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A Failed Essay

December 12, 2012
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Thoughts From The Corner

Being a home English tutor I am forever ferreting in the attic, looking for material for my lessons. No two students are ever the same , so tweaking notes is the name of the game.

I was searching for a long-lost English grammar text book when I came upon a box containing folders from my under-grad. years. Stopping my search I couldn’t resist having a peep into the past. Three decades have passed since I graduated but I knew which piece of work I wanted to re-visit.

It was the one to do with staging Greek drama. Of my three university years, this was the piece that has had more influence on my life than any other. I had been at university for one month when this particular essay was assigned. It took me two weeks of library research (no internet then!) to complete. It was the first essay I had marked.

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Entrance to Bodleian Library Oxford

I failed it!

As we now say in England – ‘Gutted’. A most inauspicious start to my university life. A wonderful Drama tutor took pity on  me, took me under her wing and put this derailed caboose back on track to degree success. As I write this I feel a sense of guilt that I cannot remember her name.

I do remember her saying, ‘One tree does not a forest make’. How right she was. Two essay failures and it was possible that I could have been asked to leave the course. I didn’t fail anymore that year – or during the rest of the course.

Towards the end of that first year I had to choose my options for the second year. This is where the aforementioned Greek essay came up trumps. I decided to take an extra unit the next year – five instead of four, just in case I failed one. I did the same in the final year.

A lot of extra work – yes.

A lot of extra knowledge – yes.

The extra unit that I decided to take that second year was ‘Greek Drama in Depth’. I loved it, I lapped it up! The knowledge I gained and the forced discipline of the extra work has stood me in good stead for my professional careers in the theatre, the classroom and as a private English tutor.

How very fortunate to fail an essay. . .


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