Welcome to InClass/OutClassed: On the Uses of a Liberal Education, an Emily Balch Seminar offered in Fall 2011 @ Bryn Mawr College. This is an interestingly different kind of place for writing, and may take some getting used to. The first thing to keep in mind is that it's not a site for "formal writing" or "finished thoughts." It's a place for thoughts-in-progress, for what you're thinking (whether you know it or not) on your way to what you think next. Imagine that you're just talking to some people you've met. This is a "conversation" place, a place to find out what you're thinking yourself, and what other people are thinking. The idea here is that your "thoughts in progress" can help others with their thinking, and theirs can help you with yours.
So who are you writing for? Primarily for yourself, and for others in both sections of our course. But also for the world. This is a "public" forum, so people anywhere on the web might look in. That's the second thing to keep in mind here. You're writing for yourself, for others in the class, AND for others you might or might not know. So, your thoughts in progress can contribute to the thoughts in progress of LOTS of people. The web is giving increasing reality to the idea that there can actually evolve a world community, and you're part of helping to bring that about.
We're glad to have you along, and hope you come to both enjoy and value our shared exploration of class, in education and outside it. Fee free to comment on any post below, or to POST YOUR THOUGHTS HERE.
So I remember in the very beginning of this semester the topic of gender popped up in class. The question 'is gender discrimination still an issue' was brought up but we didn't have time to discuss about it in depth. So here is a link to the video my friend showed me that I thought would be interesting for everyone to watch.
It's a trailer of one of the films that are in the 2011 Sundance Film Festival - 'Miss Representation'
I feel like I have experienced a lot in only 2 months. I have never really been in an environment where discussion is so open and productive as it is in ESEM. I think over the past weeks our class has grown to become comfortable with one another and we always end up running out of time every class period. I think Serendip is ingenious but I still feel like some of classmates continue to be hesitant about what they post on here. This class has allowed me to improve the way I interact with people and how to create ideas from one's thoughts instead of just recieving information from a teacher. I also learned how to frame my questions so it's asking a more general question that can be built on when I post my thoughts on the internet. I think my writing needs more work in ways like how to argue more effectivly and how to reach a larger audience. I can't wait for the rest of the semester.
So far I have really enjoyed the class. Not only have I learned more about views on the world around me, but I have been able to further my own opinions and dissect my place within this world. I am still working on gaining confidence and comfort to contribute more in class and online and hope that by the end of the semester, I will be a regular contributor. I am still learning the meaning of being in an educational "community" as opposed to just being an individual in a class, and I feel that this form of contribution will help me understand what this means for myself and others. More than anything, however, I would love to help my own growth and that of others.
I'm still working on being more concise in my writing, but I think that will improve by the end of the semester with Anne's help and that of my peer editors.
I feel as though this ESem has given me the chance to grow, not just as a writer, but also, and especially as a fellow student and participant in class discussions. The dialogic nature of our class has constantly made me feel more dynamic of a learner. With every comment made in class, I've felt as though I've not only gained a new perspective and another facet to my beliefs and my opinions on certain topics, but I've also been inspired- both to change from just sitting back and listening to the inspiring things that everyone around me is saying, to being one of those people inspiring my fellow classmates while always maintaining an open mind about other perspectives. This idea will help me continue to learn and grow and develop and apply this multifaceted perspective to a grander scale. I know that this ESem and the conversations that I've had the opportunity to engage in will continue to teach me to feel comfortable and contribute in any class, and to allow myself to remain open to changing my opinions-whether that means adding another dimension to them, modifying them, or completely changing the position of them. And I know that ESem gives me the resources and company with whom I can continue to grow as a learner.
The subject of the Esem class and the class itself provided me with a very interesting perspective to see the world and education. Students came into the classroom with certainty: education is important and that’s why everybody is here inside the classroom. At least I hold the belief that education is the essential part of one’s life so that every one should try his/her best in order to get in college! However, given a chance to insight into the education, we learn a lot from the process. We start with categories and explore the spectrum from educational autobiographies, which is a really engaging way to start a deep investigation. I started to notice the differences and to be conscious of those differences: social mobility, class matter, “common sense”, access to education etc. Surprisingly, I found that I started to be a “education-sensitive” person while I think about educational problems both unconsciously and intentionally on my way back dorm or even in the dinning hall. Meanwhile, I always found that the discussion in class and all the reading materials are so informative that there is always a lot of connections to make and fruitful thoughts to illustrate in the writing process. Writing partners and weekly conferences are definitely helpful because some feedback from others. It also good to try different genres of reading.
It's been a big challange but it's also a great chance for me to read and write the analytical essays. The class, both classmates and teacher, helps me push myself to get my own ideas systematically and deeper. I did not usually ask myself why I think in this way or that way. But now I started asking myself more questions. I found out many things that I am not sure about, and I started doubting them. Since I am from China, and I have been received Chinese education for my previous school education, I like to compare the things in education between USA and China. Education purpose, education method, students tendency or common characters, etc. Through reading lots of different kinds of opinions, I get to know what other people think about the questions in education. I shall get to talk more next half semester. Overall, it's been really nice. Thank you guys!
Thus far, I have found this class to be very informative through all of our enlightening readings. Beyond that though, I feel that this class is really helping me develop as a writer and a speaker. I feel that I have improved my ability to prove and explain the key claim of my essay and I feel more confident speaking up in class than I ever have in previous classroom settings. I think this is due, in large part, to the fact that our classroom discussions feel very open and accepting – despite the occasional difference of opinions, every opinion feels welcome in our classroom. I feel that our varying backgrounds allow us to have a wide array of opinions in class and it is interesting and valuable to hear those different opinions. Furthermore, I think that understanding the perspective of others, allows me personally, to extend my understanding of my own opinion and it asks me to analyze my own view on the various subjects and controversies brought up in class.
Everything got better and better, or, it was I that tried to make it better and better. I started to say my opinions out without worrying about whether they are the right answer for teacher and other students; I check the talking notes two days earlier before the class to ensure I won’t miss anything that needed to prepare for the class; I make appointments in the writing center in order to improve my writing… I began to enjoy the seminar. Though I still can’t talk as fluently as I hope, everyone listened patiently whenever I was talking; though sometimes I still don’t understand the idioms used by my American classmates, I dare to ask questions without feeling bad about myself; though sometimes I still feel pretty struggling about writing a great paper without small grammatical errors, I know I am on the way of being a better writer.What is more important, I began to understand the essence of critical thinking. I found that education, a word that occurs in my life so often, is actually not as familiar to me as I thought. Every time I read a new reading assignment, every time I wrote a new paper, I gained a new perspective about education. I started to look back my life, to examine my choices, my school performance and people around me along my road of my education. By this kind of reflection, I not only learned more about education itself, but also learned more about how to critically consider a social issue.
In Class/Outclassed is a class that everyone can gain an education experience from. In my case I’m learning how to become a better writer.My ideas overflow every paper that I get confused and start contradicting myself or the claim gets lost in a jumble of words. My main goal for this semester is to get my point across as simply and understanding as possible. Before taking this class I was a quite girl who had many opinions but didn’t feel right sharing them. I believe that everyone uses this class to learn to participate more. The environment of our class is very welcoming to everyone, and I feel like most people think that way. Since the beginning of the semester most students began to come out of their bubble and share their ideas.
As a class, I feel we've made much progress towards getting comfortable with each other and really discussing matters of class and education. It is no longer uncomfortable to talk around each other. I also learned how to analyze non fiction writings for interpretations that could not be taken shallowly. My writing style got much more formal coming from a very casual writing style stemming from my freelancing. This visit to Parkway should be fun because it'd be different if it were the beginning of the semester but now, we know each other well enough to really get something out of this visit.
In thinking over the past 6 weeks of class, and thinking about where I need to improve, the most important thing I have noticed is that I have a lot to learn from my classmates. First, I need to be more careful when reading and responding to classmates posts. Second, I am still amazed by the varied backgrounds and perspectives presented by everyone in the class. It's kind of wonderful to be able to gain persepective on what other peoples experiences with education and class have been. Additionally, I need to work on being more concise in my writing, as I tend to be super wordy and leave less room for ideas than I would like.
While I was writing my paper, I reflected on the changes that I've seen in myself and a lot of those changes resulted from many of the topics that we discussed. I didn't think learning about the different types of education that children receive all over the nation would have some sort of affect on me. For example, after writing my paper about access to education, I spent a lot of time outside of class thinking about my thesis. I've never had that type of experience before. After getting a grade on a paper in high school I would just toss it to the side and that would be the last time I thought about my argument. After discovering the huge impact ESL classes had on my learning, I was eager to come home to relearn my native language and interact with my grandparents (who mainly speak Khmer). I wanted to gain back what my childhood education took away from me. I never thought hard ahout how education extends beyond the classroom.
In my evaluation, I focused on how I've grown since being in that class and how far I still have to go. In the beginning I was very intimindated by the structure of our discussions. I didn't talk much because I found it difficult to assert myself into the conversation. I also didn't take advantage of being able to post supplementary thoughts and ideas on Serendip because I felt like no one was reading them. I have since been able to find my place to speak in class, and I think I have become much better at speaking without hesitation about topics that interest me. I have also grown to appreciate Serendip now that the dialogue between us has begun to increase. However, I would like to see more of a conversation online. It's nice to know that others are taking the time to read things that you post and also to respond to them, possibly providing a previously unknown viewpoint. What I personally still need to work on in being to "talky" in essays. I tend to become lost in fluff and cliches, which obscures the point I'm trying to make. In addition, I need to make sure I fully develop a topic rather than just restating ideas. For the class, I hope that we will be able to get the Parkway students involved in some of our conversations on Serendip. I would be very interested to see what point of view they can bring to our discussions.
After looking over the essays I've written and notes I've taken for this class, I've noticed that my work has become progressively more analytical. At the beginning of term, my writing mostly relied on personal narrative to convey my points, but as I've read more and begun making increasingly broad connections to outside sources, I've relied less on myself and more on my research. I think I've become a better researcher, though I still have much to learn. I also think I've been better able to maintain a cohesive claim in my essays – though I'm also still working on that. I often come away from class discussions that I have a difficult time decide what it is exactly I want to write about. And once I've decided, I often have trouble staying on one train of thought as so many factors can be addressed and focused on with each topic. I do think it's becoming easier for me to stay focused, though, and I plan to continue working on that with the rest of my writing.
While reflecting on our class and my engagement with it thus far, I realized how much more I’ve been second-guessing my thoughts and viewpoints about education and class in the U.S. The way I approach this subject has definitely evolved and I suspect I will continue to change my attitudes and opinions of education. This “re-thinking” process really works for me. I tend to always find classes that challenge my viewpoint and push our conversations very engaging and think it’s an important aspect of any class. Something that has not been working very well for me is the weekly papers and my writing and I focused a lot of my paper on my issues with that. I also wrote on my personal participation and engagement with the class.
As we have approximately reached the half way point in the seminar, this weeks assignment of a self evaluation was fitting. My focus in this seminar has been on my writing, so that is where my paper was focused. High school gave me plenty of experience with academic writing, but personalization and opinions was generally secondary to grammar and factual content. In reviewing my essays from this seminar, fortunately the primary growth in my writing does seem to be in the personalization of my papers. The value in including personal annecdotes and opinions in academic writing has become clear to me. Particularly in the process of revising my essay on disability and access to education, personalizing my essays has become more natural. This has created a small problem, however, with the tone of my writing. In this process of working on the personalization of my papers, I wrote almost too close to the manner in which I speak. This produced rather informal writing and while maintaining a voice is important, a casual tone can lessen the authority of an academic essay. The next step in the process of fine-tuning my writing is now finding the balance between formal and personal.
At the halfway point, In Class/OutClassed has helped me challenge the way in which I think about and approach education as an institution and experience. Before, I had figured that educational experiences were shaped by the backgrounds of the students and the characteristics of the class cultures alone; however, as classroom discussions unraveled, I began to scrutinize the educational system's structure and look into contesting the handling of its power. As a class, I have found that the opposing stances that we have held in participating in activities such as our classroom barometer has helped us formulate such ideas, forced us to take responsibility of what we think and test the credibility of the information we come across. Moreover, our discussions with writing partners has helped me recognize the faults in my communication and gradually propelled me to strengthen my voice and stance in my arguments within class. Overall, what we have learned in class so far has pushed me to become a more active participant in my own education and recognize that the quality of the educational process is more important in developing my perspective than the quantified measures such as grades and GPA that were once valued in high school.
I’m really enjoying class this semester. I feel like I’m excited to learn and the readings all seem really informative and interesting. I feel good about the workload as well even though it can be tricky having to write a paper a week. Even so, the papers really force me to reflect back on what I’ve learned during the week. I’m not a big fan of the online forum, but I think we could use the two sections a little more but in different ways than we have been. I’d also like to use Class Matters more since it’s so relevant to our class.
Self Reflection Summary Like Jillian, my reflection was based on working on thinking and rethinking my papers. It was difficult
Like Jillian, my reflection was based on working on thinking and rethinking my papers. It was difficult for me in the beginning of the semester to think beyond what I already deemed true. Thinking beyond or rethinking my papers got easier as the semester progressed due to my classmates. Hearing all their stories, sharing their thoughts, and opening up to the class, helped me with rethinking because I had more ideas that I never considered. The progress of my work is mainly credited to our class and the conversations we hold. These conversations really opened new windows into thinking about education and not only the academic aspect of it.
To summarize my reflection, our ESEM has taught me a lot about how to mature into a good writer so that I am more confident in my writing and more comfortable in doing so. It also taught me to not only to be actively aware of how education affects people, but the struggles that education currently faces. I feel that my classmates and I both believe this is the main purpose for our ESEM, and that for the most part, the class has been successful in pushing our thoughts and perceptions about education. Moreover, we use the class as a place to test our ideas which we then open for discussion. On the other hand, I also pointed out some things that could be added to the class, such as looking at education from a more global stand point, and trying to make the class more concrete by trying to come up with viable solutions to the problems we have discussed. By doing this I feel like the class would be even richer in content.