Throughout middle school and high school, writing essays in English class was never my favorite. It was not difficult to get a good grade because the teacher would give out worksheets and outlines to develop ideas before I start on anything. After all the preparation works the teacher would then assign first, second, and third drafts until I was ready to finalize my writing. There was always plenty of time to finish the assignment. However, writing became a lot harder and different when I took my first AP class in sophomore year.
My high school offered architecture and drafting classes as an elective course for students who were not involved in any language immersion programs or academies. Students could take this class as a one time thing or choose to move on to a more advanced class, which we called it the ACE Pathway. I was a member of the pathway. The class that came after beginning architecture was AP Art History. Before I signed up for it Ms. Melander, the head of the ACE Pathway, warned me about the workloads and the daily writing assignments. The fact that English was not my first language discouraged my will to improve on writing. In order to push myself I decided to take AP Art History because I thought writing about things I was interested in would be the best way to change how I view English and writing. The pace of an AP class was so much faster comparing to a regular high school class. Since it was a mandatory class, Ms. Melander dropped whoever did not finish their summer assignment because she did not want any lazy students or students who could not handle the workload. On the second day, she already assigned an essay on a piece of artwork from the Paleolithic era, but she did not give any instructions on how to structure the writing. As a result, I received a bad grade. Ms. Melander then explained to us her grading guideline. For AP Art History, we were expected to write analytical and descriptive essays for artworks, time periods, artists, and etc. I was used to composing argumentative, persuasive, and narrative essays, this type of writing was totally new to me. Just starting with a thesis statement was completely different from what I have learned. Instead of having a sentence summarizing up the point that we try to prove, we were supposed to list out the three main ideas that we will further discuss in the body paragraphs. This is because on the AP Exam, the graders have to grade every essay in a very short amount of time and they would want to see every points and claims explicitly. Moreover, this kind of historical essay was detailed oriented and had to have historical references to back up your statements. I could not add any personal feelings so I had to be careful with the word choice. Any words like “I think” or “I prefer” were not acceptable.
When the course moved on to Ancient Greece I was very excited to study everything from this time period. My knowledge of Ancient Greece was limited to Greek Mythology and epic poetry. I have always found those stories fascinating yet doubted their truthfulness. As I learned more about Greek Pottery and sculptures, I discovered how Ancient Greek people carefully painted and carved onto these devices to depict characters and range of scenes from the Greek mythology. One important aspect of the Greek culture was gods and temples. Ancient Greek believed in the twelve major Olympian gods and goddesses. To praise and seek protection from the gods, they built many enormous temples devoted to their patron gods of the cities. The most famous and well-known temple was the Parthenon. It was located on the highest point of Athens, the Acropolis, dedicated to their patron goddess Athena. In this way, the Athenian would have to look up to the temple every day to worship Athena. The Parthenon was built with the golden ratio to show perfection. The harmonious design of the columns was curved and tilted to create dynamic balance The sculptures on the pediments and the friezes were filled with life-sized, idealized human made in perfect proportion. The Parthenon remarked the golden age of Ancient Greece, the Classical Period. Without any surprises, Ms, Melander assigned another essay for us to write. We were asked to discuss how, why, and in what way does the Parthenon reflect the history and the people from this time period and the background of Ancient Greece.
I have written about 4 essays since the course started, and every one of them was returned with criticism and horrible grades. Although I was a little discouraged by the comments Ms. Melander gave me, I felt confident when I was writing the essay about Parthenon. Because I was so involved with the history of this time period, I understood the course materials extremely well. In which motivated me to write down everything I have learned to show my passion for Ancient Greece. When I was writing the essay, my biggest concern was not whether the grammar structure was correct. To present all the ideas and thoughts I had in mind was my priority. I did not have to worry about searching up and using big fancy vocabularies because every art history terms was already complicated enough. Even though I had a hard time trying to put my interpretation of the Parthenon into words and sentences, I tried my best to give a detailed analysis of the relationship between every specific aspect of the architecture and the Ancient Greek culture. Also, providing a series of visual and contextual evidences to back up my statement was essential. I could not just come up with a lot of ideas without any explanation of the possible intentions of why the Parthenon was built. Writing essays was never my strong suit, but I ended up doing more than the basic requirement asked for.
When Ms. Melander finished grading all the essays I received a surprising result, my first full score. Though I was satisfied with my writing, from all the previous setbacks I did not expect a grade like this. She told me that she did not take points off of any grammar mistakes because it did not matter. All she cared about was how well we answer the prompt and the way we lay out our ideas with supportive evidences. My essay had met all the standards. I recalled my memory where I asked her if I was able to survive in this class. She never said anything like “you can’t do it”, but instead she challenged me to step out of my comfort zone. Additionally, I was more comfortable with writing and I had a better understanding of the higher order of concern in writing. A good essay needs to be expressive enough in order to engage with the audiences. After this assignment, it reassured myself that I would succeed not only in this class, but also in writing as long as I try my best to convey my thoughts and ideas.