On teaching writing

This is my last week with my first group of students at my current school. I've taught them seven periods a week for the past three years. I know them, and they know me. I've watched them grow up and mature in so many ways. They're ready to move on to high school, but I will miss their faces in my classroom.

I'm currently in the midst of grading their final essays. I'm burnt out. Exhausted. Overwhelmed. I've been dreading sitting down to grade essays. I often feel like it turns my brain to mush.

But today, grading essays is energizing me.

Because I didn't mandate a specific topic, each essay is unique. Students are analyzing the comparison between Panem in The Hunger Games and America. Each essay has a unique viewpoint and a unique voice.

The internet gives a surprising variety of sources. Each essay has to have at least two outside sources, that share the American point of view. I'm learning things as I read what my students found in articles, books, and tweets.

These students have grown so much in their writing. I'll be honest: teaching sixth grade writing drives me crazy. Many days I borderline-hate it. It's a slow start, teaching textual evidence and parenthetical citations. In seventh grade, we seek to move to analysis instead of summary, and it's hard. It's hard for me; it's hard for them. Over the three years I loop with my kids, I assign a lot of writing. And that means I read/grade a lot of writing. Now, with Google Docs, I'm even reading it before I read it. It often seems a never-ending battle. But reading these essays today, I realize there's hope. My students have improved. A lot. A lot, a lot. Even my weakest writers in sixth grade are producing quality essays that I'm legitimately enjoying reading. Their sentence structures. Their ideas. Their analysis. There is hope.

So as it turns out, our hard work pays off. Consistently high expectations, continual feedback, and teaching and re-teaching do make a difference.

Thank you, Class of 2014 for sharing your insight with me. It's been a pleasure to teach you these three years, and I can't wait to see how you continue to grow. Come back and say hello, and send me an essay now and again. I'd love to see what you write!