Professor Jody Cohen
19 Dec 2014
When this class began, I was a completely different student than I am as I leave the class. This Emily Balch seminar has taught me some integral skills for classroom discussion and college paper writing. This was the first time that I had a class that was solely discussion based, with an emphasis on paper-writing and critical readings. With a class of this style, students are forced to step outside their comfort zones and enter a riveting group conversation. This was one the best experiences I have had with my class.
Before coming to college, I was hesitant when entering a class discussion. I was always well prepared for class and had discussion points noted, but I was never confident that what I thought was important was actually important. When I first started ESEM, I still had this mindset, but after the very first class, I realized how open and accepting the students and professor were. I also realized that no one in the room was perfect, and that we were all seen as equals. As I began participating more in class, I began forming more complex ideas as my peers would add to and question my ideas. The discussion part of the class was how I learned how to question myself and form coherent and complex ideas. I really enjoyed working in small groups to discuss our paper topics. Many times my group began just stating our general theses, but ended with new and compelling ideas from our other group members. Other times, we diverted from the general paper topic, and talked about current issues revolving around the environment and identity. Although this may not have been the idea of the small groups, it was a great way to discuss in a smaller and more intimate setting. I feel like I have learned so much from my fellow classmates.
When it comes to paper writing, I feel like I have grown significantly. In high school, writing assignments always seemed forced and pointless. However, in this class, all of our writing assignments have seemed very relevant to the class discussions and to life in general. When writing about topics that I find interesting and important, I find that I’m more open with my ideas and am able to fully conceptualize them. However, through this class, I’ve always learned how to write a paper when I’m having trouble connecting two thoughts or fully developing a thought. At first I think that my papers were a bit broad, but they progressively became more complex. I still think that I have some growing and maturing to do when it comes to paper writing. I think that I need to take more risks in writing more complicated and complex papers. The style that we write in esem is a lot different than the style we were learned to write in AP lit last year. Transitioning from a more structured and test-based style to a more free and thought based style has been tough, but rewarding.
Overall, I have grown significantly as a student as a result of my participation in ESEM. I have matured as an active participate in class discussions and as a paper writer. The ESEM program really integrates students into the atmosphere of college classes. It encourages students to step outside their comfort zones and pushes them to test their academic and social boundaries.