Essay Writing

I learned an important lesson yesterday.

I’ve mentioned that my literature class is populated by seven women. It’s a very small group, but I think that will actually work to our advantage.

Of course, that’s assuming that everyone shows up for class.

Yesterday, I had four of my seven students show. Of that four, one had done all the reading and the writing that I asked for, one had done “most” (her assessment) of the reading but none of the writing, one had done “some” of the reading but none of the writing, and one just picked up the reading that morning.

Sigh. It’s impossible to have a fruitful discussion of a text when only two out of five people (one of them being ME) has actually read the text in question.

I made a point of expressing my displeasure at their noncompliance, told them that it couldn’t continue if they expected to pass the class, and sent them home after the break. I then went home and composed a rather stern email and included some pretty tough essay questions for them to work on in lieu of the conversations we DIDN’T have about Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

My lesson is that I need to not assume that my students will have done what I asked them to do, and that I need to have something in reserve to do if the greater percentage of them come in completely unprepared for the activities I have planned.


I’ve been thinking about the essay questions I gave them, though, and am seriously considering writing one up myself. It’s been a long time since I’ve done that kind of thinking about a text – the kind that requires a cohesive thesis and the support for that thesis – and I think it might be good practice for me to work through one of the topics I’ve laid out. I may also give my essay to my students, so they can see what kind of work I’m looking for from them (the last time I asked for an essay from my class, most of the students turned in two handwritten paragraphs…).

I’ll post my effort here so you can give me a critique; I’ll be interested to see how rusty I’ve gotten.



Filed under about writing, concerns, frustrations, Literature, self-analysis, student chutzpah, Teaching, The Job, writing, Yikes!

4 responses to “Essay Writing

  1. nhfalcon

    That was one of the first lessons I learned during my internship – never assume.

    The second lesson?

    Always have backup in case your assumptions fail you.

  2. i HATED that part of my teacher education. i HATED having to prepare my lessons under the assumption that most students were NOT going to do the work. it really rubbed me the wrong way. 😦

  3. Clix

    So what were the essay prompts?

  4. Mary

    Sounds like tough going. This will always be an issue.

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