Ben Armerding’s Challenge

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I’m going to take up Ben on his challenge to write about one of the “most prominent memories of reading and writing” in our own history as a student in higher education.

When I first went to CCSF after high school, I placed into what was called bonehead English, and it wasn’t just bonehead.  It was the lowest level bonehead (two levels below English 1A).  I accepted my fate even though I also knew that on the day I took the English placement test, my hay fever was preventing me from concentrating on the test.  So, in this class, we were looking at sentences such as, “Birds are singing.”  And we were asked, “What is the subject?  What is the verb?”  I could answer all such questions, but I realized that the other students couldn’t.  We also read novels, such as A High Wind in Jamaica, which might normally be read in high school, but I had never read them before.  I responded to the books in the same way I had written in high school, and Miss Wolf (there was no Ms. back then.) loved it.  She approached me after about two weeks and asked me why I was in that class.  I told her that I had been placed in the class.  The class was supposed to last for two semesters, and she suggested I retake the placement test to avoid taking the second half of the class.  I did and placed into English 1A.

What is strange about all this is that I never questioned my placement in the class.  I never tried to get out of taking it or to retake the placement test.  And yet, I remember that I had liked to write in high school if I liked the topic.  I once had an English teacher that used to punish students by giving out extra writing assignments if he saw you talking when you shouldn’t or doing something he didn’t like.  The only good thing is that if you did a good job with the assignment, he graded it and gave you points.  The topic of the writing punishment changed every day.  One day after Mr. Haney gave out the punishment to another student, I thought it was such an interesting topic that I purposely started talking to my neighbor so that I could be given the punishment assignment.  When I turned in the paper, he liked it so much that he read it out loud to the class.  So in college, I already knew that I didn’t have all that many writing problems.  And yet, I accepted the results of the placement test without a word of protest.

When Miss Wolf recognized that I was misplaced without my pointing it out, this reinforced my belief that I was in the right place.

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