Literacy Sponsorship Final (inclusive of all drafts)

March 20, 2017

Loop writing exercise:

  1. First Thoughts

Having done a literacy project freshman year first semester in my EN 10 class, maybe I have a little insight into what’s going on when it comes to one’s literacy, how they obtained it, what obstacles they had to surpass in order to obtain it, etc. At the time I didn’t think I had anything. Literacy is just a given—a given I now release was obtainable because of my class privilege and education—and I never understood how people in the 21st century could be illiterate.

Literacy has to meanings to me: (1) the ability to read, write, speak. (2) competence in a given field. I’m not literate in European history. I’m literate when it comes to grammar rules. I’ve become a very articulate writer over the course of the latter years of high school into college.

  1. Prejudices

As hinted at, I found it hard to believe that there are people in this world who aren’t literate, more so in the United States (as I haven’t left the country in quite some time and thus can’t give an examples elsewhere). In the third world, education is hard to come by (breaks my heart), and it’s even harder if you’re female. I understand that. However, if you’re illiterate in the U.S., I’ve picked up this prejudice that you’re white trash. It’s a stereotype, really, the image of illiterate people as unkempt-haired, surly men and women who only wear white t-shirts, live in trailer parks, et.al. Or maybe I’m thinking inbred.

I loathe people who don’t know their grammar rules. Basic ones, especially. You’re vs your, their vs they’re vs there, all of those. It’s even worse if you’re in college. It’s something that should just be known at this point. I think people who don’t know the difference between you’re and your, people who misuse certain punctuation, etc. should be in college. I know in my elementary and middle schools—and the education wasn’t that great, may I add—we were forced to take one class every year with objectives that specifically targeted grammar, vocabulary, spelling, all of that.

And I say this boldly, as a person who used to attend a special class for “dumb kids” at 7 in the morning before school started because my comprehension was at a disturbingly low level.

  1. Instant Version

I think my final piece would encompass a few points:

  • I was the dumb child, see above. I’ve worked hard to shake that.
  • Comprehension in your first language is one thing, but comprehension in one you hardly know is another thing, esp. when you’re in that country.
  • I’m an articulate piece of garbage now
  1. Dialogues

I took two years of Italian in middle school. Three years later, I went to Italy for a week with classmates. I was the designated speaker. The first night, I was jet-lagged and sick when we went to see the pope. They don’t have porter potties in Italy (at least none that I saw or remember) so I rushed into a restaurant. Begin scene:

I grasped the fence with two fingers, the metal a drastically different temperature than the rest of my body. I was hot, bothered, I felt my stomach churn—a feeling I could identify only as the catalyst to sickness.

“Ms. Papp,” I called to my chaperone. I had to repeat her name and lean closer to her, for the cheers around us that were directed at the pope drowned me out. She turned to face me. “I think I’m going to be sick,” I disclosed, a hand on my stomach.

Her smile dissipated. She grabbed my hand, leading me out of the crowd and back onto the streets. “Scusi, scusi, scusi!” we chimed.

My mind was scrambled. I was embarrassed. I couldn’t believe I was about to be sick in Rome, within the first six hours of being there. I scanned the streets for a sign that said “bagno,” skulking when I saw none. We settled quickly on speed walking into the first restaurant in sight, with myself taking two steps to her every one. I galloped ahead when I saw a hostess.

“Scusame,” I urged. She was holding a tray, lowering it when I stepped up to her. I stuttered through the sentence, “Io ho mal di stomaco. Com’è il bagno?” Instead I clutched my gut, chanted bagno bagno bagno.

She looked at me, concerned, until pointing down the hallway toward the communal bathroom.

I was sick. It must’ve been something I ate, maybe it was the jet-lag, the lack of sleep on the plane, who knows. Ms. Papp knocked on the door to the communal bathroom just as I was heavily breathing in one of the stalls.

“Alyssa, do you need anything?”

I responded, “I’m alright. You can come in—”

“No!” a woman yelled. There was a woman in the stall next to me, suddenly chiming in on a conversation that didn’t effect her. She began yelling in Italian, I was perplexed. I couldn’t comprehend what she was yelling about. Keywords led me to believe she thought I was inviting my chaperone into her stall, and I tried to tell her otherwise with the limited vocabulary I was equipped with at that moment.

The only consolation prize I received after that was a stick of gum.

End scene.

  1. Narrative Thinking

I think I kind of did this one already.

  1. Stories

Yeah I pretty much accomplished this too. Not my favorite anecdote from Italy but it’ll have to suffice.

  1. Scenes

In my “dumb kid” class, I remember drawing this potato like creature instead of doing the assigned work with the other dumb kids. I gave it lined body hair, B.O. the works. Joey, one of the dumb kids, said I was freaking him out.

In a different dumb kid class in middle school filed with much smarter dumb kids, Billy was insulting another kid. He was called a broken record player. Billy called him lettuce head. “Lettuce head? Lettuce head? What is even a lettuce head, Billy?”


 

March 20, 2017

Shitty First Draft:

I was your designated dumb kid in elementary school. Not dumb as in lick a swing-set dumb—I wish I were that dumb. I was the sort of dumb where I’d have to attend a special class for “dumb kids” at seven in the morning before school once a week because my comprehension was at a disturbingly low level. I didn’t think it was my fault. My teachers conspired against me, having the audacity to undermine my way of understanding concepts. In math I was taught that when subtracting numbers with triple digits, in some cases you’d have to take an eight away from one number instead of a nine. Then we were given a quiz on subtraction and I answered every question wrong, and was shamed in front of the whole class. It wasn’t only math class that this occurred. I had comprehension issues after reading stories, sometimes even short paragraphs for classes. I’d have to ask my parents if they knew the answer to the reading comprehension questions in the back of my history textbook. My teacher’s thought I was careless and made the choice not to put any effort into my academia, but at home I was clocking in twice as many hours as the other elementary schoolers.

Nonetheless, my parents enrolled me in the dumb kid class. I didn’t take it as seriously as I should have. Call it an act of rebellion, of angst for having to wake up an extra hour early, or of lethargy based off the fact I had an additional two hours of homework each night. I don’t even remember what myself and the small group of other kids I was lumped with, who were, in fact, even more illiterate than I was, were completing as assignments. I just remember I hated it, but I grew to like the other kids. I was fondest of Joey, who laughed at the potato-like creature with lined body hair and four fingers, with clear B.O. stained armpits and flies drawn with three dots in succession, two empty circles, one filled in charcoal, that circled it. Oftentimes I’d draw instead of doing the work.

I worked day and night to ameliorate myself, to rid myself of the stigma that I was destined to continually fall behind on my academic work, destined to never understand what the adults were talking about. A direct and positive correlation emerged as I aged and steadily increased my potential. Still, it wasn’t enough by the time I reached middle school and was enrolled in yet another class for dumb kids, this one in 5th grade that was built into my schedule. Three times a week, last period, I’d be stuck in the library with a group of other kids as we’d work with packets of papers on college-grade studies conducted across the U.S. I asked my parents to just let me have a free study period instead of the class, the time in it would be spent on academics, of course, but they were adamant about this. The librarian teaching us kept a ruler on the table at all times to intimidate us.

They say three time’s a charm but I didn’t want to test the waters any longer. After finishing my second comprehension combatting class, I did everything in my power to reach everyone else’s level. In the end, it payed off. I began seeing literacy as a dying art. I began thinking everyone would rather sit in the dark than read another mandatory chapter from J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. I developed a wanderlust in this period of meliorism, more so a resonating desire to travel abroad and be able to read foreign signs and hold conversations in another language with strangers. In 2014, when I was a lucid junior in high school, I was granted that opportunity. With my bettered comprehension skills, I rose to the top of my class in middle school Italian studies. Italian wasn’t an offered language at my high school, so I switched to Spanish, but applied for a week long trip to Italy and was accepted. At this point in our lives, I figured everyone knew how to read and write in their primary tongue. I wanted more. Being literate in my first language was child’s play for me, so being literate enough in a secondary language was my next step into proving that I’ve come a long way literately. Before leaving to Italy for a week, I sought help from my history teacher, who spoke Italian and had been to Italy before, and we set up sessions after school in which we’d practice the language together. She even showed me the first Harry Potter book she owned which was in Italian, and the two of us inspected it for an hour minimum. She encouraged me during our meetings together, and helped me separate my knowledge of the three languages in my life: English, Italian and Spanish.

Many things occurred during the trip itself, most I won’t delve into. Concerning literacy abroad, I was no longer the designated dumb kid but the designated translator. I ordered people’s meals for them, held conversations with our tour guide, convinced a woman that neither I nor my chaperone were trying to force our way into her bathroom stall, even directed two girls and I to a specific cathedral using a flimsy map when we were sure we were completely lost in Florence. Keep in mind, however: nothing is perfect. On our last day in Florence, a man forced a rose into my hand and called me ‘bella.’ I thanked him and thought nothing more of our interaction until he began yelling at me in the language I thought I knew well while punching how own hand. I had dusted off my old middle school Italian textbook months before the trip commenced, read every page twice, and made a thick stack of flashcards, only for this? I unintentionally spoke and wrote Italian in my Spanish class frequently enough, for this? ———- I have more to say here but this is three pages. Anyways now I’m an articulate piece of garbage.


 

April 6, 2017

Post-Conference Draft:

It wasn’t until I was more than halfway through high school that I began seeing literacy as a dying art. It occurred to me once in ninth grade when my English class was assigned to read the entirety of J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye and a few students raved about how they’d rather sit in the dark than read. Having had trouble with my own literacy in the past, it baffled me when people my age thought about academics with the mindset that there’s nothing more to learn about the English language because it’s seen as a given now—especially when people still can’t differentiate ‘your’ and ‘you’re.’

But it was more than just ninth grade that this thought occurred to me. I was the designated dumb kid in elementary school. Not dumb as in lick a swing-set dumb—I wish I were that dumb. I was the sort of dumb where I’d have to attend a special class for “dumb kids” at seven in the morning before school once a week because my comprehension was at a disturbingly low level. Though I didn’t take it seriously at first, along with the subsequent classes I was enrolled in, and all the ridicule I received from my parents and others, by the time I reached high school I had a change of tune. Not only that, but I slowly but surely moved past former academic barriers and began to excel intellectually.

I developed a wanderlust my high school period of meliorism, more so a resonating desire to travel abroad and be able to read foreign signs and hold conversations in another language with strangers. Fortunately, when I was a lucid junior in high school in 2014, I was granted that opportunity. As I was working on ameliorating my comprehension skills in middle school, the class I excelled most in was Italian studies, which was just a language class. Italian wasn’t an offered language at my high school, so I switched to Spanish, but applied for a week long trip to Italy and was accepted. At this point in our lives, I figured everyone knew how to read and write in their primary tongue. I wanted more. Being literate in my first language was child’s play for me, so being literate enough in a secondary language was my next step into proving that I’ve come a long way literately. Before leaving to Italy for a week, I sought help from my history teacher, who spoke Italian and had been to Italy before, and we set up sessions after school in which we’d practice the language together. She even showed me the first Harry Potter book she owned which was in Italian, and the two of us inspected it for an hour minimum. She encouraged me during our meetings together, and helped me separate my knowledge of the three languages in my life: English, Italian, and Spanish.

The trip was during spring break, and consisted of myself, 24 other students, and several chaperones. Together, we’d be traveling to Rome, Florence, and Venice for a few days each, and Assisi and Padua for a few hours each. I was ecstatic, due to my partial knowledge of the language and the fact that I’d been yearning for a place other than New York City for the longest time. Still, I was expectedly apprehensive as I hardly knew anyone, and being the shy girl I once was, I figured I’d mess up my bilingualism when the wrong time came around.

Many things occurred during the trip itself. Concerning literacy abroad, I was no longer the designated dumb kid but the designated translator. I ordered people’s meals for them, held conversations with our tour guide, convinced a woman that neither I nor my chaperone were trying to force our way into her bathroom stall, even directed two girls and I to a specific Cathedral using a flimsy map when we were sure we were completely lost in Florence.

I specifically remember one night in Florence when our whole group went wandering in search of a suitable place to get some comfort food. At one point during this search, a man came up to me and basically forced a rose with an elongated stem into my hand. All the while, he was calling me ‘bella’, or beautiful, to which I couldn’t help but force a smile. I knew something was off. I began thinking there was a possibility that he had a literacy problem, as ‘bella’ seemed to be the only word in his vocabulary for the minute and a half he was flattering me. A few members of my group stood next to me, and although we had several differences in terms of the level of attention we all received from this crusty middle-aged man, one thing we did have in common was that none of us knew what to do. His broken record player voice droned on before his expression turned angry. In the span of a second, he began punching his own hand while glaring down at me, shouting at me in the language I thought I knew pretty well. I had dusted off my old middle school Italian textbook months before the trip commenced, read every page twice, and made a thick stack of flashcards, only for this? I unintentionally spoke and wrote Italian in my Spanish class frequently enough, for this? For a greasy man to shout at me, leading me to freeze up with an appalling look of bewilderment? I was petrified to say the least, until my group leader came over and shooed him away. He snatched the rose from my hand and walked off after calling me a ‘stupid American’ several times. My chaperone, who I studied Italian with explained that he was demanding money from me in the exchange for the rose, which, by the way, I could’ve just picked up for five euros at a stand outside my hotel.


 

Summary of Changes Made in Response to Peer Feedback and Instructor Feedback:

In response to peer feedback, I heavily edited my shitty first draft. I originally wrote about aspects of my childhood leading up to my trip to Italy for a week, but it wasn’t all cohesive. Rather, I talked about how I was the designated dumb kid, but I didn’t delve into it—it wasn’t my one-inch frame. I mentioned trivial aspects of my road to literacy, on a guy named Joey who I didn’t describe, on a math test, on a librarian who kept a ruler on the table, but none of it worked together. When talking with my peer, we both concluded that the Italian aspect of my literacy sponsorship was the most interesting material I brought to our session. Because of what we talked about, I shifted the focus to my time abroad, and to the woman who helped me along the way.

In response to instructor feedback, I, again, heavily edited my work. I focused even more on my Italian literacy, and completely cut every tie I made to my low comprehension level growing up. Dr. Boquet, you pointed to a section in my draft when we met in your office, and you said that sometimes when you look at work, you skip a few paragraphs and choose a new starting point in the middle of the narration. In my post-conference draft, I found a new starting point and jumped off that, and what I did after that is all in my final draft.


 

April 20, 2017

Final Draft:

In high school, I developed two wishes. My first wish was that I’d move past the anxiety made possible by my previously low-comprehension level. My second wish was more of a wanderlust, a resonating desire to travel abroad and be able to read foreign signs and hold conversations in another language with strangers. Fortunately, when I was a lucid junior in high school in 2014, I was granted that opportunity. As I was working on ameliorating my comprehension skills in middle school, the class I excelled most in was Italian studies, which was just a language class. Italian wasn’t an offered language at my high school, so I switched to Spanish, but applied for a week long trip to Italy and was accepted. At this point in my life, I figured everyone knew how to read and write in their primary tongue but I wanted more. Being literate in my first language was child’s play for me, so being literate enough in a secondary language was my next step into proving that I’ve come a long way literately.

Before leaving to Italy for a week, I sought help from my history teacher, Ms. Papp, who spoke Italian and had been to Italy before, and we set up sessions after school in which we’d practice the language together. She even showed me the first Harry Potter book she owned which was in Italian, and the two of us inspected it for an hour minimum. She encouraged me during our meetings together, and helped me separate my knowledge of the three languages in my life: English, Italian, and Spanish. Though I messed up a few of the words from time to time, she was always encouraging and compassionate—and looking back at this point in the semester, it’s as if she were my personal writing tutor. Additionally, she’s living proof of Deborah Brandt’s definition of literacy sponsorship: “any agents, local or distant, concrete or abstract, who enable, support, teach, model, as well as recruit, regulate, suppress, or withhold literacy” (Brandt).

The trip was during spring break, and consisted of myself, 24 other students, and several chaperones. Together, we’d be traveling to Rome, Florence, and Venice for a few days each, and Assisi and Padua for a few hours each. I was ecstatic, due to my partial knowledge of the language and the fact that I’d been yearning for a place other than New York City for the longest time. Still, I was expectedly apprehensive as I hardly knew anyone, and being the shy girl I once was, I figured I’d mess up my bilingualism when the wrong time came around.

Many things occurred during the trip itself. Concerning literacy abroad, I ordered people’s meals for them, held conversations with our tour guide, convinced a woman that neither I nor Ms. Papp were trying to force our way into her bathroom stall, directed two girls and I to a specific Cathedral using a flimsy map when we were sure we were completely lost in Florence.

The first night in Rome, just hours after arriving, my group and I were ushered into a busy street where, from behind a chain-link fence, we could see the Pope speak. Approximately ten minutes into his speech I began losing interest in translating. I felt my stomach churn—a feeling I could only identify as the catalyst to sickness. The first person I told was Ms. Papp, who, without hesitation, took my hand and lead me to a bathroom. My mind was scrambled. I was embarrassed. I couldn’t believe I was about to be sick in Rome within the first six hours of being there. I scanned the streets for a sign that said “bagno,” skulking when I saw none, so we settled quickly on speed walking into the first restaurant in sight, with myself taking two steps to her every one. I galloped ahead when I saw a hostess. I stuttered through the sentence, “Io ho mal di stomaco. Com’è il bagno?” though it was as if I just stood there chanting bagno bagno bagno. The hostess pointed to the communal bathroom, and like I predicted, I was sick.

Within a few minutes, Ms. Papp knocked on the door to the communal bathroom just as I was heavily breathing in one of the stalls. I called out that I was fine and she could come in, only to be cut off by a woman in the stall next to me. She yelled in Italian, and while I couldn’t comprehend everything she was yelling, I was able to pick up some key words that led me to believe she thought I was inviting Ms. Papp and I into her stall. I tried convincing her otherwise. My consolation prize from that occurrence was a stick of gum.

A few nights later, in Florence, our whole group went wandering in search of a suitable place to get some comfort food. At one point during this search, a man came up to me and basically forced a rose with an elongated stem into my hand. All the while, he was calling me bella, or beautiful, to which I couldn’t help but force a smile. I knew something was off. I began thinking there was a possibility that he had a literacy problem, as bella seemed to be the only word in his vocabulary for the minute and a half he was flattering me. A few members of my group stood next to me, and although we had several differences in terms of the level of attention we all received from this crusty middle-aged man, one thing we did have in common was that none of us knew what to do. His broken record player voice droned on before his expression turned angry. In the span of a second, he began punching his own hand while glaring down at me, shouting at me in the language I thought I knew pretty well. And in that moment, I thought to myself: I had dusted off my old middle school Italian textbook months before the trip commenced, read every page twice, and made a thick stack of flashcards, only for this? I unintentionally spoke and wrote Italian in my Spanish class frequently enough, for this? For a greasy man to shout at me, leading me to freeze up with a look of bewilderment? I was petrified to say the least, until my group leader came over and shooed him away. He snatched the rose from my hand and walked off after calling me a stupid American several times. Ms. Papp, who only noticed what was going on after it happened, explained that he was demanding money from me in the exchange for the rose, which, by the way, I could’ve just picked up for five euros at a stand outside my hotel. From that occurrence, I feel comfortable at this point arguing that the man with the rose was a literacy sponsor of mine. Because I was blinded in that moment, he suppressed my literacy—as stated, he made me question my ability to speak the language.

Ms. Papp and the man with the rose were both influential agents toward my literacy in the language I love, though Ms. Papp was by far the better sponsor, but there were minor moments as well. Our bus driver and I had a brief conversation ending with me saying piacere di conoscerla or pleased to meet you, and him responding with piacere mio or the pleasure is mine. Our tour guide, who spoke the language fluently, helped me fill my water bottle in the hotel in Venice after a misunderstanding. Another girl in my group asked one of the workers in the dining hall to fill up her plastic water bottle, but the worker didn’t know any English, and filled up the bottle with boiling water. Her bottle was completely ruined, and rather than risk my own water bottle, I asked our tour guide if she knew of a place to find cold tap water. She didn’t know of a place but instead had a two-minute discourse in Italian with the wait staff, and there was no confusion.

Of course, there was even a time I became a sponsor of literacy on a smaller scale than Ms. Papp, which is where this narrative comes full circle. We were touring Venice and there was a sign beneath the Rialto Bridge that no one knew how to translate, but it was interesting because the two key words were Venice and Mafia. I looked at it a moment before stating, “oh, that means Stop the Mafia, Venice is sacred.” A few of the girls in my group gave me a sideways look, and almost instinctively I gave them a quick lesson on the verb to be, used when saying Venice is sacred. In that moment, I adopted the stance of my personal agent, who was local and concrete, and who supported and strengthened my Italian literacy.

Work Cited

Brandt, Deborah. “Sponsors of Literacy.” College Composition and Communication 49 (1998): 165-85. Web. 18 Apr. 2017

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