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Mid-Semester Evaluation

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I had a few good English classes in High School. I expected my Emily Balch Seminar to be like them. The professor would lead the class in discussion, we would answer their questions and write a formulated essay. This turned out to not be the case. Anne does start the classes, we do try to answer questions, and we write essays, but all in a new, slightly different configuration.

Anne’s class definitely has a planned structure. She keeps the conversation going in the right direction. She asks a lot of questions, however she tries not to be in the typical powerful professor role. She makes us look at our classmates and speak to them, simplifying the conversation of the classroom. I love that we are in a circle instead of rows; it keeps me from hiding. The way the classroom is set up is an example of playing with structure. The construction of the class is deliberate in creating an unstructured place to play. Scaffolding we can fill with whatever we find most interesting. Anne might provide the questions, but she throws them out to the wind for us to run with.

I have tried to play with different structures in my writing. My first essay was structured in the formulaic way I learned in high school. Then I tried a more un-structured approach, but this time it was too unorganized. The work we did with mosaics was also playing with structure. We were challenged to create our own structure out of a very unstructured assignment, and then observe and write about the structure in our classmate’s work. Due to my familiarity with formulaic writing, thinking so much about structure has challenged me. Having just the right amount is crucial to expressing and exploring in a coherent way.

This class has also challenged me with the sheer volume of writing. When I have a big paper due every few weeks I have time to procrastinate, ruminate, procrastinate some more, and feel very stressed the whole time. Now that process is jammed into a few days, especially due to the fact that I am sometimes writing about Saturday’s experiences. This has forced me to feel less attached to my writing. My writing will never be perfect, and there is always a time to just let it go. Though I still feel pressured by the short amount of time I have to write, I have been able to feel less anxious, the perfectionist in me has begun to calm down.

The concept of playing and serendipity has also challenged my perfectionist sense. Without being able to control exactly what would happen in the city, I was more open to just wandering along without a plan. Playing in a city and writing about it has also strengthened my ability to think critically about my experiences. I have often been instructed to leave myself out of my argument or my body of knowledge. Focusing on the point between what I have experienced and what I pull out of our readings is a new type of writing for me. This task is made exponentially more difficult through the lack of structure and the free roam of the page that we are allowed.

I am hoping that writing continues to be less anxiety provoking, and perhaps that I start going to the writing center. I hope that my ability to write structured, organized papers improves, especially when given unstructured prompts. So far I feel as though I have gotten on the path but I have not gotten there yet.

Aside from writing, I am really glad that I have been able to familiarize myself with some aspects of the city. When I was flying back from Maine, swooping over Philadelphia, I was given an aerial view of all that I have yet to explore. I hope that aside from a better base in writing, I can achieve a level of comfort with exploration. Philly has a lot more to offer than could be jammed into one class. Without this class though, I might not have even begun to see the wonders Philadelphia has to offer.