English classes have never been my strength due to my dyslexia. I would always struggle with essay writing as well as reading assignments because they would take me twice as long and I wouldn’t do as well as the other classmates. But through the years I have been gaining my confidence back. This semester has been life-changing for me because I learned that it is not that I don’t know how to read or write, it’s that I’ve been going about it in the wrong way.
At the beginning of the semester, I dreaded having to take an English course because it would involve me reading and writing, two things that are very difficult for me because I have very severe dyslexia and ADHD. I felt that my best option out of all the courses at Emory offered in the Spring Semester was this course because I felt that graphic novels would be the most accessible option for me, and I was very glad I made that choice for many reasons.
For the first time in my life, I was very excited to read the books that I was assigned in my English course. As the grandson of someone who suffered through World War 2 in Poland, I connected very deeply with the author and the story in Maus. I was so excited about this book that when I went home for Spring Break I shared it with all of my family, something that had never happened to me at all before. My Dad laughed at me when he saw that the book I read was actually a graphic novel, but when he started reading it, he also realized that graphic novels are not just superhero comics for little kids. For the first time in my life, my parents noticed that I was excited about reading, and they wondered how in the world this was possible.
My writing also experienced a dramatic boost in clarity and visual storytelling as I realized why I was so bad at writing: I was doing it wrong. In order for me to write a proper essay, I first had to think about in a visual way, and then write it in words. This became incredibly clear when I wrote my literacy narrative. The first time I wrote my narrative, I wrote it like I would write any narrative. I wrote just to write and to get the assignment done because I was uninspired and stressed about my writing. However, after I turned my narrative into a comic it became obvious what I needed to do. As soon as I had turned my narrative into a comic, I realized that I could easily turn my comic into a great essay, and that is exactly what I did. In all of my old English classes, I had to turn in essays and assignments on one day, but thanks to Professor Morgen’s choice to allow us to make changes to our work, I rewrote my literacy narrative based on my comic and I felt far more satisfied with my work.
This class, just like myself, is a constant work in progress. I’m never done improving myself and I constantly want to improve my work. I hate turning in an assignment because I know that if I had more time I would be able to do better work. And for the first time in any of my classes, I was actually able to do it. Before the end of the semester, I completely redesigned my website, rewrote my literacy narrative completely, and polished several of my entries to make sure I was at least decently happy with the final product I was turning in.
I was also very insecure when it came to drawing because I don’t consider myself much of an artist at all. In this class, one of the first things that Professor Morgen told us was that it was okay to make mistakes and sometimes it was better to try something that didn’t necessarily work but that at least we tried it. This allowed me to be more creative with my sketch assignments throughout the semester and grow as an artist because of it.
This class was very different for me because every week I faced a new challenge that scared me every time. In a way, I was scared to look at the assignment for the week because I knew I would be uncomfortable by the idea at first, but I just had to take a deep breath and be patient and I knew that everything would be fine if I just took the assignment one step at a time. This was probably the first class in my life that ever did this to me. If I could describe this class in one word it would probably be unpredictable. One week I could be combining two images to form one new one, while the next I could be recreating a movie scene, or just writing a regular essay. In all of my other classes, the assignments stay consistent throughout the semester and I know what to expect from all of them. By keeping me guessing every week, I not only improved and grew in my writing, reading, and analyzing texts, but also in web design, Photoshop, and photography.
Reading and talking about comics in detail was very strange for me because I had never really done either, especially in an academic setting. Since this was an English class, I expected most of my writing to be about the text in the comics, but I was very wrong. It ended up being more about the comics as a whole than the little pieces that made it up. I gained a new perspective on books as a whole because instead of just focusing on little details if I look at the books as what they have to say or the message they are trying to convey, they are “less scary to fight” as I explain in my literacy narrative.