Growth is such a broad term. I am currently sitting in my room, staring at a piece of paper telling me to “evaluate the growth [I] have achieved so far this year” and really wondering what on earth that means. I came into freshman year convinced I could rule the world if I wanted to (and obviously I did not want to as I was not in charge of affairs), and I have certainly been disillusioned. . . to some extent.

1. I like to think that my critical thinking skills needed absolutely no improvement as I walked in the door of my English room for the first time this year, but I cannot compare my current critical thinking skills to those of that eager fourteen-year-old and say “Oh, nothing changed”, for really my ability to quickly analyze a situation or passage has doubled since then. I do not doubt that my brain worked then quite the same way it does now (in fact my friends assure me that this is so and that I have not yet recovered) but now I am able to identify significances and divine meanings much faster than I used. This, inarguably, results from my being forced to utilize critical thinking constantly throughout my English class and then again in the homework. To emphasize the difference between my critical thinking in September and my critical thinking from a couple of weeks ago, I need to call forth the (painful) memory of IRJ-QR #1, a piece that took me nearly two hours to write and even then did not live up to my standards, and IRJ-Reflection #21 which, on the opposite side of the spectrum, required about 20 minutes to write and demonstrated my abilities wonderfully (if I do say so myself). Though, however amazing I proclaim my critical thinking skill to be, my disillusioned self admits that there is always room for improvement.
Though I know some sort of definition for each literary element and I could probably explain what they mean to a complete novice, I remain inefficient at immediately identifying them within the text. My brain refuses to work this way and, subsequently, while reading Haroun and the Sea of Stories and The Golden Compass it was a struggle to find two literary elements per page (though this might also have been due to the fact that I stubbornly rejected the idea that such a thing as two literary elements per page was even possible). Therefore I think it a good idea to work on increasing my proficiency with applying these literary terms to what I am reading, perhaps by being stricter with myself over annotating The Odyssey.

Speaking of annotation, a definite change in my style from the first semester to the second has occurred, as any casual bystander allowed a glance into Haroun and the Sea of Stories and The Odyssey would notice. Now, in the second semester with our annotation slipping past, ungraded, I find myself annotating with twice (or maybe thrice) the energy I used before and what I am writing is ten times more insightful. To be honest, I think that this change is really due to my innate hatred for the rules, so when I was told to find two specific literary elements per page and had quite a few other stipulations placed on my annotating, I felt the need to rebel and as part of that, hated doing it and did not do it well. The moment my teacher announced that I no longer would be forced to squeeze two literary elements off of every page, I exchanged a glance with my friend, both of us clearly saying “Pshhh, as if I’m going to continue doing this now!” But lo and behold! both of us still annotating and going strong (well, in her case this was no surprise, she is a notorious over-achiever, but I was almost surprised at myself). I also just enjoy having the freedom to annotate however I want, merely writing whatever comes into my head as I read (I hope you will not be surprised to learn that the sides of my Odyssey are largely covered in scribbled rants about sexism). There is no method to the madness of my marginalia. I try to remember to circle new proper nouns as they crop up, but knowing the story, I often forget, throwing the whole system off. Besides this one feeble attempt at organization, I really have no other guidelines, instead preferring to let my thoughts flow freely with absolutely no restriction.

This is a room constructed from books. And yes, I DO find that awesome.

I shall not lie. I am supremely unconcerned for my reading skills. I have read constantly ever since kindergarten and have no trouble remembering the random details. . . as long as I like what I am reading and am engaged. Otherwise, I grow bored and forget names and occurrences immediately after reading them. This made up my biggest problem with Haroun and the Sea of Stories. I had absolutely no interest in the book and very little respect for it, making the entire process of reading it an uphill struggle, very similar to my experiences with Hatchet in fourth grade (however in that case, my dad actually made me read aloud to him because I hated it so much and I would not have done the reading otherwise).

2. My growth in composition skills is far less dramatic than in critical thinking as, again, the only major difference is timing. I still compose compositions much the same way as I used to as is evidenced by examining two of my creative pieces, Ten Green Bottles (from the beginning of the year) and Things Never Happen the Same Way Twice (from under a month ago). Both I approached similarly: with an idea, a character (which now, as I am writing this, I’m suddenly noticing odd similarities between), and absolutely nothing else. Then, I wrote the clearest parts of my idea (which in both cases happened to be the very dramatic climaxes) and then continued on writing after those points, in the falling action and resolution. Last of all I went back to the beginning and wrote up to the climax. This is a peculiar style I have when it comes to writing creative pieces as I must always get down on paper the clearest parts first. Sometime this means having a random conversation between two random people in some random book-strewn library, but most often it is the climax (which I have a tendency to cut off dramatically, in the middle). I find that it gives all my pieces a similar horror-like quality, which I quite enjoy both reading, writing, and making fun of. However, I do not even want to think about how long it took me to write, rewrite, and edit Ten Green Bottles. Suffice to say that it was a long time. But when I wrote Things Never Happen the Same Way Twice, I simply sat down and wrote it in maybe a half an hour. I feel compelled to add that I could (and should) rewrite Things Never Happen the Same Way Twice and make it twelve hundred times better, perhaps even making it multi-chaptered. I only add this because it shows that I am more satisfied with my results in the case of Ten Green Bottles, though Things Never Happen the Same Way Twice was fine as well.
However, what I have said mainly dealt with style and structure and both only in relation to creative pieces. In an analysis of my subconscious, I guess I did that in order to display my stronger suits, hiding the weaker ones behind a wall of well-written prose. I am, to say the least, mediocre at analytical writing which does not possess a hint of a creative bent. As was demonstrated on my midyear exam essay, content and not style is my problem. I have trouble with straight analysis in a formal setting which I am not using to argue a point which I take extreme interest in, as in my blog. It is pretty clear that this is an important thing for me to work on and all I can say as to a method is: practice, practice, practice!

3. I have always had troubles with procrastination, but this year my study habits and work ethic have been slowly (but surely!) improving. By forcing my company on those who will, in turn, force me to study, I have talked and laughed my way through actual studying with friends (without that talk and laughter I would have been bored to tears!) a distinct improvement from last year’s “I’ll take whatever comes” attitude. However, my procrastination problems are still insane. Only two days ago, I procrastinated so much before beginning my homework doing unnecessary ‘research’ for an IRJ concerning Oscar Wilde. Said ‘research’ included reading The Picture of Dorian Gray in its entirety as well as numerous articles concerning Wilde’s rather wild life. Not only did this delay me from beginning homework, it also actually caused me to forget why I had begun to read and that I had actually to write an IRJ that night. Needless to say, that was a late night. Such extreme incidents as this are fewer and further between than they were at the beginning of the year, though, and I am determined that by the end of my stint as a freshman I will have nearly obliterated them completely from my life. And I can only hope to accomplish this through discipline and sheer will power. Maybe I really should let my friend lend me that dog training book. . . it might do me some good.

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