For the past two years’ Chapter the Last threads, I doubled back and linked to posts from the first semester. I wanted to look at work from students who’d studied with me all year to see how their current work compared to their material from a few months ago – whether they’d improved or changed their approaches to the degree I’d believed. I wanted to see whether, in retrospect, I could see hints, pieces, or full-on snapshots of the writers they’d become by June.
For the most part, I could. That wide-angle view captured some fascinating glimpses of students in transition. Some had come in with writing styles that could be charitably described as “rigid,” but who had gradually learned to experiment with their styles of writing and thinking over the months. Others took the opposite tack: they came in with brains bursting with thought but little-to-no idea how to communicate those thoughts to others, and left having gained discipline, strength, focus, and structure as writers.
Regardless, most of my seniors have similar reactions to their old posts: some mixture of horror and curiosity. Go with the latter more than the former: go see who you once were, how you once thought, and – as the posts progress – how it all changed, from the first tentative posts to the epics you're writing now.
And who knows? Now that you’ve been through the second semester, you just might find some Easter eggs and connections hiding in plain sight in the old posts. (That’s been a source of consternation in the past – kids reading their old posts and thinking, How did I ever miss that?)
So it’s that time of year again, and the links that follow will allow you to easily gauge your progress over the year.
Double bonus: links to the ancient English 9 blog from 2010-11, where tiny baby little versions of, among others, Alyssa Arasawa, Vincent Cheng, Marcel Hall, Angela Huang, Jack Huang, Alice Tang, Janine Cordova-Castillo, Katie Mazer, Exabiier Bars, Madison Bruce, Brian Chan, Sky Hart, Chrystal Kim, Sky Wood, Simone Bishara, Alex Evangelista, Catherine Hang, Michael Lewis, Anita Ng, and Diana Nguyen once made their marks.
What I wrote to my first class of frosh-who-became-seniors still holds:
It’s like stumbling on the dust-covered demos of your favorite band years after it polishes its sound and hits it big, especially since the links to your future senior-year curriculum will seem blatantly obvious to you in hindsight.
To be fair, at the time, it probably didn’t feel like I was setting you up for anything. But that was always the hope – that I’d get to finish you up after getting you started. You can ask anyone. I held that hope in order to cope with being assigned English 9 after listing it as one of the two courses you can explicitly request to avoid teaching.
I didn’t want to teach you then. I’m glad Mr. Sylvia ignored me.
And I’m glad you and I got to know each other back then, when we were all very, very different people.
Enjoy the relentless adorableness of your younger selves via the following links: