23 May 2019

English 101 Journey: An Adult Learner’s Takeaways

Image of Pencil and Notebook
English 101

When I decided to go back to academia and switch my degree from a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration to Fine Arts majoring in Graphic Design, I didn’t have lofty expectations on the number of credits transferable for my new major.  I was ready to be a freshman all over again. However, the word freshman gave me the sensation of not only feeling young as I tried to identify myself as one, but at the same time ancient knowing I was once a freshman 20 years ago. This article is my story on English 101 journey and takeaways.

I’m older, wiser, and in many ways more advanced and confident or am I?

Sitting in the grand ballroom during orientation with fellow eager and nervous-looking freshmen students and their guardians, I recall a time when I too would have probably been in the same shoes.  There I was, by myself, observing, and enjoying being amongst a group of young learners, in college. While viewing my transcript showing 120 attempted credits, my GPA was not what I originally anticipated. It appeared to be higher than claimed on my Boise State application. I  gleamed with pride as I silently told myself “I guess I was not so bad.” This feeling, however, immediately dissipated as soon as I saw some general education requirements I still have to do.  

Sigh. So close, yet so far but I can do this!  Wait, English 101? I know it’s my second language and my credentials are from another country, but I have been learning it since the age of 6!  Can I get out of this?

To CLEP or not to CLEP

My initial thoughts of having to take another English reading and writing course brought dreadful memories of my past which led me to be curious in other possible options.  “Do I really need to take this? There isn’t just one but two! “Maybe I can CLEP them?” A knee-jerk reaction upon seeing the reality that I won’t get into the upper division of Graphic Design sooner than I hoped.  

After evaluating my thinking and thought of one good reason why I should take these classes, I came up with more than one – the idea that it may help me boost my writing confidence in my blog, so why not! It also would be a first for me to take an English class in the US.  Next thing I knew, I was picking my schedule, placing them in my e-shopping cart like my Amazon addiction. Wow! So neat to be a student in the 21st century; and there was English 101 with Professor Jan – I’ll pick her, schedule works, and she has my cousin’s name. It might be a sign, and my English 101 journey began.

A quick video reflection on writing

The Takeaways

Rhetorical Situation

Logos, ethos, and pathos? Where was I during this discussion in my previous English classes?  Things got a little blurry for a moment there. Although the idea behind the elements of a rhetorical triangle may not seem like a groundbreaking revelation,  the technique itself and being mindfully aware of it helps anyone become a better writer. Writing for ourselves as the audience feels more natural since we know what gets us engaged. The real challenge comes when addressing or creating an interest for another and make a compelling piece worth reading. As a craft blogger, this main content of the course was my biggest takeaway.

English 101 Rhetorical Triangle
Rhetorical Triangle

Critical Reading

I confess, my brain hurt when I first read some critical reading assignments.  As an adult learner, the critical reading exercises pushed me to acquire better reading strategies by doing the following:

  • Find the thesis statement gives me an overview of the article to help understand the scope of the writing;
  • Note the writing structure such as the subheadings and how they tie into the main topic;
  • Write notes and highlight key points
  • Make association or meanings out of main statements
  • Read and understand the conclusion
  • Be willing to go over the article more than once if necessary

On Adult learner's critical reading
Critical Reading – Focus on answers to key questions

Citations and CRAAP Method Application

MLA and APA formats I have come to know for the first time. I have started adding citations in some of my recent blog articles when applicable.   This understanding also extends to the CRAAP (Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose) method for source validation. Having this understanding along with research using reliable articles or sources has contributed to my confidence in my writing abilities.

Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.

-Malcolm Gladwell

The Benefit of Writing Your Narrative

A part of the exercise was writing my personal narrative. There was a sense of joy as well as vulnerability. While doing this writing exercise, there were parts of my life’s story I never thought to revisit. In the process, it encouraged me to reflect, analyze the reasons behind each success and failures that led me to a deeper understanding of how those events shaped my current self. This activity helped shift a certain mindset of mine when it comes to writing – to continue to challenge myself even if it feels uncomfortable.

You Truly Can Get Better

Ironically, one of my biggest hang-ups with having a blog is having to write.  You see, I create my designs and upload them to my website to share files, along with the tutorial itself.   While I am confident in my design creations, writing, on the other hand, has caused some procrastination on my part. I attribute this attitude to my lack of confidence in the area.  This class has helped me gain more confidence in my writing abilities.

On Learning Thresholds

When it comes to learning thresholds, I have learned to recognize signs when my brain is starting to feel overloaded. When I started this journey, I remember being unable to grasp the material in front of me quickly. In a research article, from one of my writing assignments, “Learning to Read Alters Cortico-Subcortical Cross-Talk in the Visual System of Illiterates” by Skeid and colleagues; they claim that it takes about six months for an adult brain to rewire with reading and writing.  Having been out of academia for many years, some moments did remind me of the need to sharpen my mind. At times, I have a slower cognitive response to any given instructions but I have also learned to recognize when my brain has to recharge.

In other moments, I find myself getting distracted or disengaged, especially when writing. To get things done, it has forced me to evaluate my productivity method.  Taking quick breaks and rewarding myself such as having a glass of milk. This method is my adaptation of the Pomodoro technique. It is a time management method using a timer with 25-minute intervals and short breaks in between.

Mom Juggling Tasks

Juggling multiple responsibilities outside of my college life has tested me beyond cognitive abilities.  Being a parent of two young boys requires stamina to keep up with their energy. After classes and school work, the responsibilities do not just stop there. Running a household and attending to the kid’s daily activities have to be in order. From my older son’s Taekwondo, homework, making dinner to their bedtime routines, it can get pretty hectic.  

There are days when I feel physically and mentally spent, but the clock doesn’t stop in order for one to catch up. So when the home is quieter, I turn to my projects before calling it a night. These projects may range from schoolwork, creating designs and tutorials for my website or learning something. Although there is some degree of difficulties as an adult learner, I find acceptance and setting achievable goals vital for a sound mind. This approach also includes being mindful of my body’s responses to the daily grind in order not to overextend myself.

A Change in Conception of Writing

In retrospect, the two articles that changed my conception of writing and reading in the class were that of Nathalie Singh-Corcoran’s “Composition as a Write of Passage” and Sherman Alexie’s “The Joy of Reading and Writing: Superman and Me.”

Singh-Corcoran’s article encourages one to read critically. Her persuasion of the importance of taking English 101 resonated with me as a reader. Singh-Corcoran’s asserts that it serves as a solid foundation in reading and writing. Also, with it comes benefits that go beyond my college life and well into my professional career. A statement that I can attest to having worked in the corporate world for the last 17 years. According to her, the more I write along with rhetorical analysis, the better I will be at writing.  Such words of encouragement have stuck with me.

As for Sherman Alexie’s “The Joy of Reading and Writing: Superman and Me,” was a great reminder of having passion. Sharing a part of his life’s story about achieving literacy as a young and impressionable Indian student was inspiring; a testament that if you use adversities as a source of motivation; it can serve as fuel for anyone’s success. Breaking down personal barriers and be driven by passion and purpose was apparent in Alexi’s story in his article. It is something admirable and in some ways, relatable.

How Do I Feel About English 101 Now?

Since taking English 101 and starting my blog journey, they have changed my attitude towards reading and writing; from activities, I typically would shy away from, to something I have developed more confidence in.   One of the most important takeaways is that with practice, I am getting better each time. Both reading and writing have changed my views in my abilities to learn. It isn’t about perfection; but whether or not, I am learning and growing in the process.