Friday, April 8, 2011

An Essay Assignment

Is it just me, or have my posts been rather cranky lately? I think I've been venting too much and all over this blog.

Last night, after turning off the computer, I realized that I had a much better blog post in me. Well, maybe not much better, but at least less doing-battle-with-the-kiddos, which seems to be the theme coming up most frequently. So, I'm doing it over (without actually taking down yesterday's post, although maybe I should).

The English teacher had three periods of freshmen and two periods of juniors. The juniors had an essay to do.

Neither group was all that pleased to have to write an essay. It was a compare-and-contrast-the-theme thing using two selections they had read. One was a story; the other was a poem. Both had to do with war, specifically World War II. It was due at the end of the period.

They moaned and groaned about having to write a five-paragraph essay. One girl in particular hated the assignment. She informed me that essay writing was useless, and she didn't think she should have to do it.

This is a regular refrain from students. I asked the girl her plans for the future. This is my usual tactic. I explain how the thing they hate is going to be necessary in later life. The girl told me she was planning on joining the military.

I bluffed. I told the girl that she would have to write up reports for future employers. (True? I have no idea.) Written communication would be important, so it was a good idea to learn how to do it in school. She wasn't convinced. She asked me if I ever write.

And I had her.

I told her, yes, I do write. All the time. I mentioned this blog. I mentioned that I was working on a novel. I even mentioned my word count goal (about 1800 words each time I write). She got that look in her eye: back away from the crazy sub lady. And that was the end of the conversation.

She didn't finish the essay. Many of the students didn't. I helped those that asked, but I couldn't write the thing for them.


  1. Hey, if you can't vent on your own blog, the where can you? I have the utmost respect for teachers...and nurses...and every other profession that deals with being patient because I just couldn't deal with it every day. I love them to pieces, but my own kids drive me crazy on a daily basis.

  2. I've had similar conversations with students. My favorite is when I talk to them about learning how to deal with people and that someday they'll work for someone, their response is, "I'm going to own my own business. Then I wonder have to answer to anyone."

    Then I have them. They'll need math, communication skills, dealing with buyers, owners of the property, employees. And most of all, customers.


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