Department of English

Spring 2012 Edition

The Trouble With English

Jennifer Lupke
Expressive 1010 Honorable Mention
Professor: Joy Sterrantino

I begin tapping my pencil impatiently. I continue until the tap, tap, tap becomes so obnoxious that I can’t stand it. I look at the clock. It’s only been one minute since the last time I checked it. I can’t quite figure out why I am not filling up pages full of thoughts. I have so much to say and no way to get it out. My deadline is getting nearer. I am becoming more and more frustrated. “Why can’t I get this assignment done?” I ask myself repetitively. I’m almost ready to surrender. So I decide to take a break. I tip back in my chair as far as I can, barely keeping it from crashing to the floor, which I am almost parallel with now. I lean my head back and begin staring at the ceiling until my daze becomes blurry. Then I start to daydream about why writing is so difficult for me.

I have been a student for quite some time now. I have had some hard classes and some easy classes. I think back to the previous semesters of English I have taken. None of them were more difficult than English 1010, which I have taken several times without getting a satisfactory grade—not even English 2010, which I thought was supposed to be even more dreadfully difficult. Actually, I really enjoyed English 2010. It changed my writing so much I decided to take English 1010 again. I was willing to head back into the belly of the beast and face my fears head on.

The professor was an unintimidating, soft-featured, small-statured Japanese woman. Existentialism was the topic. “How am I ever going to pull this off?” I thought. I didn’t even know what existentialism was. After the first day of class was over, I hesitated to get out of my chair. It was as if I was frozen. I waited until the majority of the other students nonchalantly left the room. Then I hastily ran up to the professor. My heart was pounding. I could hear it loud in my ears. There she was, calmly placing her books in her bag.

“Professor,” I squeaked out. I cleared my throat and began again. My mouth was now as dry as the Sahara Desert. “Professor.” I got her attention this time.
“Oh hi,” she said in an almost pastel voice.
I blurted out my confession as quickly as I could. “I suck at English. I always have.”
She appeared shocked by how bold my statement was. Her reply was short and simple “I’m here to teach you.” Her words instantly comforted me.
“So you think I can do okay in this class?” I had to reiterate. Frankly, I just wanted to know if I even had a chance at passing.
“Yes, of course. We will have a lot of hard material to cover, but if we take it one step at a time, we will get through it.”
I was grateful because I had been dying to hear those words in relation to English for more than ten years. Well, ever since I was told I couldn’t succeed in writing because I struggled with spelling. My insecurities all seem petty now.

I remember the incident now more clearly than ever. I can almost hear the tiles clanking together, mocking me. Since we left the store, I had been longing to play. The whole car ride home, I was antsy with excitement. We unwrapped the red rectangular box. I laid out the board and gave everyone a trough to put their tiles in. We were finally ready to play scrabble. It was a blast. We were laughing and enjoying ourselves, coming up with different words to put down., each of us trying to come up with a better word than the previous player. I was younger than my newly inherited step brothers. Nonetheless, I gave it my all. I was ecstatic when I came up with a really terrific word. I began bragging about how awesome I was. I boastfully put each tile into place, covering up a triple word space. I then started adding up all of my points. Then I was interrupted by laughter. Apparently, I had spelled the word completely wrong. I was mortified. They were relentlessly taunting me. They told me how stupid I was and how I would never be able to write. Now I understand that they were just boys being boys.

Regardless of them just being boys, this paralyzed my interest in literature. I didn’t enjoy reading anymore and was embarrassed by my writing. From this point on, I refused to participate in any sort of writing activities. Because of my adamant behavior, I did poorly in high school. This only reinforced my feeling of stupidity. Then, when I started college, I struggled through all of my writing assignments. At one point, I even considered dropping out of college because writing was too hard. Then I met Nozomi Irei. She is the woman I described earlier. She changed my outlook on literacy. She helped me realize that all I need to do is put something down on the paper. From there, I can edit the paper to perfection.

This woke me from my stupor. I picked up my pencil, and began scribbling down everything that I wanted to write about. This continued for the next hour or so. Every time I got distracted, I just remembered what Dr. Irei told me: “Just put something down on the paper, anything.” Once I was done with my word binge, I created an outline for my essay—another thing she taught me. Then I started putting my words into sentences and paragraphs, and eventually my entire essay was written. After that, I went back and did some editing. I did my final proofread, getting rid of any spelling errors, grammatical issues, and punctuation problems. Lastly, I came up with my title. I had finally written an essay that I was satisfied with. I wanted to thank her right then and there. I had overcome my fears, and put myself out there. I used to be worried about what grade I would receive. Now I don’t let other people’s opinions of my writing affect my ability. I know that I am capable of being a good writer, and that spelling and grammar are just bumps in the road. That is why I have decided to retake English 1010. I now know that I do not need to settle for the poor grade I had previously received. I have proved to myself that I can overcome struggles with literacy. I am aware that with each progression in literacy, I will be faced with new challenges. I plan to take them on one by one. I won’t let anything stand in the way of my success ever again.