Tuesday, May 22, 2007


I am having my sophomores write essays for the first time this year on a movie we recently watched in class. For the past couple days in class I have given them time in the computer lab to type up their paper.

Watching them write is depressing.

No student is up to grade level as far as writing and very few are writing clear, thoughtful essays. There is a plethora of run on sentences and off topic paragraphs. The essay prompt was not a personal one and I have an overwhelming amount of students writing things like "Hello. My name is Chatara Smith and I am 16 years old. I am going to write this essay about...".

Not being a writing teacher, I am having a very hard time explaining why they shouldn't be doing things like that in an essay. In fact, I am becoming extraordinarily frustrated with the entire writing process. I was talking to another teacher about my class' assignment. "They don't know how to copy and paste," I told her "they don't know how to double-space. They don't know how to change their font size or save their paper to the desktop. Most of all, they don't know how to write!" She nodded sympathetically. "I know," she said "that's why I don't give writing assignments anymore."

The hardest part about dealing with these kids is their utter impatience. There are no raised hands in the computer lab. Only shouts of "fuck this paper!" and "How do you fix this!!".

Today Jasmine printed out her paper and turned it in before its' Thursday due date. "That's great that you are finished!" I told her. "Do you want me to proofread it?" I asked. "No." She said "I just want to turn it in. "Well you might get a better grade on it if look it over for you. For instance, I can tell you right now that you need to indent your paragraphs." She looked at me quizzically. "You didn't say we had to do that. What do that mean?" "Well you always have to indent paragraphs when you write a paper." She looked at me again.

"Does anyone know what it means to indent a paragraph?" I asked the class. No one raised their hand. No one shouted out anything, except for Arnold in the back that asked if it was a requirement. "You guys know what indenting is." I told them "It's, you know, when you tab over at the beginning of a paragraph." George took his headphones out of his ears. "Why do you have to do that?" He said.

I didn't know.

"To separate the paragraph structure." I said "To break your paper up." Some of the kids were looking at me now and I started to write on the board. I showed them how to indent on the board, but I wasn't sure how many spaces they had to make. "Just press the tab key at the beginning of each paragraph" I told them. "You shouldn't grade us on that" said Bernice "cause you didn't tell us before" "Yeah" said Jeremy "are you going to grade us on that?"

I thought about it.



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