What a crazy semester it’s been! From the bleak confines of Greenlaw 103 at 8am to the even more depressing quarantine in our homes, Engl105 at first glance would not have seemed like a thrilling class. However, while these aspects never really got better, I found this class to be both refreshing and also unique, especially when compared to other lecture-styled courses.
At the beginning of the semester, I remember sitting at the tiny desk thinking, “Wow, this will actually suck.” It was 8am – no one really knew each other, no one really talked. Luckily, things started improving when we were placed in groups. When Paul asked us for a group name, my groupmates and I struggled to find a name, so we did what most logical people do: use a random word generator. It gave us “index finger” which immediately broke the ice and caused everyone in our group to laugh. With that becoming our name for the rest of the first unit, we bonded over the morning struggles and, of course, English assignments. In Unit 1, we wrote scientific papers on secondary research we found through the Media Resource Center at UNC. Although the projects were never group-based, doing research alongside my peers and providing feedback continuously throughout each assignment made the work more manageable and enjoyable. Doing citations were a pain, something I still think is unnecessarily tedious, but Paul provided plenty of resources and gave us lots of feedback. Looking back, Unit 1 was the foundational one. It was filled with basics like the introduction to scientific writing and the process of revision. While it wasn’t my favorite, it was a necessary first step into writing at a research university.
As Unit 1 concluded, Paul reassigned us to groups, a heartbreaking yet riveting change. RIP Index Finger, hello Semicolons! With new group members, I kept up with old ones but shifted my attention to the new groupmates. It felt like Day 1 of classes again, but things started getting easier as we got into Unit 2. This time, we were tasked with conducting our own primary research on a subculture at UNC. There were limitless options, and I remember my topic shifted every time I submitted a new assignment. At times, it felt strange watching people interact with other people, but the assignment was a fun change of pace. When looking back to this project, I characterize it as a period of exploration. During this unit, I tried new writing techniques – unfortunately, I ended up disliking several of them – and got involved with a new group for my ethnography. The emphasis was on brevity, presentation, and examination of nuances.
Around the end of Unit 2, COVID-19 happened, effectively making the rest of the spring semester online. There was a lot that was unknown during this time, and this time became a period when I really appreciated Engl105. While all of my classes were asynchronous at this point with Zoom recordings posted online, this one class at 8am still required real-time meetings. While I was not enthusiastic about this idea, it quickly became a time to unwind and appreciate the class. Paul took time every day to check in on all 17 of us, asking how we are doing. Like the beginning of the semester, not many people answered because it’s 8am, but with the few people that did say something, it was a way to commiserate in this time of crisis. At this point, we started Unit 3. For the assignment, we had to choose a short story and write an analytical essay on its themes, motifs, or some element of the text. From this analysis, we created a video essay on the text. Unlike Unit 1 which focused on formulaic, scientific writing, or Unit 2 which examined social interactions and primary research, Unit 3 was most open-ended in my opinion. Through the video essay, we could present the information however we deemed fit with graphics and visuals aids to help us along the process. There was a definite learning curve for video editing software, but I found this unit very enjoyable and, again, unique.
Engl105 surprised me, for I expected this course to be similar to high school analytical writing classes like Great Books or The Heroic Journey. Instead, we analyzed human behavior, learned good feedback techniques, created visual media, translated scientific text into popular health articles, condensed research, practiced presentation skills, and more. Each unit brought something unique, and I enjoyed the many aspects of the class. Although it still feels a bit strange about how the semester ended through Zoom, I am grateful for this 8am and the connections I found through this class.