Valuable Lessons From College Classes

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School & College
Valuable Lessons from College Classes

My English teacher has a reputation that precedes him, a reputation of harsh grades and sarcastic use of what some might call mocking insults, so it was no surprise that he spent a good portion of Monday morning’s eleven o’clock class giving scathing reviews of our Works Cited pages from our first draft argument papers. But it was early on that he said, “Last night I was reading an essay on banned books.

“‘I read this book and liked it, so it shouldn’t be banned’.”

Next to me, my deskmate leaned forward and looked at me with raised eyebrows. My cheeks grew hot, suspecting just which paper he was mentioning. The teacher met my eyes for just a fraction of a second.

This is not the first time he’s commented directly on something I’ve done wrong. I doubt it will be the last. However, this was the first time I felt the scorching anger quickly taking the place of humiliation. I had been happy with my first draft, proud even. The use of personal experience in the beginning and conclusion had been my favorite touch. And in one fell swoop my teacher had managed to completely undermine the whole thing.

I grew angrier as the class progressed. It took everything I had not to get up and leave. Every cocky, know-it-all word out of his mouth made me angrier and angrier as he proceeded to insult the papers I knew were written by my tablemates. As soon as class ended, I went outside and took out my paper, going straight to the two sections he must have been talking about, the only sections where I mention myself personally.

In the second paragraph, where you are supposed to state your opinion on the matter, I wrote, “In the ninth grade, I had my first experience with censorship of books. I spent a lot of time in the library, and my eye was caught by a small paperback copy of The Catcher in the Rye. At the time, I knew nothing of the bad reputation the book had or what it was even about, but I got a judgmental look from the librarian as I checked it out. She even went as far as saying, ‘I wish they would take this terrible book out of our libraries.’”

Scouring my own work, I searched for some way that this declared “this book shouldn’t be banned.” I didn’t see it. Maybe I was missing it. Maybe it was in my wrap-up in the conclusion.

“In my experience, books are highlights of youth, beacons that lit the way through childhood with relatable and exciting tales. They gave me things to discuss and debate with my friends and family. As a fourteen-year-old pouring over that paperback copy of The Catcher in the Rye, I saw an inspiring and relatable story. The profanity involved was something I already saw and heard in my everyday life, and my speech habits did not change after returning the book to the library.

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Against all the arguments of race and religion and sexuality, books are enriching and enlightening parts of our lives and, oftentimes, the little bit of bad is outweighed by the beauty in someone’s story” (Daffodillyric 5).

Still, I didn’t see it. Was I saying that I enjoyed the book? Yes. Did I suggest that my personal like for it was why it shouldn’t be banned? I don’t think so. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I thought the piece of personal experience was presented without an accusing tone or prejudicial attitude. What I meant was that one of the most challenged books in my school library did not negatively affect me, so maybe that meant that more could be garnered from a controversial book than just bad habits or unethical ideals. Maybe that didn’t come across, or maybe my teacher just saw an opportunity to point out what miserable failures he seems to think my class is.

All I know is that a teacher is supposed to be someone who provides you with knowledge and guidance. Sitting there in my English class, listening to my teacher sarcastically badmouth my classmates’ first drafts, I felt neither enlightened nor guided.

I just felt humiliated and insignificant. But I guess I should have expected that. I got used to it in high school, expected it even. I guess, as an adult, I thought college teachers might have found ways other than bitter sarcasm to make a point. That’s probably my fault for high expectations. As best I ever heard was this – “You can’t stop a teacher when they want to do something. They just do it” (Salinger 6).

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Works Cited

Daffodillyric. “Banning Books in School Libraries.” Persuasive Essay. 2014. Print.

Salinger, J.D. The Catcher in the Rye. New York City: Little, Brown and Company,
Image1951. Print.
October 13th, 2014 at 08:29pm