Underrated Things (And English Reminiscing)

Have you ever been in a situation where you didn’t know what to say, and as soon as you were by yourself and could piece your thoughts together again, you could come up with a hundred things to say?

That so happened to me today…

Today, in my (fabulous) William & Mary interview, for my curveball question I got asked, “What do you find to be underrated, and why?” 

(They do curveball questions in their interviews because they are wonderful.)

And I think LOTS of things are underrated. We live in a culture today where lots of things are overrated, and those things aren’t necessarily good things. What’s overrated? Love. Dating. Sex. Fashion. High school. Affluence. Being thin. Being what the world calls beautiful. Taking complete control over your life. That stupid song Let Her Go. (well, maybe that’s just me. But his voice gives me the mental image of a giant, ugly baby singing. Do with that what you will.)

Here are some underrated things, in my opinion.

The Old Testament. Not-statement necklaces that are small and easily overlooked. Introverted people. Knee-length skirts. Target. Grace. Ingrid Michaelson (only because her worst music is the music people hear). WGTS 91.9. Homeschooling. Staying on top of things, but not being a crazed overachiever. Writing. Choir. The color green. Waiting. People who get excited about small things. Forgiveness. Holding Jesus’ hand as you walk through life, instead of trying to run life yourself. 

But, in the actual moment of the interview, I said something I find underrated is English class.

Seriously. It was the only thing I could think of. I’m not kidding. But, at the same time, I’m not ashamed of that answer, and I think it’s “me” the way they wanted it to be. 

I think English class is underrated because I used to underrate it myself. I had loved English and writing and spelling pretty much since I was a wee homeschooled first-grader learning how to write in cursive and spell words like restaurant. The love continued as I got older, and I had an amazing English teacher in seventh grade, but when eighth grade hit, I started forgetting that I loved this class.

That was the year we really had to start reading and annotating books and writing about them. And it seemed that everyone else in my English class was not interested in reading or annotating, so they didn’t.

This is the part where I would love to say that I proudly stood up for my love of literature and did the work with exuberance and glee despite what everyone else did. But no. Weakling me followed the crowd, and my love got buried under peer pressure to slack off. I still made an A, but I viewed it as a boring class. (I do strongly agree with the idea that the teacher makes the class, especially in English, but peer pressure was my tipping point, I think.) 

Through 9th and 10th grade, I continued to view English this way, even though I still said it was my favorite class. I BS-ed my papers, underlined random things in my book before the annotation checks, and generally stared at the clock the entire period in wait for the bell to ring.

11th grade English, however, was a different story. IB English HL 1 means business – it really isn’t even possible to slack off because there is so much group discussion and analysis and presentation. At first I felt a little annoyed with the workload and my strict-seeming teacher, but then we started reading. 

That year, we read Chronicle of a Death Foretold, The Sorrow of War, and The Great Gatsby, and I enjoyed ALL of them. I started out the year working hard for the purpose of not failing, and by the end of the year I was working hard because I wanted to dive deep into the symbolism and the meaning. I wanted to know what everyone else was saying they didn’t understand about the odd moments in Chronicle. I wanted to know what people thought of the controversial Gatsby upon its 1920s publication, in the midst of the era F. Scott Fitzgerald condemned in the novel. I was SO interested, and it happened because I just did what the teacher told us all along: I tried.

English class is not about forcing you to read boring novels and write about them. If that was the purpose, that’d be the stupidest class ever. It’s not intended to be that way. These “boring” books are chosen by people with doctorate degrees because they know something you don’t about them. They know these books are controversial, or they have a meaning that is timeless generation across generation, or they will open your eyes about something that could be happening on the other side of the world that you might have never been aware of otherwise. English class, if you participate, will open your mind.

F. Scott knows what I’m talking about:

Image

Can you tell I want to be an English teacher? Haha… 

Honestly though, I don’t think my heart could have been this literary without the help of some wonderful English teachers along the way. So thank you, Mrs. Vanwey, Mrs. Vessels, Mrs. Hall, Mrs. Fulton, and Professor Sullivan – you have encouraged me to love writing, and I do because of you. I hope I can be as good of a teacher as you all are someday. 🙂

Now go read something! And write your English teacher a thank you note.

-e

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