Hello,

I am in dire need of help.

I am a freshman in high school, and up until now, I have been known to be a pretty good writer. I was never that into it, but I was pretty good at it. I won gold key in the Schoolastic Art and Writing competition 2 years in a row, in 7th and 8th grade (Like I said, I was never into writing, and so that's pretty much it for awards XD). I also have consistently been known to be "above my age" in my ability to analyse a book, and maintained an A/A+ grade throughout 7th and 8th grade.

This year, I started high school at a different school, as my old school was only K-8. And a former A/A+ writer that I was wrote his first analytical essay for school, and, though I was not expecting an A+, got back a C-.

I'll skip the nitty gritty details; I ended up with a B- for my first semester grade, and my second semester isn't going any better.

The problem is that my teacher and I fundamentally disagree on what "analysis" is.

He says that I must "stay as close to the text as possible" (and he demonstrated this by literally hugging a chair).

I say that you must have your own voice in your writing, and not just write what the author thinks, but what you think.

His goal is to teach us how to write in "close reading," but what ended up happening was that whenever I wrote anything, he would circle it and write "this is your own opinion- does it say this in the text?"

Basically, he wanted EVERYTHING to be directly from the text. Not only this, but he said our analysis should be directly from the quote. He wants us to quote a quote, and then analyse that one word from the quote, comparing that one word to the quote.

That doesn't seem too bad, does it?

I'll give you an example.

(I had asked for a model A+ student essay, and this is referring to that essay)

The book was "The Things They Carried." (The rest of my rant only makes sense if you have read this book, sorry...)

The essay topic was "In the chapter "Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong, What does Mary Anne's changes reveal about Rat Kiley?"

Take careful note of the essay question. Though the chapter that I was to write about is mainly about Mary-Anne, the essay wants us to reference her changes, and instead focus entirely on Rat Kiley. The essay should be about Rat Kiley.

Well, the model student wrote a 2 paragraph essay, and focused an entire paragraph on the changes that Mary Ann went through. Obviously, you need to mention what her changes were, but the essay topic is weighted not on Mary Anne, but on Rat Kiley. The student should not have devoted an entire paragraph to what her changes were, and why they are important to her and Fossie's relationship (Mark Fossie isn't even mentioned in the essay question!)

Next, i would like to give you an example of the A+ analytical claim that this student provided:

"Rat's use of commas at the start illustrate how he has not quite formulated his thoughts and just expresses his emotions."

THIS IS SUCH SURFACE-LEVEL ANALYSIS!!! I mean, it's not wrong, but its like, "so what? Who cares? Why does that even matter?"

Here's what I had:

Mary Anne’s slow deterioration from conventional gender standards reveal that Rat and the soldiers unconsciously carried the patriarchal structure of society with them into the battlefields of Vietnam, however, the soldiers start to realize that war is an anti-society in which societal rules and order cannot exist, and thus their pre-constructed bias against women is unable to last.

(There is more, I just don't think people will appreciate it if I post my entire essay on this site.)

The entire CHAPTER is centralized on the notion of Gender, and how Mary Anne is a female, but the A+ student fails to mention this even once!

I'm not saying that my essay was perfect. Looking back, I can find many mistakes that I could pick out and improve on. I just don't think that with analysis like the one I had, I should not have gotten a B- for having "no claim, and no analysis."


I guess what I'm asking for is this: just based on the example I have given you, who is right? Me, or my English teacher? And what can I say to him to convince him that analyzing someone's use of commas is not as strong of analysis than analyzing someone's preconstructed gender bias?


Sorry for that long wall of text. Any and All help is greatly appreciated. I am really suffering here. Never had I had to worry about low grades in english, and I don't want a shitty teacher to ruin my entire future.

carina9836The problem is that my teacher and I fundamentally disagree on what "analysis" is.He says that I must "stay as close to the text as possible" (and he demonstrated this by literally hugging a chair).I say that you must have your own voice in your writing, and not just write what the author thinks, but what you think.His goal is to teach us how to write in "close reading," but what ended up happening was that whenever I wrote anything, he would circle it and write "this is your own opinion- does it say this in the text?"

There are teachers who interested in student's opinion more than the actual topic. They would leave the whole research to read student's opinion. That's interesting. What I'm trying to say is that teachers are different form one to another. As long as you know that your teacher has such view that was different from yours and he wanted you to just focus on analyzing the topic without adding any further personal view. Just do what he said. Even if you are not convinced. You don't need to convince him too. You already had clarified your opinion to him and he didn't convince. So What? Just write like what he required.

Why I'm saying that?

Because you are not an independent writer who can write whatever he wants without caring of any ones' view. You are a student and in high school. So, these grades you want to gain now are important for your future otherwise you wouldn't feel bothered like that. Whenever you see a teacher is strict about the assignment requirements, just write like what he wanted. Because you have ability to do it and there is nothing avoid you. You didn't state a string reason.

Personally, I could refuse to do something I'm not convinced of, but no like this situation. He Just wanted you to analyse the writer's text without stating your own opinion, just stick to the text.

In fact, based on my observation, even if you disagree with the writers' view, you still can reflect your own view during your analysis without stating it directly. That's a smart way that many writer do. Sometimes it's even stronger than stating their opinions directly.

carina9836The essay topic was "In the chapter "Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong, What does Mary Anne's changes reveal about Rat Kiley?"

I don't know those characters you were talking about nor the book. But it caught my attention the name "Rat", if this name were for of an English-speaking man, I'm really, really surprised why his parents didn't find other than this name?

Regarding the question, based on the question context. Ann's changes and Rat kiley are related. The main topic want a student to focus on Rat kiley. But on the other hand, if you want to speak and focus on Rat kiley himself, you will find yourself revel Anne's changes in order to show its impacts on Rat kiley. So, the writing here might need to focus on both of them equally.


That's just my opinion, I'm not a specialist too.