My L.U. students are handing in their first essays. The morning kids gave me theirs on Wednesday, and the evening kids’ papers are due on Monday.
I had high hopes for the quality of these essays. I’d become so downtrodden and disenchanted by my TCC kids and the very nearly abysmal quality of their work that I was certain – certain, I tell you! – that the kids from Local U. would do significantly better. After all, I reasoned, the kids from TCC don’t have to pass through any acceptance procedure – if they can pay their bills, they can come to class. Local U. kids needed to have decent high school grades, needed to take the SAT tests, and needed to submit an application – along with an admissions essay – to be accepted into college. That alone guaranteed a higher quality of student. Didn’t it?
It turns out? Not so much.
Here’s the assignment I gave them:
In your first essay, you will reflect on an experience that influenced your development as a reader, writer, scholar, or person; your understanding of your community and your place in it; or your views or attitude toward others or the world around you. Your task is to write a narrative about when, where, why, and how this change(s) occurred. In your narrative, you’ll want to clarify to your audience why this experience was significant. What happened is not enough; readers will want to know how this experience happened and why it was important to you. To make your change understandable and credible to your readers, you’ll need to show and possibly explain what you were like BEFORE and AFTER the experience.
I’ve only read seven essays so far. Two of them were pretty good, three of them were okay, and two were just awful. The students all excelled at choosing a moment that was significant in their development (one student wrote about being pulled over for speeding while smoking pot, for example, and one wrote about being diagnosed with a serious heart condition), but they all failed, to varying degrees, to really analyze how that moment was significant.
So, here’s what I’m offering up to you, Dear Readers; in the comments – or on your own sites with links in the comments – tell about an experience that was significant to your development as a teacher, a son or daughter, a parent, or just as a human being. Tell a story that shows us who you were before, tell us the story of what happened to change you, then tell us a story that illustrates the kind of person you are now. Somebody please give me a good example that I can bring to my students next semester as a model of a good personal narrative.