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English, Foreign Languages and English as a Second Language

Student Showcase

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Wesley Slyke

Now here's a can of worms I've never opened. What made me want to become an English professor? Now that I'm taking a serious look at it, a lot of things. I guess when you put all those "things" together, it makes a pretty good story, too.

I suppose as far as the beginning of a career choice goes, third grade was an important year. That was the year I failed. I had been in danger of failing since kindergarten. Somehow, magically, the last two months of every year before third grade, I would make an incredible turnaround. My third grade year, however, the magic ran out. I had neglected my studies the whole year, and there was no way I could pull off passing. Thus, I failed.

Poor Mrs. Foti. She couldn't understand it. Like all my other teachers, she knew I had the ability to work and do well. However, Mrs. Foti had a little more reason to believe this than any of my other teachers ever did. Every year, as she told the class, she had a book report contest. At the end of the year, the student who had read and written the most reports won a prize. Every night, every day, and every spare minute I had, that's what I did, read and write. When I was supposed to be studying, I was reading. When I was supposed to be setting the table, I was reading. Whatever it was I was supposed to be doing, I wasn't because I was always reading. By the end of the year, the person who was closest to my lead was 35 books behind me. I had read 82 books. I won a $25 gift certificate to Walden Books. My parents were so happy they bought me a Nintendo (a third grader's equivalent to a new car). In the end, though, it's! hard to say it was worth it. After all, I did fail.

My next year of third grade, although I did great, academically it was awful. My teacher, Mrs. Evil (name changed), had it out for me. I won't dwell on specific events since I rank this year in my life somewhere between the fifth and seventh layer of hell. However, I will tell you the main point and happening of that year. She hated my handwriting. She often made me the classspectacle, holding up my paper and heckling my "chicken scratches" as she called them till the class would laugh too. In all honesty, my handwriting was extremely bad and still is. I was a new kid in school, though, and Mrs. Evil certainly didn't do much for my already low self confidence.

Up until the fifth grade, I was known for two things, messy handwriting and excessive reading. My school work was great, and I even got the Presidential Award in fifth grade. My parents and teachers were both happy. As George Thorogood would say, "Everything was lovey dovey." It actually looked like I had gotten my act together and was becoming a student. It was only temporary.

Sixth grade to eleventh grade is a bad, bad blur. I wasted these years on partying and doing my best to pick up girls; neither did me much good. Strangely enough during this period of decay, I did do something important. In ninth grade, I discovered poetry and decided I wanted to become an English professor. -Whoa, slow down!-That's what you're probably thinking, right? I don't blame you, but that's how it happened. One day I just sized myself up and said, "Yup, that's me." I liked reading, I liked writing again, and having summers off sounded really good. Plus I noticed that my two favorite movies were about English teachers: A River Runs Through It and Dead Poets Society.

Even though I knew what I wanted, it didn't matter. The last thing I did was work. All I was in high school was a drifter until my senior year. I really don't know what happened. I must have been touched by the Finger of God, because one day, I just woke up. I realized before you can do what you want in life, you have to put up with the things you don't. Boom, Bam, Zing! Just like that I got my act together. I went from a 70 something average to a 90 something average. By that time, it was too late, though. I had already blown off 90% of my high school career. My only choice for a decent college education was, you got it, HVCC, The Happy Valley. Even though I'd like to be somewhere else, sometimes I can't complain. I did get a 3.6 last semester, and more importantly, I got my act together.

Even now, though, I'm still a lot like a third grader. Between thoughts I'm glancing up from my paper to my book shelf directly in front of me. Been Down So Long it Looks Like Up to Me by Richard Farina; Brave New World by Aldous Huxley; The Magus by John Fowles; Hell's Angels by Hunter S. Thompson; and a whole myriad of others I've read. Then there's my "on deck circle" Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe; Songs of the Doomed by Hunter S. Thompson. . .an endless list I'm still getting to.

Then sometimes I ask myself, "What are you doing here?" Get on the next bus to California and live in some crappie bungalow where you can read and write. The Lost Generation had Hemingway. The Beat Generation had Kerouac. The Xer's need a voice-Go boy go, go now!" It's not easy to keep this voice quiet, but I do, and I will. It's just that sometimes it's hard to make it shut up.

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