Advanced Essay #1: Stressed to Impress

The purpose of this assignment was to create an essay that linked to a greater idea using a scene from the writer's past. When first given this assignment, I knew which moment in my life on which I wanted to speak but had difficulty connecting it to my larger idea. I eventually found a way to do so through the use of thought-shots, which is displayed later in the text.

The beginning of fifth grade was a stressful time in my life. I was transferring from a Catholic school to a charter school, and I did not feel prepared. The first week of my new school was a lot different than my old school. I still had to wear a uniform and still had assigned seating in every class, but the atmosphere felt peculiar.

The classroom I was in did not look unique compared to ones I had seen before. Cramped, wooden desks were still placed in rows, which were still difficult to navigate through. There were lockers in the back of the room, which I had never used before. A projector and screen were present at the front of the classroom, which was different from the chalkboards with which I was comfortable. The teacher’s desk was pushed off into the upper-right corner of the room.

In general, Catholic school felt a lot more strict when it came to regulations. I thought that having less rules would be great for me, considering I had a hard time following the more obscure ones at a young age.

The teacher immediately went into what she expected from us this year. She began by stating the number one rule of our school: respect. This was also a crucial point used before, so I immediately thought this year was going to be simple, despite being a new student. However, the next part of her introduction made everything more complex. She aimed to base her curriculum around presentations, which meant we were all expected to present projects for a grade.

Presenting was not a foreign concept to me. However, it never counter as part of the rubric. This meant I could usually pass through speaking to the class by mumbling.

I was always afraid to speak as a child, because I always felt like what I said never mattered. My time at Catholic school was filled with immense amounts of bullying paired the inability to discover a social clique. Nobody listened to me. I would always wonder to myself: Why should I waste my time speaking to others when they do not care. I became a very isolated child, which triggered my desire for a fresh start. A new school.

Several weeks passed before the class’s first real presentation. The goal was to memorize three stanzas of poetry, and present it to the class. I spent days perfecting the goal, to avoid embarrassing myself in front of my new classmates. This was my time to impress them! My mind constantly focused on this idea.

Finally, it was time for me to display my speaking ability. The teacher decided that I should declare my piece early, and I joyously agreed. After several presentations, which I had deemed sloppy in my mind, it was my time to shine. I steadily approached my destination. The front of the classroom. My eyes were locked straight ahead, instead of the downward sight I always displayed when presenting. My hands were not clenched and my mouth formed an awkward, yet toothy smile. My posture was perfectly straight. I was ready.

Or, I thought I was ready. After stating three lines perfectly, my voice began to nervously rattle out words: “While follow eyes the steady…” I looked at my hands. They were tightly clenched. My posture became slouched. I was now aware of the monstrous frown on my face. I could only see the floor, unable to look up at my classmates. I realized that my eyes were watery, and I could feel the red color placed on my forehead. I was afraid. I sulked back into my seat, unable to finish the poem I had studied endlessly for days. I was embarrassed. The classroom looked much larger than before, and everybody was staring at me. I was not ready.

I realized that I spent so much time focusing on a single poem, that I had missed opportunities to introduce myself to the other students and attempt to find new friends. Looking back on this experience, I realize that I was unable to present this poem for a much larger reason than just stage fright. I had isolated myself in Catholic school, so I assumed that I was alone at this school in addition. I never reached out to anyone, asked for any phone numbers, or compared homework answers with another student before class. I had convinced myself that impressing my classmates with my stellar presentation would force them to not bully me. I was unable to realize that a new school meant a new experience, and I had to let go of the fears I held from Catholic school. One of the most important moments of my grade school career was letting go of those fears. Eventually, with proper introductions and a new mindset, I was able to present without worrying about my past.