“”Why do we have to write this essay?”
“How long does it have to be?”
“When is it due?”
Teaching writing to ninth graders takes patience and perseverance because kids come to class with a range of abilities. Most of the students arrive already knowing how to write a five paragraph essay complete with an attention grabbing introduction, thesis statement, supporting body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Meanwhile, some students show up not sure what a thesis statement is or how to begin in a manner that grabs the attention of the reader. A few students still do not understand what a paragraph is. And one or two still have not figured out how to bring a pen or pencil to class.
Nevertheless, I begin the writing process, which is a lot more complicated than when I was a freshman. I remember using the most amazing gadget ever invented to write my essays – the erasable ink pen! I could wake up at 5 a.m. and ink out a “B” paper in an hour and a half. Now, I show examples of essays to the students, help them brainstorm ideas, give them time to write rough drafts, and then take them to a computer lab to type the essays. Of course, the kids today run into the problems of not being able to log on to the school’s server, the keyboards having the letters in a different order because of someone’s idea of a joke, or even having the entire school’s server down.
This week we suffered through the problems in the computer lab with some students having to improvise and write in ink on notebook paper. It felt so “old school,” without the erasable ink, though. I wonder whatever happened to those kind of pens?
Needless to say, most of the kids did a great job of adapting to the problems and coming up with solutions. Some figured out how to log on using the generic “student” account. Those who were able to log on emailed their work to themselves. I was proud of the kids for their patience and perseverance.
As any manager or boss knows, some workers will show up knowing how to do the job, some will have an idea, and some will be clueless. Some employees will have a problem and fix it themselves, some will seek your help, and one or two will not even notice there is a problem.
We encourage and compliment those who arrive prepared with knowledge and show initiative; we guide and lead those who need it; and we begin the firing (or flunking) process with the guy with the pencil up his nose.
This morning, I saw all of this. Well, not the pencil up the nose, but one young man was trying to watch YouTube instead of writing. Since I cannot fire him, he gets extra special time after school with me to make up his lost work time. (See my earlier post “Detention Again.”)
According to statistics from the federal government, so they must be accurate, 85% of jobs require writing. However, a more important lesson was how to deal with adversity and to be able to adapt, improvise, and overcome the obstacles thrown before them.