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BEAULIEU COLLEGE ENGLISH DEPARTMENT

Reflective Essay - Grade 12
Topic
Write a reflective essay on your high school experiences. What stands out? What will you take from
the experience? Reflect on the school as a system, the various personalities and how you evolved as
a person.
Tip: Write a first draft fairly quickly, analyse it, then rewrite it with a focus.

Examples of reflective essays on schooling
Essay 1 first draft: a student’s reflection
I was bored. For 250 minutes of lesson time every day I was bored. Every fibre of my being screamed
silently and angrily. 12years unrelenting tedious, numskull education saved only by one teacher – Mr
Sim.
Mr Sim arrived in my grade 10 year. He was hard to miss. He drove his open-top red MG across the
assembly ground, scarf blowing in the wind. In the first class, he stood and surveyed us confidently
for a minute, sizing us up and finding us wanting. He was tall, had a lock of hair that fell over one
eye, and wore a cravat.
His methods were orthodox but his personality was not. Here was a man who had read every
Shakespeare play at least three times, who could quote famous poems by heart, who had a mad
glint in his eye and insisted on the highest standards.
The trouble with the school was that there was only one Mr Sim.
Looking back with the less jaundiced eye of an adult, I understand what the school did give me:
structure, tradition, honesty and even a second chance. A meticulous foundation in the basics of
grammar, with specialities in Catholic shame.
Shame was everywhere. Missing church was a mortal sin punishable by banishment to the fires of
hell. Lying, cheating, cutting corners, not doing homework, missing practice – you never did these
things because not only was the cane whipped out but you were given a blistering sermon in good
behaviour. Inevitably, one or two teachers abused the privilege of using a cane.
The worst offender, the sister of Satan, was our Maths teacher.
She caned you for not doing homework. She caned you for doing it wrong. She caned you if she
didn’t like your face. She didn’t, it seems, like anyone’s face.
The system of education then allowed for a person like her to exist but thankfully there was always
English (with Mr Sim) and cricket. I would sit in class, staring blankly outside. South was the harbour
and I’d track the progress of container ships and tugs manoeuvring through the piers; north was the
cricket field and beyond that the inland suburbs of Hillcrest.
I loved cricket. To me it was a game of the five senses. First there was the smell of hands removed
from gloves after a ling innings; then the click and crack of a well-timed cut to the boundary; the
elegant drive down the ground that ends in a pose with bat high up and elbow raised; the taste of
orange juice and polony sandwiches at lunch; the rippled seam against your fingers as you have the
ball a good tweak, or the flat sting in your hands when you took hard-hit catch. A game of senses
and a game of triumph and failure.
Overall, my school experience was neither the best nor the worst days of my life but rather like life
itself – long moments of tedium punctuated by occasional moments of exhilaration or joy.

Essay 1 second draft: a student’s reflection
Either I was bored or I was being beaten. For 250 minutes of lesson time every day I was bored or
battered. Only two things saved me from the dire fate of education in the 1980s: Mr Sim, my English
teacher, and cricket – the game of gentlemen.
Looking back with the less jaundiced eye of an adult, I understand what the school gave me:
structure, tradition, honesty and even a second chance, and a meticulous foundation in the basics of
grammar, with specialities in Catholic shame.
Shame was everywhere. Missing church was a mortal sin punishable by banishment to the fires of
hell. Lying to your teacher, cheating, cutting corners, not doing homework, missing practice – you
never did these things because not only was the cane whipped out but you were given a blistering
sermon in good behaviour. Inevitably, of course, one or two teachers abused the privilege of using a
cane.
The worst offender, the sister of Satan, was our Maths teacher.
She caned you for not doing homework. She caned you for doing it wrong. She caned you if she
didn’t like your face. She didn’t, it seems, like anyone’s face. Her own was fleshy and crumpled, like a
melted pancake, with small eyes buried in the flesh.
Another offender was our Afrikaans teacher, who once caned the entire class because we got an
answer wrong. The system of education then allowed for people like them not just to exist but to
rule their petty kingdoms with fear and sarcasm. If I’ve learnt one thing from that, it is that rule by
fear is for the weak. Respect is given and earned, not one or the other.
But I had my two saving graces; cricket and Mr Sim. Mr Sim arrived in my grade 10 year. He was hard
to miss. He drove his open-top red MG across the assembly ground, scarf blowing in the wind and
thus set a immediately hogh standard for an impressionable youth like me. In the first class, he stood
and surveyed us confidently for a minute, sizing us up and finding us wanting. He was tall, had a lock
of hair that fell over one eye, and wore a cravat.
His methods were orthodox but his personality was not. Here was a man who had read every
Shakespeare play at least three times, who could quote famous poems by heart, who had a mad
glint in his eye and insisted on the highest standards.
From Mr Simm I learnt that respect can be earned through the force of personality and high
expectations, not through the wrecking rod. It is also clear to me that one person at the right time
can have a lasting impression on another, enough to counterbalance the bad.
Then there was cricket.
I loved cricket because it was a refuge from the classroom and because it operated according to a
very Spartan code – either you were good enough on the day, or you weren’t. No excuses, no grey
areas.
It was also a game of the five senses. First there was the old sock smell of hands removed from
gloves after a long innings; then the click and crack of a well-timed cut to the boundary; the elegant
drive down the ground that ends in a pose with bat high up and elbow raised; the taste of Oros and
polony sandwiches at lunch; the rippled seam against your fingers as you gave the ball a good tweak,
or the whacking sting in your hands when you took a thundering catch.
I was bored or beaten, that’s for sure, but the powerful presence of one good man and one good
game was enough to help me endure. The powerful lesson is that each one of has the power to
influence at least one person, a power that should be respected.

Essay two: a teacher’s reflection of teaching
Over eight years I saw how you could take something that wasn’t broken, and break it. Break it
because you were suspicious of it. Break it because it didn’t conform to your ideas. And break it
because your people weren’t in charge of it. I’m out of Eton Public School now, but for eight long
years I witnessed its methodical dismantling from a premier school to a shameful ghost of its former
self.
But, first, when the school was not yet broken.
When I arrived it was a modest fixture of the eastern suburbs, a 1000-strong embodiment of the
local community’s wish for quality education. The school had a modest appearance, yes, but there
was nothing humble about its ambitions. Much of this was to do with the fact that the school was
situated in a very Jewish community. Mark Twain once said that Jewish ‘contributions to the world’s
list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning are also
away out of proportion to the weakness of his number’. At Eton I could see why. There was a passion
for learning that was bred in the home, was born into the DNA of the students I taught.
Above all, and at the risk of stereotyping, the Jewish family home is a hotbed of argumentation and
fierce debate, which transferred itself into the atmosphere of my classroom. I loved teaching there.
It was my first teaching job and I was green but ambitious. I made a lot of mistakes but my pupils
were tolerant of them because, I think, they could see I worked hard and respected their ideas.
Over the years I grew into the job and began to develop my own ambitions. But it was precisely at
this time, that the enemy made its first moves.
The enemy. A nameless bureaucracy. An advance party. New documents and policies, new
procedures and shiny new terminologies. Then they disempowered school structures, transferring
decision-making to the faceless, formless Department.
I had a fully-fledged psychopath in my grade at the time, who smoked, swore, refused to homework,
defied all instructions, a self-pitying and moaning and scheming monster of a human being. He once
threatened my life. I used to lock my classroom door when I taught. We could not expel him,
suspend him or deal with him because these powers had been stripped from the school and
assigned to the Department. We soon learned that paperwork sent to the department would
disappear into its greedy jaws.
The final straw was the appointment of a new headmaster, against the wishes of the school and its
governing body, specially selected by the Department. He was their man. They were not suspicious
of him. He conformed to their prejudices. He was in charge.
He was a dapper man who wore expensive suits and spoke in a refined, fruity voice, overly
enunciating his words as if he were talking to an idiot. He blithely ignored advice from within and
made a series of disastrous policy decisions. The school decayed, the grass dried up, walls peeled
away, and litter collected in piles round the school.
The game was finally up when it transpired that he had defrauded the school and the salaries of a
third of the staff could not be paid. He left ahead of the posse but the damage had been done. The
local community had begun to send their children further away to other schools and the word had
spread – and no word is more powerful than that of the Jewish mother.
I learned how to teach at Eton but I also learned a more powerful lesson: the essence of a school is
not its buildings and fields, or its history of success, but the image of itself that people carry in their
minds, the way they speak about it in the parking lot, the first word that comes to mind when
somebody mentions the school’s name. Reputation is a ….

Essay three: university student’s reflection
I have been a student at California State University Channel Islands (CI) for 5 semesters, and over the course of
my stay I have grown and learned more than I thought possible. I came to this school from Moorpark Community
College already knowing that I wanted to be an English teacher; I had taken numerous English courses and
though I knew exactly what I was headed for-was I ever wrong. Going through the English program has taught
me so much more than stuff about literature and language, it has taught me how to be me. I have learned here
how to write and express myself, how to think for myself, and how to find the answers to the things that I don't
know. Most importantly I have learned how important literature and language are.
When I started at CI, I thought I was going to spend the next 3 years reading classics, discussing them and then
writing about them. That was what I did in community college English courses, so I didn't think it would be much
different here. On the surface, to an outsider, I am sure that this is what it appears that C.I. English majors do. In
most all my classes I did read, discuss, and write papers; however, I quickly found out that that there was so
much more to it. One specific experience I had while at C.I. really shows how integrated this learning is. Instead
of writing a paper for my final project in Perspectives of Multicultural Literature (ENGL 449), I decided with a
friend to venture to an Indian reservation and compare it to a book we read by Sherman Alexie. We had a great
time and we learned so much more that we ever could have done from writing a paper. The opportunity to do that
showed me that there are so many ways that one can learn that are both fun and educational.
The English courses also taught me how powerful the written word and language can be. Words tell so much
more than a story. Stories tell about life and the human condition, they bring up the past and people and cultures
that are long gone. Literature teaches about the self and the world surrounding the self. From these classes I
learned about the world, its people and its history; through literature I learned how we as humans are all related.
By writing about what we learn and/or what we believe, we are learning how to express ourselves.
I know that my ability to write and express my ideas, thoughts and knowledge has grown stronger each semester.
I have always struggled to put my thoughts on paper in a manner that is coherent and correct according to
assignments. I can remember being told numerous times in community college to "organize your thoughts" or
"provide more support and examples". These are the things that I have worked on and improved over the past
couple of years and I feel that my work shows this. The papers I wrote when I first started here at C.I. were bland
and short. In these early papers, I would just restate what we learned in class and what I had found in my
research. I did not formulate my own ideas and support them with the works of others. The classes I have taken
the past couple semesters have really help me shed that bad habit and write better papers with better ideas. I
have learned how to write various styles of papers in different forms and different fields. I feel confident that I
could write a paper about most anything and know how to cite and format it properly.
There are a couple of things that I do feel I lack the confidence and skill to perform, and that is what I hope to
gain from participating in Capstone. I am scared to teach because I don't know how to share my knowledge with
others-students who may have no idea what I am talking about. I hope to learn more about how teachers share
their knowledge as part of my Capstone project. http://english.csuci.edu/program/sampleessay.htm