With only one more big assignment left, my two years of IB HL English was finally coming to an end. The only thing left to do was the one assignment that I had been dreading since it was first introduced to the class two years ago. The internal oral commentary (IOC) was one of the major IB English assignments. For the IOC, we were to be given a twenty-line excerpt from any of the texts that had been covered over the last two years of the course and asked to deliver a 10-minute oral commentary regarding the text. We were given 10 minutes to prepare what is essentially an “oral essay” as we were asked to address the main themes, concepts, symbols, etc., of the passage as well as its relevance to the rest of the text and to the world.
In order to prepare for the assignment, the students in the class got together to do practice IOC’s so that we could give each other feedback. We each chose passages that we thought were relevant and could possibly show up on the IOC doing mock exams with each other. After hours of studying for this and feeling confident after all of the positive feedback from my peers and my professor I felt certain that I would do well.
When it finally came to be my turn for the real IOC, I walked into the classroom to find a table centered in the middle of the room. On top of the table lay a collection of brown slip folders, each one containing a different random passage mixed sporadically across the surface of the desk. I picked up one of the folders and looked inside to find a passage from Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” Out of all the texts that I could have gotten, this was the text I was least comfortable with. Nevertheless, I had still studied it in great detail and felt prepared enough to perform very well.
I structured my commentary exactly how I would have if I were going to be writing an essay. I worked my way down the 20 lines addressing the symbolism and moral significance and at the end tied it all together to connect to one of the major themes in the book. The whole process and studying for it was extremely tiresome but after those ten minutes were up I felt confident that I had done a very good job. I felt I had good organization and addressed all of the relevant points of the passage. To my surprise however, the grade I got for the assignment was a C.
Not only was the grade below what I was expecting, the comments from my teacher were also worse than I had anticipated. One of the comments that surprised me the most was “poor organization.” I thought that the way I structured my commentary was coherent and well thought out. Another comment that stood out to me was “not enough attention to detail.” Throughout that IOC I thought that I had done a good job with addressing all of the main themes and symbols and linking their importance to the rest of the book. I thought that I had a strong level of understanding for the text and I thought that I did a good job portraying that in my response to the passage that I was given. However, the comments and the overall grade I received for the assignment proved otherwise.
After all of the hard work and studying that I did for this assignment I was extremely let down after I saw my score and as a result, my confidence in reading and writing was shaken. After seeing this grade I began to question my skills as a reader and a writer. I lost confidence in my ability to analyze texts and their relevancies. Also, I questioned my ability to structure essays.
This experience has really made me question my strength as a reader and a writer. It has also made me question the value of peer reviewing. All of the feedback that I got from my peers and my teacher as well was very positive during the practice internal oral commentary. The positive feedback made me feel confident with my abilities as both a reader and a writer before taking the IOC so I went into the exam feeling good about my abilities, but was disappointed when I saw the grade and the feedback from my teacher.
Having this been my final reading/writing assignment before going into college, I entered college with a very negative outlook on my reading and writing skills. As a result, I have avoided taking classes that require a lot of reading and writing essays even though I do enjoy taking them. I am hoping that with all of the reading I do outside of school, it will help me to develop better skills in reading and writing so that I will have the confidence to take more of the classes that interest me.