So last weekend I had to write a two page paper for a Maya art class I’m taking this semester. No problem, thought I, two pages–even single spaced–is a breeze. I figured I’d spend about two hours doing research, one to two hours pumping it out, and all would be well in the world.
That was, until I got to the library and tried to do the research for it. My professor has been taking a very line upon line, precept upon precept approach to teaching Maya culture. This approach works really well for not confusing us, but three weeks into the class, it put me in way over my head trying to do research on Maya art. I had no idea what a lot of the literature was talking about, which made it hard to develop a thesis.
After six hours in the library (about twice as long as I had thought the entire process would take), I had found an article from a journal that I actually understood. It encompassed the limited amount of knowledge I had about the Maya culture. All I had to do was find something to say so that I could use it as a source. No problem, right? I probably spent three more hours developing a thesis and writing the dang thing, for a total of about ten hours devoted to a dinky two page paper.
I really dislike spending that much time on a fairly rinky-dink assignment. I believe that my time is valuable, and that spending so much time on a little paper was really grating. I also had about four other assignments left to do that weekend that were due Monday and Tuesday, which made the process even more frustrating. But I made it work. I stayed up late, worked in between classes, and managed to finish all of the assignments on time.
On Thursday, my professor announced that he had read all of our papers. (For reference, that’s about thirty papers between Tuesday and Thursday–he admitted that he accomplishes feats like this by having no life.) He gave some generic “make sure you have a thesis” advice, and some more specific advice on writing in the field of Maya (it’s the Mayan language, everything else is just Maya–Maya people, Maya culture, Maya art), and then he hesitated. He admitted to having given out three tens (out of ten) on this assignment, which really surprised him. He said that he usually doesn’t give any tens on the first paper, so to have given out three meant that some people in the class really knew how to write.
Guess who got a ten? That’s right. I did.
It’s really validating to have had an assignment that I worked hard on come back with really good results. In college I’ve gotten depressingly used to working really hard, only to have my results be “good enough.” I believe that hard work is rewarding in and of itself, so I continue to work hard in college, but it’s nice to hear a professor say that I can write well. If he asked me I’d thank my AP English teacher, Mrs. Bryant, for teaching me what a thesis was.