In the midst of an atypical semester, UNC students have felt the extra weight of assignments, midterms, and countless Zoom classes on their shoulders. However, this has further encouraged our class to continue to look for every positive aspect of this chaotic time. On the weekends, our class has spent time with friends, watched the Tar Heels outplay their opponents in football, and taken advantage of every second of rest we can get. Although many of our classmates expressed their exhaustion during our class check-in, they ended these grievances with a hopeful look to a long weekend. Thankfully, UNC chose to pause classes on Friday in observance of World Mental Health Day. I only have one short class on Fridays, but I made the personal decision to withhold from working ahead in my classes in order to take my own mental health day. This was a needed day of rest for everyone, which was pointed out by one student who made sure to ask Mr. Blom if he was sleeping well. After all, we did receive assignment grades at two in the morning.
On Tuesday, our class finished analyzing models of ethnographic studies. This was a crucial exercise, because it exposed us to examples that could inspire our own work. Specifically, it emphasized the organization that our unit two projects would rely on. Without this structure, our presentations would be painfully difficult to follow. This discussion gave me comfort, as I felt like I had a starting point for my rough draft.
Following this, we explored the significance of conclusions. I had previously viewed conclusions as an unnecessary nuisance. I was accustomed to adding a few “fluff” sentences at the end of my writing. However, I now recognize the potential to solidify an argument by synthesizing the piece in a concluding paragraph. By tying the individual points together, the conclusion is able to situate the writing into a larger context. This enhances its meaning by giving it a greater sense of purpose in the world.
Finally, we reviewed strategies for condensing text. This was a critical conversation to have for our unit two project because of the nature of our feeder assignments. During our ethnographic study, we conducted two observations in which we took at least 1,600 words of notes. We then had to condense these notes into a brief section within a thousand-word presentation. This was quite the challenge, but it ensured that we had enough content to make a meaningful conclusion. The most striking advice for condensing writing was to begin with sections, then paragraphs, and finally sentences. This was significant to me, because I tend to begin with technical corrections, such as spelling and grammar. By starting with the larger picture, one is able to completely strike out unnecessary information and sections that lack purpose.
With the tools of Tuesday’s class under our belts, we worked hard to submit our first rough drafts of the unit two project by Wednesday night. Although, with two midterms the very same day, I must admit that my draft may have been rougher than others. Regardless, I submitted something to ensure I could participate in Thursday’s workshop. This workshop seemed briefer than others, as many simply provided an outline for their writing. However, it was still comforting to receive feedback on what we had prepared so far.
After the workshop, we completed a very unique activity. Each individual had to provide a timed, thirty-second presentation on absolutely anything. I was suddenly nervous, as I explained how to make a gourmet meal for college students, Kraft Mac & Cheese. Each group chose their best presenter, who then repeated their presentations for the entire class. Mr. Blom led a discussion on how to engage an audience, followed by the qualities of a poor presentation. He also provided specific advice for presenting to a camera. This is crucial to our unit projects, which are video recordings, as well as any demonstration we may have to perform via Zoom due to the global pandemic. While the presentation exercise got us out of our comfort zone, it also made the project seem more manageable.
While much of this week was dedicated toward preparing for our unit two projects, we also enjoyed some laughs and took an appreciated break from our studies. We are now able to head into week ten, a major week in English 105. After an additional workshop, we will submit our ethnographic studies, upload our presentations, and make headway for our final unit. As draining as these weeks may feel, we are well on our way through our first semester at UNC. Go Heels!
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