Jang '20
May 05, 2020

The Workshop: Junah ’20's Week 4 Reflection

Letting Go of an Old Habit
by Junah ’20

The Workshop at Andover is an immersive term-long learning experience. Spring-term seniors stop all traditional academic courses and instead work closely with peers and faculty on a series of linked, interdisciplinary projects that revolve around a single subject. This term the subject is Community, Class, and Carbon.

The following is a student reflection from the fourth week of the program. (Also read Claire ’20's Week 4 reflection.)

After self-isolating in her room for three weeks, Junah ’20 is happy to be working in her apartment living room near her brother and dog in Redmond, Washington.

Anyone who has seen me rush to finish an essay—in the dorm at early hours, in silent study two periods before class—knows how deeply grateful I am for themostdangerouswritingapp.com. This website has, to put it bluntly, saved my academic career on many an occasion, forming the backbone of almost every major essay, short response, speech, and reflection I’ve written in the last few years. The way it works? I choose a time interval (anywhere from 3 minutes to an hour), and I make a commitment to typing for the entirety of that time interval. If I stop typing, the website will delete all of the progress that I’ve made so far. If that sounds anxiety inducing, I promise it is. At a certain point of procrastination, though, a little motivating anxiety is just the thing I look for.

Andover has given me a sort of confidence in my abilities that is both good and bad for my process. On the one hand, I approach academic assignments with less stress and more of a dedication to challenging myself than I did freshman year. On the other, I often give myself too much time to think and not enough time to execute, leading to final products that “make it in” with the help of websites that push me to grind out material, but often without revision and sometimes without a thorough read-through. Learning in a traditional academic environment, which tends to value and reward product over process, has validated my flawed way of working, and I’m shamefully aware of it.

I am hoping that my process becomes healthier while taking part in the Workshop and am glad that “practice and craft”—which emphasizes intentionality in the development of good work—is one of our guiding principles. I’ve also noticed that building a network of accountability has been really helpful for me. Daily check-ins with faculty and fellow students keep me honest about how much progress I’ve made, evening check-outs force me to look back at the goals I set in the morning, and peer feedback & blog publishing, i.e., having an audience, make me diligent about writing in a way that I haven’t always been when just writing for a teacher.

With the encouragement of a couple faculty members, I’ve also significantly reduced my use of the term “productivity,” which had become a term I used much more for self-punishment than self-motivation. Without being able to say things like, “I want to be productive today,” I’ve had to come up with more creative ways to describe my daily and weekly goals—descriptions that tend to be more specific and manageable.

Though I’m not really presenting an argument or finding in this blog, I do think that writing all of this down acts as a sort of personal commitment for the future. The Workshop prioritizes thoughtful criticisms of traditional academic environments, and with those criticisms comes the possibility for improvement in our individual work styles. Now that I’ve begun to grasp what do feel like significantly healthier ways of learning and working, I want to keep doing so.

As for themostdangerouswritingapp.com, I don’t think I’m quite done with it yet. I’m hoping that this tool, which I’ve long used as a crutch in last minute bursts of motivation, can become one that I turn to instead for idea generation, no-judgment freewrites—and maybe the occasional unwritable email.

To learn more about the Workshop, read Tang Institute Director Andy Housiaux's recent update here.

We look forward to updating you on the ways we are (re)imagining the Workshop, our connection with students, and our approaches to teaching and learning. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Medium. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter, Notes On Learning.

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