New Endings

When I first walked into my English Honors I class, back in freshman year, one of the first papers that I was given was a piece of paper with Jane Shaffer’s essay structure typed neatly on it. For one whole year of my life, I strictly wrote essays in that format and got an A on every single essay I wrote. My freshman year of high school shaped my perspective on how English was supposed to be and is also the reason I was so stressed during my junior year when I was assigned my first essay in AP Language. When Mr. Ziebarth had assigned an essay that he said had virtually no structure, I had a nervous breakdown at home and wanted to quit school. The topic of the essay assigned was a moment in our live where we learned an important lesson. I wish that I was given this essay prompt at the end of the year because, if I was, I wouldn’t write about some stupid boy. I would write about a memorable four fingered man, who taught me how to be a better writer and person. I would write about the adventure  I had in room 306. Sometimes AP Language makes me feel like Holden Caulfield, facing the twists & turns of my life while being a grungy teenager.


Photo by Grunge Teenager (tumblr)

One of the most important concept I learned about English is it is not limited to books, quote analysis, and essays. There are different platforms and outlets for a writer to be creative, like blog posts and zines. If I’m honest, at first I didn’t really get the purpose of weekly blog post. However, as time passed, I realized that Mr. Ziebarth knew that each of his students had a voice and he wanted us to use it. Furthermore, the blog posts allowed us to free write without structure or limitation. It had forced us to become more creative. It allowed us to break from the typically five paragraph essay structure. Learning how to write without a structure has been the hardest and most rewarding part of being in AP Language.


Gif by ReactionGif

Making Zines was an interesting part of AP Language as well. It wasn’t just a really enjoyable way to utilize the magazines I would’ve thrown away at home, but it was a way to utilize my English skills in a new way. I loved this project because I like the whole concept of Zines. I liked that the zines would be passed forward and read by other people. I recall asking Mr. Ziebarth: “How much do you want us to write for each page.” “Enough to get the point across” he simply replied. This assignment taught me how to say a lot in few words, which has always been a struggle for me because I’m never sure how much is enough. Zero drafting was a really helpful tool when I was trying to overcome this struggle. It helped me say what I wanted to get across without being slowed down grammar or structure. From then on, I just had to structure my ideas and put them into a proper paragraph form. Zero Drafting is probably one of the most useful tools I learned from this class.

Another handy tool I learned in AP Language was how to utilize S.O.A.P.S.T.O.N.E. and S.C.O.U.T. S.O.A.P.S.T.O.N.E. is an acronym for speaker, occasion, audience, purpose, subject, and tone. S.C.O.U.T. is an acronym for specific, comparison, organization, unusual, and theme. These two acronyms were really helpful throughout the years while I was trying to analyse passages, especially passages from the book Grapes of Wrath. I wish I would’ve utilized this tool more because it would’ve made my school year much easier and comprehensible. If I had made more of an effort to utilize the tools that were given to me, I would’ve done better in this class.

Unknowingly, well I think it was unknowingly, Mr. Ziebarth had taught me how to receive critical feedback and improve my collaborative skills. Since Mr. Ziebarth had allowed us to pick our seats in the beginning of the year, he never changed them. This meant that Breanna, Jimmy, Kevin, and I were forced to become better acquainted with each other. At first, not all of us were comfortable with each other, so our criticism for each others essays were very little and worded very nicely. However, as time passed, we grew closer and threw caution to the wind. We started to really criticize each other’s writing and that allowed us to grow even more comfortable with each other. Now, we’re able to work with each other to complete any in class assignments and talk comfortable with each other during class discussions.


Photo by Lily Vu (classmate)

Similarly to how my table group’s words reflect our relationship, Holden’s words reflect his relationships as well. For example, at the beginning of the book, Holden was surrounded by people like Ackley and Stradlater, who are annoying and a bad influence, respectively. During this time, Holden is much less vocal and more pessimistic. When he is around Luce, Sally, and his sister, Phoebe. He is much more vocal and positive, in a sense. He is just all around different. He rejects people when they want to go out in the beginning of the story, but, near the end, he initiates the outings. I suppose with the right people, anything could be fun.

This year has been wonderful and so much fun. I’m so glad that I was able to experience it with you. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for me. I hope that my AP Language skills will get me out of all the grammatical sticky situations I get into.

Thank you for reading and farewell,

Amy Tran


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