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An Ecological Transition (Self-Evaluation)

Barbara's picture

Randomly assigned from my three picks of ESem, this ecological journey is like a gift to me in the first semester at Bryn Mawr. I am satisfied that I have enjoyed a college English course – a department I probably would not attempt otherwise. (My option definitely opens up at this point though.)

Reviewing the reading list, I am very impressed by what I have read in this course. Most of the readings were completely new to me, with regard to both genre (I did not have much experience reading academic works that are represented in this course, such as writings of Waring and Merchant) and content. I occasionally had to spend more than four hours (the recommended time on syllabus) for assigned readings of a week. My ability to quickly grab the gist of an article fluctuated and I haven’t found out a clear pattern yet. I think this relates to how similar or different my own language and the writers’ language are; how much background information I had; how close I was to the intended audience. In reading Thomas Berry’s essays, for example, I had a hard time relating to the religious content. After several try and not getting much, I chose to skip the content that I essentially lack a background. Is this the correct strategy in academics? This is one question arisen in my reading process. I enjoyed more and had more to say about narrative than analysis articles. On the other hand, I have started to appreciate analysis articles more over the semester, especially their structure, which I consider to be useful in my future academic papers.

I think I have been an active member both in-class and online. I did not talk the most but I tried to catch each opportunity to speak and wanted to be thoughtful in what I say. I have found that I had more voice in smaller group discussion and with my writing partners. But it applies to all conversations that the better prepared I was, the more I could bring to the dialogue. For this reason, I have been willing to spend time on readings and my classmates’ articles. I have been actively using our online platform to express ideas and communicate with my classmates. I really appreciate every response I have got for my posts. Sometimes, my classmates pointed out what they disagreed or they found confusing. (I remember one conversation went for a lot of rounds of questioning and clarifying between Shengjia and me.) These comments made me to rethink about my ideas and how I expressed them. There were also times when people agreed my opinion and developed deeper argument from where I started. Having an engaging audience made me very absorbed in the online platform. Vice versa, I liked posting my flow of thoughts after reading others’ posts. There were times that I jumped off what the initial thread was about. This may not be most contributing to conversation but it reflects how my thoughts expanded in a real time. These posts are valuable to me as I am reviewing my progress over the semester because I can track how I read and how I reacted. I am delighted to see my online posts synchronized with class discussion. Compared to our tightly paced class discussion, the online platform allows me to return to and refine an idea. I appreciate that I have chance to use less formal writing in this class. I did not expect that online conversation would be incorporated to a college English course. I used to think that Internet is not for thoughtful conversation but for fast information. Now I know that how Internet functions is totally up to the content we actively choose to present.

As a feature of this class, the out-of-classroom experience engages me a lot and I will definitely create such experience myself after the class. I am a person who loves experience better than talk. The change that this course directed is that I have developed the ability to think more critically about my experience. I am now able to connect information from different sources and generate new ideas. These experiences are crucial primary sources for my imaginations. In the summer when I read the course description, I thought the site sit experience would be like a fact based scientific observation. However, after I learned about the geological, historical and botanical background about the college and my site, objective observation was no longer the only focus, as I described in my site-sit reflection assignment and online reports on field trips.

I read over my portfolio from the course and I am very happy about what I have achieved. I think I am a better prepared as a college writer now. One thing I really love but used to dislike about this course is the deadlines that constantly push me to work. I actually like this type of pressure now because writing is not only a creative process but also a skill that one can get better at with practice (especially I am not writing in my first language). I can see the effort I invested and my progress from the portfolio. In later assignments, I generally did a better job logically structuring my writing and precisely expressing my ideas. I initially did not quite like the idea to write so frequently because I doubted if I would have so much to tell in my writings. In the first few assignments, the activities (e.g. Thoreauvian walk, campus exploration) helped me a lot settle down and write something. I have more focused on narrating personal experience and reflection in those writings. It read more like a journal for myself than writing to other people. Personal journal is equally valuable as other genres, but in academics setting writing should be a tool for communication and idea emergence. Over the semester, my writings have definitely progressed towards these goals. In my web event paper, I attempted to address to a rather large audience beyond the class and designed layers of information that might interest different readers and I consider it a nice try. I also noted that my writing habit has changed from writing for an idea to generating ideas while I write. In short, from writing in this course, I have become a more active thinker and better at using writing as a tool.

Our ecological exploration is one-of-a-kind to me. It serves well for the primary purpose as a transition writing course in college, but also leads a journey in literature, biology, economics, history, geology, linguistics, feminism…Such diverse elements have kept me constantly excited about the course. Even though “lost” is a word that we use a lot to describe our class experience, I think this might attribute to the fact that we are always changing our topic, but we were never lost in a larger scale. We questioned why a particular reading is distinct or valuable, but never doubted the unifying idea of eco-literacy. I enjoyed the relaxing yet intense ambience of our class a lot. I appreciate that we do what we think about. We act ecologically – we barely try to push an idea but are very open. All in all, I have been always happily involved in the class.