To all those who think teaching is the glamorous picture I present here--stories of cockroaches and kids borrowing my clothes and birthday cake in the face--let me tell you about this weekend. I had with me a stack of essays. It's the end of the quarter, so kids are turning in work, thinking it'll help. And I'm stuck reading. And wondering where I went wrong. And contemplating accidentally losing all those essays and just giving everyone a C.
Here's a typical paragraph:
"I'm scared" I thought. I was on my way to finishing elementary school. I was happy that me and my friends we were going finish elementary school after the 8 long years. We were having the best time, just having some jokes here and there, and having some fun with the teachers, acting out some TV shows like Jerry Springer that was real fun.Yeah.
Let's say I just read 100 essays. My brain is scrambled. And in that entire stack of essays, only one student turned in something that on my rubric "exceeds expectations" when it comes to organization and technical command. The rest, it seems, can't tell the difference between our and are, lose and loose, might of and might have. Every single error that I've talked about, everything they've corrected all year long, yup, it's all in their writing. There are 100-word sentences with no punctuation, 40-sentence essays with no paragraphs.
Want my job? Take it.
Then again, in that stack, there is one essay that makes it all worthwhile. I was lucky to read it early on; it gave me hope that there would be more like it. There weren't, but still. This one essay sustained me.
Of course it was about something illegal. The kid is (was) a tagger, and he turned in a nine-page handwritten essay about breaking into an abandoned building and trying to paint his name on the side of it. And to be honest, he did such a good job, the essay was actually suspenseful. Funny. I was left thinking, This kid's a writer!
He wrote about how he broke into the building and took pictures, but when he had them developed, certain rooms came out looking blurry or smudged. He went through nine or ten rolls of film, and the same thing happened each time: Hallways and certain rooms came out clear, but other rooms always came out destroyed. He decided he was dealing with a ghost.
I was thinking of sharing some of it here. I typed a paragraph from the essay. But on its own, it's not that great. You'd need to read the whole thing. And I definitely don't want to type that much, definitely not after reading so many essays this afternoon. You'll just have to take my word for it.
I'm just left with one question. Am I obligated to turn in this kid for what he did a couple of years ago? Which, actually, leads to another question: What about other kids, the ones who wrote about illegally entering the U.S.? Do I turn them in, too? And do I call the homes of the kids who wrote about things they do with friends after school?
Which leads to yet another question: Does any of this make you wish you were a teacher?