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I’m Graduating: A Reflection Back

Written By: scoobyrex247 on April 27, 2008 1 Comment

Before I begin I would just like to say that I am writing from my personal experience and opinion. I make no claims that what I am about to write is true, I simply offer some facts of what I noticed throughout my 4 years in college as a English language learner (ELL), first generation Latino college student

With that out of the way, I think that my story will resonate with transfer students because of the unconventional route we take to reach college. My story will focus on two mile stone events in my intellectual growth: (1) Being humbled by junior college entrance exams. (2) Taking the education 140 course at UCB.

Let’s start off by assuming college students have been in the business of earning grades for over eighteen years and in some fields they would be considered seasoned veterans or experts. Unfortunately, education is a privilege and with veteran experience comes the responsibility of being critical of education and to consciously even the playing field amongst non-mainstream students. Lets also assume that education is the grand equalizer.

When I entered junior college in 2004, I was shocked to realize that I couldn’t pass the math and English assessment exams. I could trace this inability of working at the college level to being tracked into low skills classes in high school. My older brother was a jock and he was placed to low skills classes. I happened to have his counselor in high school and I too was placed in the “dumb” classes, albeit I needed extra help, but I feel I could have caught on quickly in the normal classes.

Now imagine yourself a recent high school grad, having problems passing the freaking math college entrance exam for junior college. What do you do? Do you take a slew of non accredited course and tack on an additional 1-2 years to this 4 year degree, or do you work hard and pass the exam? With the help of a tutor named Tuan, I studied from an algebra book that I borrowed from my high school professor.

The entire summer I browned bagged my lunch and spent the bulk of my day self assigning homework and exams with the help of Tuan and other tutors. I would later learn though Ed140 that this experience was Lev Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). Vygotsky, a early twentieth century phycologist and language scholor claimed that cognative ability is not fix and ZPD is the gap between individual problem solving and the level of potential development with the help of another. With self discipline and the aid of others, I was able to reach new levels in my academic abilities and I conquered junior college by transfering to CAL.

It was my junior year at CAL when I entered into a depression over the intese pressure of getting the best grades. Needless to say, I had a rough transition to the UC system and my entire life was out of balance. This was also the moment of Intellectual conciousness. Mikhail Bahktin, a philosophical linguist, coined the phrase iintellectual consciousness and described it as a struggle for liberation from ones primary discourse.

My first year, I noticed how my swing mate, who had been in private boarding school growing up gracefully managed the stressors of CAL. Although at times he did get serious with his books, he actually had a social life. Here I was a upper classmen getting shown up by sophmore, something had to give. I latter learned that such problems were likely contributed by my secondary discorse,  a phrase coined by famous linguist, James Gee. Gee claims secondary discourses are things that aren’t innate. For instance, schooling could be a secondary discourse in which sucess depends on mastering and control over the discourse.

Mastering the secodary school discourse is simlar to mastering English, the language of power. This makes sense because social science majors typically write a whole lot.  My problem and the reason why my transition to CAL was so terrible is because my primary discourse didn’t support my secondary discourse. Growing up all I spoke was spanish, and my working class parents, who I barely saw didn’t have the experience to push me in school.

I think things would have been different had they known: (1) the education system lacks resources, (2) many students from non-mainstream familys get tracked into low skill classes. After taking Ed140, I realized that I had been desperately trying to survive CAL by closing the gap between my primary and secondary discourse. It was at this time where I began my intellectual consciousness.

The Ed140 class began by claiming it would change students profoundly. I was skeptical, but  in reality the class did help me mature and identify academically the experiences I undertook in college. With this newly found knowledge I challenge anyone who can synpathize with me to take initiative and to tutor students in a needy communities.

I think that as forunate studnets, we have the responsibility to make sure other less fortunate students don’t fall through the cracks. We need to help prepare them to master the secondary discourse of school. That being said, if your a CAL student, jump at the opportuntity to take Ed140.

You won’t regret it and although it’s  geared toward community service, i feel it’s more of a self-help class than anything eles.

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One Response to “I’m Graduating: A Reflection Back”

  1. Danny on: 3 May 2008 at 7:06 pm

    Good Stuff!!!

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