Do you ever remember witnessing those children whose parents would congratulate them for simply doing what was expected? Heaps of stickers, medals and all other forms of accolades would be showered upon spoiled brats for being well…average! It was a false sense of achievement fostered to ensure that the child felt as if they were achieving something – and God knows that was probably not the case!

This fabricated sense of achievement is exactly how I felt each day I walked into my high school English class. From grade nine to twelve, teachers would reward students with that coveted A++ for simply placing a pen to paper – or let’s face it, finger to keyboard. To succeed one merely had to do what was expected with little to no additional research. If a student added a proper citation, the teacher would surely jump for joy!

To say the least, it was a simplistic system: follow the guidelines, provide two quotations per paragraph and never forget to cite (even if it was improperly done, and most times it was, the effort alone would have granted students that level four that they oh so longed for).  It was this system that provided everyone with the opportunity to be successful – even those “Lazy Larrys” that showed up twenty minutes late to the final exam.


Although it felt outstanding at the time to have cracked this system – landing me the grades necessary to enter university – now, I simply feel overwhelmed. As I step foot into my first year English class, I have no idea what to expect (and I mean zero, zilch, nada!) I highly doubt that the “hamburger method” of adding an introductory, body and concluding paragraph will grant me the power necessary to conquer the feat that is a university level English course – and if it does, “God bless high school!”

High school was supposed to be a time of preparation for the challenge of higher education (or at least that is what all my teachers constantly attempted to convince me.) Now, I just simply wish that my secondary school teachers would have better equipped me with the skills necessary to produce a university grade paper. In hindsight, I would have preferred to have seen feedback on word choice, voice, or sentence structure on my assignments, rather than a cutesy flower sticker that made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

I will never forget the time in grade eleven English when my teacher handed back my final paper with nothing more than an inflated letter grade, a smiley face (of course!), and the scribbled comment, “great job meeting the word count!” Are you serious? I was genuinely being congratulated for meeting a superficial requirement. I am not even one month into my post-secondary studies, however I am almost positive that is not how it is going to work around here.


It is because of moments like these that I look at my current university English syllabus and begin to feel a rush of anxiety consume my body. Sure, the daunting word “essay” did not mean a whole lot in high school, but now I predict the word possesses a much deeper meaning – a meaning that I do not yet have the capacity to fully comprehend.

With all this said, I hope that my first semester in university English will help me improve the skills that were neglected by a flawed high school system focused on student achievement and “trying one’s best.” I anticipate growing with my writing and finding unique strengths that will allow me to improve the overall quality of my work.

I am aware the next four years are going to be an excruciating uphill climb. This journey with the English language, unlike high school, will not consist of flower stickers or cute smiley faces to pick me up when a disappointing grade for simply “meeting the expectations” pushes me down. I am going to have to prepare and push myself to ensure I conquer this challenge. No matter how rigorous it may be though, I am just going to have to buckle up and hang on for the ride … wherever it may take me!