Even though there’s still a month left in school, I feel myself getting giddy about what’s going to happen next year; I hear it from other teachers, as well — the excitement comes out in their voices when they talk about what they’ll do next year. Guess that’s one of the greatest things about teaching: each year is relatively the same, and each year you get to try out new things, and it’s in those last few months that you begin to see all those little parts, those smallish assignments, those daily tasks, building up to create the overall outcome.
For now, the outcome I’m seeing is pretty awful. I’m not happy with the students, and I’m not happy with myself. Yesterday I attended a meeting to cover the common writing assessment between the Language Arts department at my school, and I see there are enormous differences. Our common assessment was the research paper — I put my everything into this assignment, and we’re still yet to finish: that will come when we post our work to a website for Dana Huff and her students. The papers my students turned in were proper, well formatted, very straightforward, and businesslike. We wrote papers. And dammit if I don’t feel as though these kids turned from scrappy little buggers into professional writers. Their piles of work loom high, and the final product is polished. Their work isn’t polished, but it’s very different from the other papers I read from the other team of teachers.
The other team decided to work the research into a multigenre paper on the same topic my students wrote on earlier in the year: “Who am I?” And their papers were phenomenal. Not because they followed the rules of MLA (as a matter of fact, the MLA was barely there — few quotes, fewer citations, and the citations were pretty haphazard), but because of the content. Thse kids had the opportunity to talk about themselves and what interested them, and their writing showed off what’s in their hearts.
Not that my students’ papers weren’t good. They were damn perfect, and you can feel the kids empathy for their subjects. Nevertheless, they were very journalistic. But maybe that’s because I focused more on them retelling a story they’d read and supplying more information from other sources — there’s nowhere to go but journalism. It’s difficult to make real judgements when the paper topics are so different, but I just got more of an inside view to the students from the other team’s papers. So with that in mind, I’m very happy with the direction we took yesterday after reading the papers.