Thursday, January 5, 2012

"She Really Gets Us"

I seem to be having those honest conversations with kids a lot lately. Today it happened in English 9.  We are studying author's style and voice and somehow, the conversation turned to what other teachers had taught them in the past (as I have mentioned before, I have been frustrated with how this class has been going, so this conversation was one I had been wanting to have).

"We learned a lot about nouns and verbs and stuff. "

"Yea--and punctuation.  Yuck.  Please don't do that."

"What do we even need periods for?" Yes, a freshman in high school asked why we need periods. Of course, she was also the freshman who thought you had to chew your food up into really small bites when you were pregnant so the baby could eat the food. And she couldn't find her textbook on the shelf today.  Number 66. I pulled it off the shelf as soon as I went back to look. "Unh unh...that's number 99." Really. I couldn't make this stuff up!

"What's a noun again?"

"A person, place, thing, or idea."

"Oh. Yeah."

I had to ask, "Did you write?"

"No. This was English class. We just did English stuff."  Can you hear the screaming in my head?  

"I understand now.  No wonder this class was such a shock to you in the beginning.  You really didn't always get what I wanted."

"Yeah. It was hard, Mrs. Day."

"So, you didn't really write?"

"Well, we wrote a story once. And in seventh grade we did journals every day."

"We wrote in Mrs. __________ class.  We wrote something every week."  Sounded like a scripted prompt to me.

"Well, this is why you're going to write more this semester.  You need to!  Almost every job you will ever apply for will ask you for a writing sample.  You have to know how to write more than a tweet and a status update! And it needs to sound like needs to be real.  No one's going to ask you what a noun is or have you diagram a sentence. Not that you don't need to have an understanding of those things.  But you need to be able to put your thoughts down and have them make sense to other people! So no grammar or punctuation units. If we need to review something, we will, but we're not going to study it to death and fill out lots of worksheets."

"Listen guys. She gets it!"

I'm not sure what I "got", but hopefully, they "got" that I think writing is more than grammar and punctuation worksheets. That the writing we will continue to do will be real. As for why we need periods, well, I did point out some examples later in the lesson!


  1. First off, that girl at the beginning makes me really hope that most of it is just a ditzy act and not how she really thinks. Second, I wish I had paid more attention to you and not taken you (and many other teachers) for granted when I was at school. All I know is that I'm making sure my brother takes as many classes as he can taught by you!

  2. It must be something in the air. A student asked me where Honduras was located. I pointed out the general area in the culture information to guide her toward her answer. She says, "So I just write down Guatemala and Nicaragua. Those cities?" I say, "They're countries."

    And Halleluah! No more grammar units!

  3. Thanks, Christine, that's sweet!

  4. I was laughing out loud while reading this, then cheering at the end! I even stopped to read this aloud to my husband. I wanted him to hear your voice, to show him that I really found in you someone who "gets me."

    I also love that your former students are popping up on your blog. That speaks volumes!

  5. I know, you really can't make it up, but it's still hard to see it happen. I love that you are so kind and gentle and you teach real stuff! Great story, Deb.