Two of the things that none of us can ever escape to experience in life are hope and failure. Just like everyone else, I have also experienced these two essential elements in life. For instance, I have failed in a number of areas like elementary school, the first year of college, and WST (writing standard test). With all these failures, I have never given up; every time I fail, I stand up, dust myself, and fill my mind with hope and believe that I will achieve all my goals and objectives if I work harder and keep on trying. There are numerous, encouraging texts that anyone can use to uplift their spirits, but one of the most impressive ones I have ever come across is “Lives on the boundary”. I believe this book brings hope to anyone who has experienced a failure or a disappointment in life.
This book addresses challenges that countless scholars have to contend with at colleges, like failing certain subjects. I felt like the book was speaking to me because of the subjects the author addresses in the book. As I mentioned earlier, I have experienced a number of failures in my life that made me feel hopeless. In elementary school, for instance, I failed in my Chinese Character Writing Class and I felt useless after the experience. Although I was proficient at other classes, the experience affected my confidence tremendously. The teacher had to give me the worst scores I have ever gained because I wrote terribly as compared to my classmates. I started to question myself about the need for attending this class, however, hard I struggled I always failed. This was the exact feeling as Rose describes in his summary that ‘way to work hard in a class that did not grab my fancy…’ (Rose 30). What bothered me was that I always ended up failing in this class even if I tried hard to understand. I would constantly consult my teacher if I had not understood anything, and I always followed instructions. So ‘what was wrong with me?’ I would constantly ask myself.
Because of this, I started hating school because I did not see the need to attend it if all my grades kept on dropping. My teacher summoned my parents to discuss my poor grades to make it worse. They made me stay in first grade until I could score better. My sister took pity on me and she started tutoring me. She explained the lessons to me and made me practice with her for a week, and surprisingly when my test scores came, I had attained 100 per cent in the test. My sister was instrumental in building my confidence and restoring my hope.
In the following year that is in my high school and middle school years, I was an outstanding student. However, this did not mean I was done with failures yet. For the first time in many years, I experienced failure once more on my first day at college. The source of this experience was that my English scores were low, and I was required to enrol in an LLD class. However, despite this setback, I was able to meet an extraordinary mentor, Mr Alkire. To me, Mr Alkire was similar to Rose who also became an essential source of hope to his students. As I have already mentioned, I failed my freshman English placement test, and I had to register in the LLD class. The first thing we had to do in this class was to submit a personal introduction essay, and I failed terribly in it. When I received feedback from my lecturer, red marks were all over the paper. This was extremely disappointing, and I could identify with Rose’s feeling when he said that, ‘when teachers would write ‘no’ or ‘awkward’ or ‘rewrite’ alongside the sentence I had worked so hard to produce, I would be peeved and disappointed….’ (Rose 55).
I could not understand what the lecturer wanted me to do with my paper. I was also extremely disappointed because I could not produce the paper my lecturer wished. Such words as ‘awkward’, ‘rewrite’, and ‘unclear’ were extremely hurtful. Once more, this failure cost me my confidence. However, I happened to meet my mentor who was sufficiently kind to assist me with my challenges. He showed me the correct structure for the essay. After finishing my classes, I would pass- by his office for more lessons. One of my main fears was that the university would revoke my admission if I did not score as expected in my English class. I talked to my mentor about the fears after which I felt more relaxed because he assured me the university would not kick me out because of my poor scores, as there were alternative ways to solve my problems. He also encouraged me more by saying that I would not regret failing the exams if I worked hard enough, that this would be an excellent practice for me, because I would eventually learn that hope would always be with me if I worked hard and never gave up.
One other crucial challenge that I have been dealing with, and treating like a failure all my life is that issue of my language gap. One of the things that make this worse is the fact that our school system has already set some students apart from native English speakers. I feel this system is a problem as it makes me believe that I am a failure when compared to native English speakers, as I could never be as excellent as they were. Rose also addresses this issue in his book; ‘Harold has been defined as slow, as being in need of remedy, but the person designated by the school to provide remedy saw the problem as beyond her, as “too great for an effective remedy”…’ (Rose 123). This is exactly how I feel the school system treats me and other students like me. There are several reading assignments that our lecturers would often require us to complete. This always put me under a lot of stress, because the issue of language gap would arise. In cases where a native speaker would take only two hours to complete the assignment, I would take up to four or more hours to complete reading the same assignment. This made me feel lost, as I could see how adversely the language gap was affecting me.
In addition to this, writing assignments would also add more pressure to me. My classmates would receive high scores in their papers with no spelling or grammar mistakes, while I was l to content with answer sheets full of red, correction marks. It was hurtful because most of our teacher graded our papers according to grammar and not the content of the papers. I would be extremely jealous of my classmates who would score higher than I would just because they had been predisposed with English- speaking abilities at birth, and I would truly wish I were born a native speaker. My hope of doing well in my studies, despite my language skills, begun to return slowly especially after reading Rose’s story of Sergeant Gonzalez. Rose tells us in his story that Gonzalez was one of his students who were a retired soldier with little skills of written English, but he worked so hard, ‘he tried and tried but his writing remained stunted, too abbreviated, and superficial… he had worked hard all his life and hard work had always given him tangible result…’ (Rose 234).
The student was already old when he registered in Rose’s class, and he never gave up, he always worked hard to learn. Because if this story, my hope was redeemed, and I thought to myself that I should work harder for better scores in written English; I was younger than Gonzalez, and I was sure with more effort I could improve, even though I knew I was not as robust as my classmates. I was encouraged to learn more about my new American language and culture. Mi original language and culture is Chinese, and I decided to treat my situation as an advantage; I had two cultures from which I could base my success. I thought to myself that I should not give up so easily and that I should be more hopeful and more motivated to achieve all my goals.
I knew that I had to be ready for my English exam if I were to pass. I had a strong belief that this was the class that I needed to fail to realize what my educational goals were. Because of this enlightening, I was hopeful that I was going to pass on my LLD class and move on to the other classes, even though I had failed some exams. I, however, failed again because I had not done exceptionally well in my first two LLD100A class essays. I faced numerous difficulties in this class, and I became scared because I thought that I would never pass this class. As I wrote this essay, I still had a feeling that there was a possibility that I would fail again because even though I had worked extra hard, I had still failed in my previous attempts. Even though it was hard for me, I decided to do the test once again. I thought I could not make it, but every time my professor talked about Rose’s book I gained more courage and hope.
When I talked to my LLD 100A professor about my fear of failing once again, she advised me to be calm because fear could result in failure. This class has improved my scores and has given me a memorable success in the WST. The semester is also half done, and I am halfway through my class. Since the semester started, I have worked extraordinarily hard for my success, some of my hard work is translating into success, and I am happy that I did not give up, that I remained hopeful despite all of my failures. Because of these experiences, I have learned a valuable lesson that I should never give up hope that I should always work hard despite some of the challenges I might face on the way.
Hope and failure are necessary experiences in life that everyone has experienced one way or the other. I have experienced numerous failures in life, and each time I have risen up and renewed my hope. This has led me to believe in the motto, ‘I try, I fail, I stand, but I never give up’, which the work of Rose ‘Lives on Boundaries’ has furthered considerably. The author relates to us different stories of individuals who failed, stood up and worked extra hard to achieve their dreams. The book can impose hope for anyone who has experienced failure in life. Because of this book, I have made a promise to myself that however, times I might fail; I will always stand up and try harder. Though I failed several times in my life, I always ended up having my hope renewed. Failure has to result in some times, but I have come to realize that working harder, and never giving up, always results in desirable outcomes. If we want to experience the sweetness of success, then it is about time we experienced the bitterness of failure.
Rose, Mike. Lives on the Boundary: a Moving Account of the Struggles and Achievements of America’s Educationally Underprepared. New York: Penguin Books
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