It’s hard to picture a day without English 12 Honors; every paper, every discussion, every laugh. I would have to say I grew the day that I stopped dreading Period 5. I knew English class was going to be hard the day I stepped in. I remember a student who sat across from me whispering to tell me, “I am so out of here, I’m changing this class because he’s crazy and the work is crazy.” There was a good period of time that I just really didn’t enjoy English class. I didn’t understand anything, I didn’t know what explicating was, and I didn’t understand how I could write papers about poems that were a few stanzas long which made no sense to me.
Ted Berrigan’s "Red Shift" really aggravated me. I never had to explicate anything before in my life. English class for me consisted of reading books, knowing vocabulary words, and being able to pass a multiple choice test. I felt like I was tossed into this classroom missing all this knowledge that I should have had. I was frustrated because I read the poem and I knew what the words meant, but altogether I didn’t know what it was about and I don’t think I could have passed a multiple choice test either. I read the directions for explicating over and over again to find a deeper meaning and I just made up what I thought the poem meant, supported it the best I could, and printed it out hoping for the best.
I must have printed a good handful of papers and handed them in while hoping for the best. Sometimes I feel like I just get lucky. My first quarter grades were saved from classroom discussion, notebooks, and vocabulary test grades. My paper grades were still inconsistent and I felt like it was my weakest point. I didn’t even notice that I was getting better at explicating. I just remember one day Mr. Gallagher said to me, “Kristin, your explications are improving a lot. Don’t you think so?” I had to lie and say that I knew exactly what he was talking about and that it did get easier. It didn’t get easier. I spent so much time on explicating but it gave me a boost in confidence. My analysis papers got a lot better. My papers went from 70's to high 80’s and even 90’s.
My favorite book that we read this year was James Joyce. I was really scared to read it because it was weird for me. My cousin read James Joyce for a summer reading book and she absolutely hated it with a passion so I was nervous over it. I think I value the experience of reading James Joyce because we read it together as a class and had classroom discussion. Together we took James Joyce layer by layer until we all understood the deeper meaning. I got to shine all the time when we started reading A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. I was always prepared for class and I used so many post it notes to analyze every single thing. My notebook was full of notes and I just grew an appreciation for literature because James Joyce is so genius. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man has so many things in it from Shakespeare to Sigmund Freud. I gained so much knowledge from reading that book because I learned how to take notes and analyze things. I did a lot of outside research and took into account the psychoanalytic and feminine criticism that we studied. Altogether, I created what I would consider my best written piece ever and my highest graded paper of the year. I passed my "James Joyce Critical Theory" eight-page long paper in with confidence.
I’m glad that I stayed in English 12 honors with Mr. Gallagher. The first day, I wanted to go along with the “He’s crazy and work is crazy” and change my schedule ASAP. If I did that, I would have probably never gained my confidence to write genius papers and grow as a reader and writer.
Mr. Gallagher you are one crazy person but thank you for everything.