Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Reaction to Educational Autobiography

Serena's picture

I was at first anxious to write my educational autobiography for an audience because, while I do think about the details of my formal and informal schooling often, I don’t usually share these thoughts with others. As always with my written work, I was worried that I would come off in a way that I had not intended, for which reason I opened my writing with a less formal anecdote, though in reading the essay again, I’ve found that I soon after fell into my old formalities that often accompany my writing. When speaking of my writing, my English teacher would often say that it comes across as if I am trying to impress someone, or that it is more or less pretentious, two things that I would not like my readers to feel; I simply do not know how to write in any other way. I suppose my way of writing comes partially from a need to disguise myself behind formalities, so that even while I am writing about emotional events in my life, it does not come across as so.

After writing my essay, I’d realised that I had not included many issues of how my education at school affected my culture at home; my recognition of a kinship with Richard Rodriguez in terms of feeling alienated from family and culture came a bit overdue. I did not speak of how I have learned a lot about myself simply by observing how I sometimes feel contempt for my uneducated family or upbringings. This is perhaps also why I write in the way I do: fearing a life similar to that of my family, I overcompensate by peppering my writing with uncommon words and aspire to grammar which is never anything short of proper.


Kamila Ganihanova's picture

Serena, Great observations! I


Great observations! I am used to writing for teachers and not for myself and as a result sound a bit pretentious with my vocabulary at times. I can totally relate to this!

S. Yaeger's picture

Serena,  This is the secind

Serena,  This is the second time you've expressed fear of seeming pretentious in your writing.  I really don't think your posts here sound pretentious at all.  In fact, I really like reading them.  Your style reads as very poised to me.

Jomaira5's picture

Hi Serena, I could definitely

Hi Serena,
I could definitely relate to your experience when dealing with language and trying to overcompensate something from your background with fancy words. I come from an immigrant working class family and coming to Bryn Mawr was a tremendous culture shock for me, because I found that I couldn't express myself, nor did I have the "cultural capital", in Bourdieu's definition of the word, that my peers brought to the classroom. This lead to a huge attempt on my part to change who I was, I began reading books outside of class, getting daily dictionary words sent to my phone, and constantly tried to learn things that would disguise the fact that I simply wasn't born in an environment that would allow me to be pretentious. I felt as though the fact that I couldn't express myself with fancy language meant that I wasn't as intelligent as others on campus.

I still battle these feelings everyday, and I'm not sure doing that was bad idea, although it's probably not a good one either. I think that your ( and my) experience with such an issue is a result of our experiences not being valued in traditional education systems and our understanding that class and privilledge can be created (or masked) through language,