Sherri Winans
Whatcom Community College
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Amanda McElroy
English 100
Essay 1: Out-of-class
ctober 2007

Breaking the Habit: Getting Excited About School

I hated high school, all aspects of the word even. I had some good teachers and some that made me wonder who gave them a teaching degree. I didn’t like any subjects and I never felt passionate about anything in school—except for missing classes, that I insisted upon. This general hatred for school drove me to not attend. I played that student/teacher game so well that I graduated a lot better off than I should have. I did what was asked, how it was asked, and never learned anything from it. It’s now, when I’m starting out in college, that I’m finally trying to find my way, myself, and creating my drive. I know I should have done better in high school. I should have tried harder. I should have been more involved. Since attending college, I have begun to accept my faults from high school and already began to learn from them. It is harder than I imagined to break the bad habits I have become accustomed to.

After thirteen years of school, it took taking a year off to find that I have a purpose. I am supposed to do something I can be happy about, something I am proud of. I have now found that I am willing to make the effort to get involved, to enforce the fact that I have an intellectual contribution that needs to be made. It only took time and interested teachers to help me get excited about school.

While my English 100 class discussed Mike Rose’s “I Just Wanna Be Average,” I could not help but think about my own experiences in high school, about how it is partly the teachers’ responsibility to create their curriculum to interest their audience, the students. Rose talked about how he found himself growing bored in his classes and ended up getting lost in his own imagination. This became a common response for him, which caused him to dislike his teachers. Teachers try to involve the interests of the students, but they are too often unsuccessful. As Rose writes about his experience in school, he says, “I would sit there watching a teacher draw her long horizontal line and her short, oblique lines and break up sentences and put adjectives here and adverbs there and just not get it, couldn’t see the reason for it, turned off to it” (18). As told by Rose, the poor deliverance of the subject tends to be where the students that don’t understand begin to doze off. They get confused and stop trying. A lot of the subjects taken in high school, and even college, are not exactly the most interesting to learn about, but to have a teacher that can put a spin on the subject their teaching could allow the students to get interested enough to pay attention. It’s fortunate that there are teachers that are able to reach out with their teaching methods and create an interest for the students. These teachers are the ones that contribute to success.

In many classes, in high school, there are those few students that are continuously disruptive and never apply themselves even when they know they can. Teachers often punish these students as if they were their prisoners instead of real people. Giving them detention, Saturday school, and talking with their parents or guardians, doesn’t help or solve any problems. It will just create more. The teachers that change these punishments to sitting one on one and trying to get to know them, finding out their interests, finding what they don’t like and don’t respond well to, will reveal a way to get the students to want to apply themselves. This will drive the students to gain the knowledge teachers are trying to offer. A simple conversation, a little thinking, and some minor rearranging could possibly change the students’ way of acting. At the least, it will help the students begin to apply their experiences and knowledge to prove to themselves and others that they are capable of anything.

When the teachers make an effort on the personal level, the response from the students change. The Trick, as Gerald Graff quoted college Professer Ned  Laff in “Hidden Intellectualism”, “is not simply to exploit students’ nonacademic interests, but to get them to see those interests through academic eyes” (qtd. in Graff 147).  When a teacher can take the subject of fashion, cars, or any interests of their students, and bring them into the classroom, the students will respond positively. Graff also says, “It is self-defeating to decline to introduce any text or subject that figures to engage students who will otherwise tune out academic work entirely” (148). Graff figures that if there is a way to get the students interested by subjects that are not typically academic, then they should be given the opportunity to do so. The interest levels in the subject will increase; plus, the drive of the students to learn will increase as well. This new drive to learn that is being created in the classroom will help them in their career and home life.

High school can be a place for learning, for interests to flourish and blossom into careers or hobbies. Teachers can take on the challenge of delivering ideas necessary for the learning of students. There should be connections being made and ideas being processed allowing the students to build their intellectual tower. Mike Rose's favorite teacher, Jack McFarland, “slowly and carefully built up [their] knowledge of Western intellectual history-with facts, with connections, with speculations” (33). Those, like McFarland, that can bend the curriculum to interest the students, to create real-life pictures of how things were, or what went on, are the ones that truly complete their education mission. Having been through the high school experience and entering into college life, I’m finding the teachers are making my faults a thing of the past, and my passions a thing of the future.  


Works Cited

Graff, Gerald. “Hidden Intellectualism.” They Say, I Say; The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing. Eds. Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2006. 142-148.

Rose, Mike. “I Just Wanna Be Average.” Lives On The Boundary. New York: Penguin, 1989. 18-37.


Copyright 2007
Amanda McElroy


Funded through the U.S. Dept. of Education, Title III Grant PO31A980143
Sherri Winans, Whatcom Community College, Bellingham, WA