Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Enemy, Thy Name is Essay

An enemy lurks in my school and rears its ugly head about once a month, towards the end of each of my English 9 units. It is sneaky, this foe of mine, for it uses students at its disposal and convinces them to give me a sense of calm serenity before it strikes.

I refer to the structured essay.

This evil entity plagues my existence and causes severe urges to bang my head against the nearest computer or run screaming from the room as I pull at my hair.

Based on previous experiences, I plan ahead when essay time is near. Each year, I revise my lessons and handouts to give the students more clarity and help. Each year I think that I've molded the lesson plans so well that it will be impossible for students to misunderstand not only the essay fundamentals, but the necessity of learning how to write an essay well.

Each year they prove me wrong.

This year I actually had them write out the essay ahead of time. I broke each paragraph down and had them write out what they would say, so when we went into the computer lab, all they would have to do is type it up, add a bit, and print it out. You'd think that sounds fool-proof, right? I mean, how in the world could they possible mess up something so easy??

Right? Right?! RIGHT?!

Maybe you're starting to understand my extreme urges to flee from the essay nightmare. It looked like my students understood when we were gathering the information and writing it out using the graphic organizer, but they fooled me. As soon as we set foot in the lab, it was as if everything I'd taught them flew out the door and they stared at me with their large confused eyes. Not ALL of them, mind you, but most of them.

Let me take this opportunity to say a few words in defense of the structured essay. I love writing, and can fully appreciate the art of a structured essay, for they aren't easy to write. But when one is well-written, it is a beautiful thing. Structured essays help students prepare for the SOL tests their junior year. They help students plan ahead, organized their ideas, and ultimately express themselves with the written word.

But that can't stop me from loathing those damned structured essays. Sure, I'll teach them, but don't expect me to be happy about it.

Beth - 0
Essay - 1

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