This blog post is inspired in part by the comments made by a student during one of my study halls a couple days ago. We were discussing the importance of all of his classes — science, math, and humanities — and after discussing some of his special electives, he proclaimed proudly that he “already knows everything there is to know about writing an essay” because he “wrote essays every day in third grade.” If only it were that simple dude! You’re gonna have a long next eight years of English classes in the future, if you think that already.
But after thinking over his comments some more, it reminded me of when I was in school around his age, and I thought pretty much the same thing about myself and my studies. I was convinced that I could get by with my intuition alone, without putting effort into my studies or classes. I was, for lack of a better word, a lazy bum, unable to motivate myself to try more because I was satisfied enough with a B+, even though I could’ve scored higher if I tried. The woes of being a lazy eighth grader with a video game addiction and enough friends on Xbox Live to keep me occupied!
I remember teaching students how to write essays in 10th grade, and just from seeing some of their works-in-progress, you have to know that someone in 3rd grade wouldn’t have a chance at getting to their rough drafts in terms of quality. It’s difficult to overstate the difference. One of my failings as a teacher, and something I wish I could change if I went back in time, is that I never explicitly told students what I expect from an essay, the five-paragraph format or whatever. I kept my expectations to myself, I guess because I didn’t have very many expectations in the first place beyond “you should get this done, because I said so.” Times have changed since then, though.