The Final Course UGH!

Here is my final essay for DP's class, a class I will miss very much. It's a bit lengthy, but even this doesn't fully cover everything I've learned in this course:

My Growth in This Course and My Ever-growing Curiosity
     I am writing this essay with a heavy heart. You may be asking yourself why. “I mean, it’s just another English class”, my friends tell me. A curious girl with an intelligent mind, I’ve always longed to be in a class that would let me explore beyond the usual mathematical material, English grammar, and scientific discoveries. Teachers didn’t really seem to notice that though. For the past 14 years, I’ve been constrained by my teachers to only focus on the taught curriculum whilst pushing unnecessary thoughts and questions out of the way. The only good thing that came out of this is that I became very obedient. I didn’t speak without raising my hand. I didn’t give my opinion if it wasn’t asked for. I was polite and did what I was told, even if I thought something was wrong. This obedience became a gift and a curse. “Do what you’re told, Lesley. Don’t distract others. Listen. Don’t speak.” … these were the words I’d tell myself in class every day. That is until I first walked into my AP English Language and Composition class in August. I walked in, expecting complete hell. I expected to be put held back and not allowed to explore realms beyond English. And boy, was I wrong. This course taught me that curiosity is a gift, and our current school system says ‘fuck you’ to curiosity. Teachers appreciate a student that wants to ask questions, but don’t make time to explore what students want to learn; instead, teachers shove seemingly useless information down our throats without giving us a chance to breathe and say ‘You know what? I think this is interesting… let me learn more.’ This course felt like a breath of fresh air. Being pushed into the world of blogging, I found my voice. I found the voice that for 14 years has been shut up by other teachers and the school system. I explored a wide variety of topics that were interesting to me, and thankfully, other people joined my journey as well. With blog posts on everything from Donald Trump to memes, this lionhearted 16-year-old learned how to roar again. I learned just how important my voice is, especially now where the ‘ignorant’ youth is seen as incapable of changing the world. I learned that learning is something that should expand beyond a classroom, and curiosity is a virtue. I can honestly say that I’ve found who I am and what I am interested in through this course. Because for the first time in all my years of schooling, I was allowed to be curious. I was allowed to use my voice, and truthfully, I had no clue that my voice would be as impactful as it is today.
     Trust is one of those things that we don’t realize we have until we lose it. I feel like the amount of trust given to us at the beginning of the year was something that maybe we didn’t deserve… but rather needed. I know many people that share the same sentiments I do; we believe teachers don’t make room in these short 50 minute periods for curious minds to simply explore. I’ve observed a great deal of change in my colleagues’ thinking and work, which makes me wonder; where would our minds be if we didn’t have this freedom? We were given a great deal of freedom from the get-go, and some of us could make the most of it. Or rather, we tried. But at the same time, many of us didn’t make the most of it, and it’s easy to see why. How is it possible that we are getting this type of freedom? Isn’t this an AP class? Where’s the work? Where are the long essays? It’s hard to completely push those questions away, leading to a feeling of skepticism and doubt. This course seemed too good to be true. At least, that’s how I felt. Perhaps this is why I personally felt like I held back from posting more. Other reasons why others may have not taking advantage of all this freedom is that some people simply learn better with a set and strict curriculum, which is fine. People get used to the same system for years and years, making change horrifying. Exploring things beyond what is taught also may not be important to some students, as many students are looking to just get by in school. Which is also perfectly okay.
     We read quite a bit this year and I read things I wouldn’t have read on my own time, had it not been for this class. Of course, many characters and aspects of literary works hit me hard because I could relate. Whether it was a feeling felt by a character or a message sent in an essay, I feel like each piece of literary work I had the pleasure of reading and exploring in this class was worth it. I enjoyed every bit of it, a strange thing for me to say considering my 80% hate, 20% love relationship with reading. There are three literary works that stand out in my mind, however. First, ‘A Modest Proposal’. The purest form of satire in the form of an essay, this spoke to me because everything Jonathan Swift said in that essay reminded me of myself. I am a very sarcastic person and constantly joke around about everything and anything. At the same time, I am aware of the overabundance of problems in our world and want things to be changed for the betterment of society. Those two things, when combined, make for a perfect satire. Jonathan Swift acknowledged the issue of poverty in Ireland and thus made the helpful yet sarcastic suggestion of eating babies, a ‘burden’. Similarly, in my satire from the beginning of the year, I acknowledged the ‘issue’ of Mexicans immigrating here and suggested that America be put in a bubble. Why? Because fuck a wall. The comments on that blog post made me laugh, as Mr. Jesse Grimm sent me a video of what it’d actually be like if America was put in a bubble and Cayla praised my suggestion as being hilarious. I owe my success in that post to ‘A Modest Proposal’ because it gave me something I had to beat; I had to suggest something more savage and shocking than that of Jonathan Swift. And going along with the theme of essays, another thing that hit home was ‘On Self-Reliance’ by Emerson. Does this come as a surprise? I still remember the day we had our Socratic seminar relating to this essay. While people praised the message that Emerson was getting across, I remember going against the everyone by saying he was ‘full of shit’. Ironically, by doing that, I did everything that Emerson wanted me to do. I was being self-reliant. I still have very negative, yet very positive feelings about this essay. A contradiction, I know. I hate the essay because it’s taking a typical cliché and rewriting it to make it seem less corny. I hate the overall message. Be yourself… really? Like I haven’t heard that before. But, time and time again, I’ve been subconsciously following Emerson’s advice. I do what I want, and I don’t like being told what to do. This makes for a funny point; Emerson told me to be myself, and I didn’t like that because he was telling me what to do and how to live my life… yet follow my heart's desire and am myself anyway. I am self-reliant naturally; maybe being told to be self-reliant triggered my mind a bit because I don’t like being told what to do. This is probably the reading that will stick with me for years and years. Reading ‘On Self-Reliance’ bothered me like crazy, and no text has ever been able to have that effect on me before. Switching gears, the following work is something we briefly touched, but still influenced me positively. In February, we talked about the famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. We talked about what made it effective and its significance… and that’s it. To me, that speech is iconic and should’ve been discussed in more depth. History is a topic that has never really interested me until we started learning about African-American history. Now, that is something I find fascinating. African Americans, for centuries, have been the epitome of self-reliance, strength, and determination. The impact they’ve had on American history is significant. I can’t even begin to fathom how such influential African American leaders endured the things they did to cause a positive change. With Martin Luther King, he is one of my inspirations of peace. He was self-reliant. He stood for what he believed in. Through trials and tribulations, he remained strong. I aspire to be like him, and exploring his speech and going deeper into his history as well as the civil rights movement really inspired me and though we discussed it very briefly, it was something I found very important. His speech and the way he expressed his ideas have influenced my writing significantly. He spoke so casually, yet got his point across; he didn’t need to use complicated $5 words to get people to listen and find importance in his words. Because his message resonated with millions. And I hope that with my writing, my message can resonate with my audience as well.
     Through school, I’ve learned to push away certain hobbies and passions to make room for things that don’t make me happy. This is the sad truth for many of us. Through this course, I reconnected with my passion for writing. As a young girl, it was something I loved. Writing was beyond fun for me and it got to the point where writing assignments almost didn’t seem like assignments; they weren’t dreadful or boring and I actually enjoyed spending time writing essays. However, one thing I must criticize is those teachers that try to stop us from writing in a way that’s true to us and instead, limit us to what’s on a rubric. “The first paragraph must have concrete details and commentary in this order. You can’t write this way, it’s wrong. Use words like ‘first, second, third’ and end your paragraph with ‘all in all…’. Yeah, fuck that. That lead me to hate writing. I hated feeling like I couldn’t use my voice in my writing. I felt compelled to please my teachers and forgot the main rule of art (because yes; in my eyes, literature is art); in the words of poet Rupi Kaur, “your art is not about how many people like your work. Your art is about if your heart likes your work, if your soul likes your work.” There was a time in my life where I couldn’t read anything I’d written, because I just couldn’t stand it. Lesley Aguilar didn’t write the essays that were turned in to strict English teachers; though my name was on the paper, those essays were written by an A+-craving student. I didn’t feel proud of my work, regardless of the grade written in red at the top of each assignment, because those simply weren’t me. Throughout the course of a year, I learned to please myself through my writing, and allow my voice to truly shine. I‘ve learned that using your voice in your writing is far more spectacular than using a horrible paragraph format. Using your voice is far more important than including a certain number of vocabulary words and complex sentences. Something I learned a few years ago is that even authors disobey the rules of writing. I believe that has to do with pleasing one’s heart and soul. If you try to restrain your heart and soul with rules and rubrics and paragraph counts, then what’s left? I can assure you that this essay is the best damn thing I’ve ever written, because it comes from the heart and it pleases the soul. It makes me happy. For the longest time, I didn’t enjoy writing in a way that went against my style. The freedom given to me in this course has allowed me to use my style of writing in a way that has made writing one of my favorite pastimes again (I am honestly having the time of my life writing this essay). I am grateful that this course has allowed me to be free with my writing because it allows my voice to be heard. I missed that feeling.
     This course has made me laugh numerous times. The Converse-wearing-college-professor-turned-high-school-teacher didn’t seem like just another teacher. This is due to the fact there was this feeling of trust. I feel like I can say just about anything in class and trust that I will a. be understood, b. be laughed with, or c. be challenged in a way that isn’t annoying. The moment that stands out to me when I think of humor is the silent ‘fuck off’ heard ‘round the classroom. And yes, Dr. Preston, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Cayla simply said, ‘You had ONE job, DP”. I had no idea you’d flip her off. Thinking about it makes me smile. It reminds me of myself, and the way I am with other people. I may act like a horrible person, but it is simply because I trust people and people trust me and if I say something offensive or do something offensive, I don’t do it with bad intentions. I don’t mean to hurt anyone, just like you didn’t mean to hurt Cayla when you flipped her off. Good times, DP… good times.
     A definite and interesting unifying theme among a few presentations is the presence of big questions relating to our thinking. Many questions were, in one way or another, psychological. This made me very interested in these presentations because I, at one point, wanted to become a psychologist. I also enjoy learning about the brain and what goes on in one’s brain in certain situations. For example, Monse talked about serial killers in her presentation. Something many people don’t know about me is that I absolutely love exploring unsolved crimes and mysteries. And many of the cases I enjoy researching are those tied to serial killers. There is so much that goes on in the mind of a serial killer that is unknown or misunderstood by everyone else. Similarly, Clemente presented the topic of people becoming ‘evil’ due to their surroundings. This interested me, because some people fail to see the difference between right and wrong due to mental illnesses, and thus do things that society would deem as ‘evil’. Angel brought up game addiction in his presentation, and how our brain reacts when winning a game. These presentations were very interesting to me and made me realize that there is so much we don’t understand about the way humans think. That could be due to the fact every one of us has a unique way of looking at things and thinking of things, so it’s hard to make generalizations about thinking. Out of the 7+ billion people on this planet, no two people think exactly alike. That’s the beauty of thinking. Your thoughts are the only thing that are honestly, truly, uniquely yours. Your thoughts are something no one can take away. People may try to change your thoughts, and this leads to arguments and debates and whatnot. It’s still hard for people to accept other points of views, leading human thinking to be really misunderstood and complicated. Seeing the science behind someone’s thinking is intriguing because it allows us to further understand why people act a certain way or think a certain way.
     A hero is someone who, according to Google, is admired for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities. I believe that over the course of a year, I’ve been a hero in more than one situation. From helping people with personal problems to helping people with physics, I’ve tried to lend a helping hand to everyone that’s needed one. I’ve tried to inspire my peers with my personal experiences and advice. To me, that’s the best thing a true hero can do; help those around him. I guess the proper term for me would be a heroine. Like a true heroine, I’ve tried to help even in the smallest situations. I haven’t saved anyone from a burning building, but I’ve told my story in hopes of helping people that go through similar situations. I’ve opened up my blog to everyone, and have made it a place where people can communicate with me and seek help if needed. People have ways of contacting me directly, and though I don’t know all the people that come to me for help, I try to give advice. That’s something that’s indicative of a heroine. When adventure called, I answered and though I was hesitant at first, I stepped out of my comfort zone. For me, stepping out of my comfort zone meant posting my writing and thoughts online for the world to see. In the past, I wouldn’t even let some of my closest friends read my writing. My mentor throughout the course of this year… has been myself. An autodidact like Abi’s twin, I teach myself. Inside my mind this past year, there’s been a shy and introverted Lesley that’s still learning to roar and a self-reliant Lesley, urging the shy Lesley to bloom like a flower. I think that because most of the things I’ve learned this year have been self-taught, I’ve changed drastically. I’ve learned that there’s no point in holding back, because me stepping out of my comfort zone may serve as an inspiration for someone else. And that’s been my goal for the longest time; my goal is to inspire. A heroine inspires. I sure as hell hope I’ve inspired someone in my AP English class this year, because then that means I’ve done my job. Ultimately, I think that’s all that matters. Sparking a change in someone is something that can impact someone’s life dramatically. I hope I’ve done that somehow. And if not, I will continue to use my blog, actions, and words to inspire others and continue to make positive changes in my life so I can be a better person… I mean, heroine.

Sooooonnnnnggggg: School's Out by Alice Cooper


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