my mother reading Sesame Street books to me. When she read to me, she used a different voice for each of the characters. I heard the same stories read to me so many times that I began to memorize them. I was able to recite my favorite stories before I could read them for myself.
While I was unable to read, my skills with the English language were developing as I learned and used the words that I heard my parents read to me. My parents, my first teachers, made learning the English language an enjoyable experience for me at a young age. I began attending preschool at the age of three, and I have a number of memories from that period in my life. My preschool teachers made learning about the English language fun. They ingrained in me the letters of the English alphabet using a number of techniques. I remember gluing uncooked macaroni noodles onto construction paper in order to form different letters of the alphabet.
The letters or words that we learned were usually associated with a fun story or with a specific color. The teachers also read a great deal to me and my fellow classmates. Story-time became something that I looked forward to. Because my preschool teachers made learning fun, I looked forward to learning more about the English language at a very young age. My parents further reinforced what I learned in preschool by continuing to read to me at home. When I was five years old, I began attending kindergarten. Once again, my kindergarten teacher helped me to enjoy learning about the English language.
My teacher, Miss Mackey, was very encouraging and gave our class a number of assignments which made learning the English language fun. The focus of our study of the English language dealt with strengthening our vocabulary and spelling skills. I remember having a weekly assignment which helped to enlarge my vocabulary. Each week, the class was told what the letter of the week was. We were told to find pictures of items which began with that particular letter. These pictures were cut from magazines and glued onto a piece of paper.
At the end of the week, Miss Mackey would choose three or four students to stand in front of the class and explain their pictures. Not only did this exercise help me learn a number of new words, but it also taught me how to stand up in front of people and speak about my work. I remember how encouraging Miss Mackey was when it was my turn to stand in front of the class. Her guidance and support helped me to be confident in front of my peers, and I was able to better articulate myself and to develop my ability to use the English language in front of an audience.
When I entered first grade, I was separated from the rest of my class for the reading part of my education. I was sent to another classroom where students with more advanced skills with the English language were taught. I felt greatly encouraged by being placed in this group of students and worked even harder in order to remain in the group. The English teacher, Mrs. Mento, had our group do projects that stimulated our creativity as well as taught us more about the English language. We read plays aloud with one another and even acted out a few of the plays.
Mrs. Mento would not just let the students in our group read words. Occasionally, she would ask us what a particular word we had just read meant. I learned the importance of not only being able to read new words but also the importance of understanding what the new words meant. Mrs. Mento made looking up words in the dictionary seem like a fun game of discovery, and this encouraged my desire to learn about the English language. To this day, I rarely read over a word that I do not know without looking it up to make sure that I understand its meaning in the context that it is used.
My second year of grade school stands out the most to me when I think back on my experience with the English language. I disliked my second grade teacher, Mrs. Walker, for most of the school year. However, I now realize that she was one of the best teachers that I ever had. Mrs. Walker realized that I was not greatly challenged by most of the English and reading assignments which she gave the rest of the class. As a result, Mrs. Walker pushed me extremely hard. Instead of placing me into a normal reading group, she gave me extra reading assignments and worked with me individually in order to challenge me and my reading skills.
I disliked Mrs. Walker when I was her student because I believed that she was picking on me, but I never gave up trying to do my best at the work she gave me. Mrs. Walker also stands out in my mind for another very important reason. Mrs. Walker gave me my very first novel. Up until that point in my life, I had only read short books and stories that were designed for early readers. When Mrs. Walker gave me the novel Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective, by Donald Sobol, my life changed. I remember being intimidated by what I considered to be a very thick book, but I decided to read the book to see if I liked the story itself.
I have never looked back. I can honestly credit Mrs. Walker with turning me into a genuine bookworm. Of course, my parents supported my newest interest, buying me just about any book that I wanted. By the time I was in the fifth grade, I owned over seven hundred books. Mrs. Walker saw that I had the potential to master the English language, and she refused to ignore that fact. Mrs. Walker’s caring and influence in my academic career affected the remainder of my years in elementary school in another way as well.
She had me take a test near the end of the school year which tested my academic skills in general. My score on the test was high enough to permit me entrance into the school’s Enrichment program. I remained in the Enrichment program for three years. Students in the program left their regular classes during the time that was set aside for reading and English. The program was designed to develop both math and writing skills in a creative environment. While enrolled in the program, I studied a number of diverse topics which included spiders, genetics, and archaeology.
My writing skills were greatly improved as a result of my close relationship with the Enrichment instructor, Mrs. Thompson. I compiled my first research paper as a part of the Enrichment program’s emphasis on spiders. My paper was graded for content, presentation, and grammar. I learned at a young age what a good paper was supposed to look like. The way that Mrs. Thompson helped me and my fellow students develop our writing skills by making us study fun and interesting topics furthered my interest not only in the English language but also in academics as a whole.
My English teachers in junior high were also successful at making me interested in the English language. My sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Holloway, was the first teacher that I ever had who concentrated on teaching her students how to write essays. She spent a great deal of time teaching the parts of speech and the rules of grammar. She then taught us how to apply the rules that we learned to our personal writing. At least once a week, Mrs. Holloway would bring a video in for the class to watch. Following the video, we were told to write a specific type of essay about what we had seen.
I remember how excited I was when Mrs. Holloway brought the boxed set of the Indiana Jones Trilogy for the class to watch. I wrote an essay about each movie’s plot, and, at the end of the month, I was given the assignment of writing a comparison essay of the three movies. Mrs. Holloway took the otherwise boring assignment of writing an essay and made it extremely interesting. She taught us how to decide which details were important to include in a summary and how to set up comparisons.
I wrote just about every type of essay possible while I was a student in Mrs. Holloway’s sixth grade English class. I came away from my experience in Mrs. Holloway’s class truly appreciating the art of writing an essay. To this day, I enjoy writing essays more than any other style of writing. My seventh grade English teacher, Ms. Penza, is the most eccentric teacher that I have ever had. Ms. Penza knew that our class had learned a great deal of grammar, and she decided that we needed to focus on literature. Ms. Penza truly loved literature, and she did her best to get her students involved.
I will never forget the first time that I heard “The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe. Ms. Penza came to class that day dressed entirely in black. Even her makeup was black that day. She closed the classroom door and lowered the shades on the windows, making the room completely dark. Ms. Penza then sat at her desk and read the poem to the class in a slow, dark voice. I learned to love poetry that day in her dark classroom. While Ms. Penza spent very little time teaching grammar, I still learned a great deal about the English language while I was a student in her class.
I learned that the words of the English language can be manipulated by a writer to evoke certain reactions from his or her reader. I also learned how different types of figurative language and imagery can be used by writers who understand the English language to make their message more powerful or meaningful. Whenever I read poetry, I remember the way that Ms. Penza explained the power that a writer can give his or her writing simply by choosing words which evoke meaning and interest in the reader. The bulk of my experience with grammar during the seventh grade came as a result of my involvement in the school’s newspaper.
Ms. Penza was the supervisor of the newspaper, and she suggested that I become involved with the newspaper in order to keep my writing skills sharp. I soon became the chief editor of the paper, and with that responsibility came a great deal of practice with grammar. I wrote the sports column of the school’s paper and edited the rest of the newspaper’s articles before they went to print. I gained a lot of experience with editing according to rule-based grammar by working on the school’s newspaper. Without Ms. Penza’s encouragement and help, I would have never had the experience.
After I finished seventh grade, I transferred from the public school system to a small private school. The differences between the two schools were numerous, but differences in the way in which the English language was taught were drastic. My new school did not have any advanced enrichment programs, and it did not have a newspaper. The school only had two high school English teachers. My eighth grade English teacher, Mr. Cattell, had a very monotonous voice. He also had a very monotonous style of teaching. He assigned a great deal of vocabulary exercises and enjoyed reading aloud from his grammar handbook.
I became slightly disenchanted with the English language during eighth grade largely because of the way in which it was presented by my teacher. He did not enjoy the English language, and he most certainly did not enjoy teaching the English language to a classroom full of students. When he assigned stories for the class to read, he also handed out a packet of multiple choice questions which corresponded with the stories. My classmates and I soon realized that we could get good grades on the assigned packets without reading the entire story.
I began to read the stories in order to pick out the correct answers for my assignments instead of challenging myself with what the stories were about. Mrs. Cramer was my English teacher for ninth, tenth, and eleventh grade. Her teaching style was very similar to Mr. Cattell’s teaching style. Mrs. Cramer assigned a number of vocabulary exercises and focused a great deal on grammar. At the end of each semester, she required her students to hand in a research paper. She was very disinterested in the English language, and after spending only one year as her student, I became disinterested in the English language as well.
She rarely assigned creative projects for her students to do, and I became bored with both the English language and literature. Mrs. Cramer also believed it was wrong to try to personally interpret a piece of literature. She believed that there was only one correct way to interpret a poem or a piece of prose. When I dared to suggest that there was another way to interpret a particular piece of literature, she would calmly tell me that I was wrong. I spent three years as Mrs. Cramer’s student, and I read each assigned literary work in order to learn the basic plot elements which I knew I would be tested on.
I began to view my English language and literature homework as boring assignments which I could briefly skim through without reading thoroughly. I earned very high grades in Mrs. Cramer’s English class, but I learned very little and was not challenged by the work that I was given. The way in which I viewed the English language changed once more during my high school experience. However, it was changed not by the influence of my English teachers but by the example of my Italian teacher. I took two years of Italian, and that Italian class changed the way that I viewed language as a whole.
Mr. Holland, my Italian teacher, truly loved language. He was excited about what he taught, and his interest in Italian sparked my interest in the language as well. I became very interested in becoming fluent in the Italian language, but I remained disinterested in the English language. However, Mr. Holland soon taught me the similarities and differences between the two languages, and I was intrigued. As I learned the different cases in Italian, I began to compare them to the cases in English. I also compared the words and different sentence structures of the two languages.
I became fascinated with the Italian language and excited about the English language once more. While I was enrolled in my Italian classes, I began to change the way that I handled myself in my English classes. However, Mrs. Cramer was unchanging in her disinterest in the English language, and I was unable to change the tone of the class. When my senior year of high school began, I was determined to enjoy my final high school English class. The focus of our senior English class, which was taught by Mr. Cattell, was British literature. I will never forget the first assignment that he gave our class that year.
He told the class to read an excerpt from the poem “Beowulf”. We were given one night to read the excerpt and to answer a packet of questions which pertained to the poem. I decided that day that I was going to do my best to enjoy what I was reading. I also decided that I was going to do what I could to stimulate conversation in class about the reading. In class the next day, Mr. Cattell asked everyone to hand in their question packets, but I raised my hand with a question. I began to ask my teacher about the plot of the poem, and then I looked around the classroom. Some of my classmates had raised their hands with questions as well.
While Mr. Cattell’s teaching style did not change during my last year of high school, I enjoyed the class because I was able to engage myself and my classmates in the material we were assigned to read. By the end of my high school experience, I realized that I truly did love both the English and Italian languages. My college experience with the English language has been short but pleasant. I just recently finished my second year of college as an English major, and I enjoyed each of my classes. The professors have a love for the English language and literature that I both share and admire.
The way that they teach their classes engages their students, and this is a characteristic which I have not experienced or witnessed, with the exception of my Italian teacher, since I was in the seventh grade. I have learned that personal interpretation of literature is acceptable. I have been given the opportunity to truly read short stories and novels which I only skimmed through in high school. My writing skills have improved as I have been given the opportunity to write in the essay format that I enjoy. My love for the English language has been rekindled during the past two years.
As I continue to formally study the English language in college, I am independently studying the Italian language. Both the good and bad examples which were set by my professors and teachers have inspired me to pursue several of my dreams simultaneously. Mr. Holland, my Italian teacher and good friend, encouraged me to pursue that which I love and that which I feel passionate about. Following his advice, I plan to pursue a career in teaching English to high school students. I hope that I can set a good example for them just as my teachers and professors have set for me. I would also like to formally study Italian at the college level someday.
I also plan to pursue my dream of writing. I especially enjoy writing articles and essays, and I hope that one day I will be able to write for some type of publication. My feelings about the English language have changed several times throughout my academic career. A number of significant and meaningful events took place as I progressed academically, and I was taught by a number of people in a variety of ways. The way that the English language was taught to me throughout the course of my life has not only affected my academics, but it has also affected my choice of a career.