Today I helped a friend grade essays for her 9th Grade English class. In between our coffee drinking and chattering to get caught up with each other, we managed to get through about one-third of the pile. I finally took a small stack home with me; knowing I could better serve her if we’re not in the same room.
It was pretty shocking to me to discover how many students are willing to fail just through lack of effort. It was easy to decipher who paid attention and who didn’t. It had nothing to do with English, and everything to do with communications.
April had set a strict, yet easy-to-follow, set of requirements for the papers: Title page. Outline. Thesis. Five-page essay with cites. Works cited page. Drafts.
And yet I graded papers that were two pages, barely. With large font. And indented margins. There were papers with nothing but quotes and no original thinking whatsoever. Papers that had no thesis, no clear introduction, no summary conclusion.
And it made me sad. Because I know these students are bringing down the statistics in April’s class, and it’s not her fault. I can tell these students just aren’t trying. They’re trying to get by, to manipulate, to pretend.
And that’s a way of life for them.
But then I graded papers that had all the necessary elements and were grammatically correct. Those are the ones we jumped for joy over: the students who listened, who read the notes, who tried.
I learned so much about governments, economics, life expectancy rates, and healthcare. I learned that the more people have decisions made for them, the less inclined they are to strive for themselves. And the more students get passing grades without doing real work, the less inclined they are to try to do better.
It makes me sad. And hopeful. Because it only takes one candle in the darkness to cast away shadows. One coin in the fountain to start earning interest.
April thought she was asking me to do her a favor. When in fact, she was still teaching.
I can’t wait to go back to class.
And Frankly, My Dear… that’s all she wrote!