Thursday, 27 October 2011

Why Essay Writing Sucks...

WARNING: This is partially true but some scenes have been dramatised.

I enjoy writing essays. I didn't while I was at High School but once I got to university...well my writing developed in leaps and bounds. It helped that I was able to spend more time focusing on the things and ideas that I actually liked. Now that I am back in school, but in a teaching position, I realise that teaching how to write an essay to a class of 25 kids who want to be anywhere else is difficult. In fact, it down right sucks.

Now, imagine if you will, that five of the students are actually listening to you. Six are drawing random pictures on their paper. Four don't actually have paper, of those four three don't have pens. Three really don't want to be there. Two are late and five are talking...constantly. Without yelling and making sure that everyone understands, you have to inform them that they have 40 minutes to write an essay on a book that they studied two teachers ago.

First, you repeat yourself. Eight times ought to do it but be prepared to repeat yourself to individuals who were too busy reapplying their chap stick or making sure that their hair is just right. While you are doing this be prepared to hear the wee duckings begin cheeping away:

"Miss."
"I'll be right with you."
"Miss."
"I am with another student. Please be patient."
"Miss you're not helping me. Why aren't you helping me..." (This part is usually said in a whine.)

Then you refer the students back to the handouts that you gave out two lessons ago only to find that five still have them the rest have either forgotten them, turned them into paper planes or started eating them.* After handing out the spares you copied before the lesson you also remind them of the PEEL structure that they have been taught all term. All term!

After they have started working in relative silence you walk around the classroom in an attempt to see how they are doing only to be stopped three times by students who have forgotten what they're supposed to be doing. Help those students while stopping the one kid who wants to go for a wander.

Move two students away from each other to stop them talking about Justin Freaking Bieber or dubstep. Remind another student that they are not allowed to eat in class. Ignore the snickering coming from those students who haven't been caught yet. Get more paper for the student who has suddenly decided that they want to work today.

All the while you are secretly praying (even if you don't believe in the flying spaghetti monster) that the HOD or Principal or any senior management person does not choose that time to walk past. 

By the end of the lesson after forty more "Miss's" you will find two students who have done nothing. You may get five essays that are really good. Ten that have tried and are pretty decent and the rest...they will come to you in varying stages of doodles (normally of bad graffitti or rude images) or on something not related to anything you've taught them.

And this is why essay writing sucks**

*I am serious. I have one student who eats paper when they get bored.
**It doesn't really. Well, I don't think it does...my students may beg to differ.


4 comments:

  1. This is also a shining example of why students suck. My fiancee is a teacher too. I feel for you...

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  2. Thanks. Her classes must be a lot bigger than mine so, ultimately, a lot harder to control.

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  3. I think essays writing at school sucks because it's forced at a time where maybe most of the children have not developed thoughts on various subjects. I used to love science classes, but being bad in writing essay. I always felt like, "Oh, I have 3 hours to write about a subject I don't right now know anything about, or don't have any opinion or interest atm". No, it doesn't work like this. I am surprised to find myself enjoying writing my thoughts on my blog on subjects I am interested to analyze at the particular moment, while this was one of my worse lessons at school. And many times we were like, "oh, in order to get good grades I have to write something, maybe some stereotypical arguments about how technology is bad or alienates the person" and such. I mean, who doesn't want to express his thoughts in written form? It's awesome. Unless in the school in 3 hours under pressure and not about the subject that interests you.

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    1. I agree. I feel this more and more while I'm teaching larger classes. Especially if the student is more analytical...sometimes it is harder for the student to try and care. Luckily, here in NZ, the students have the chance to pass by working on internal standards and have the chance to redraft work. They still have exams but they don't have to attempt all three papers if they have put in the work during the year. Thanks for your comment. :)

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