It seems like a huge part of my job is convincing kids that they really are smart enough to do the things I ask of them. I offer up as proof this conversation I had with a student this afternoon (while she should have been attending to her photography class, but whatever…)
My part of the conversation is in bold print.
hello, i was looking at the list of writings that i haven’t done and i was wondering if you could remind me of what a few of them are.
Tell me what you need
You understand, Sweet, that you can’t make up pink paper, right?
I’m willing to work with you for some of them, but you’ve missed a LOT
yeah by my mom is making me do them anyway
Okay, Sweet, here’s my thing; I, perhaps more than anyone else, want you to write. I KNOW you can do it and I know you can be great at it. That being said, though, I DO NOT want you to stress about it.
well i have to stress about it because I’m going to stay back if i cant get my grade up a little
Right, but it’s not about your GRADE, exactly; it’s about the skill you can demonstrate.
Rushing through all those assignments isn’t going to help you polish your skill
So, what are we going to do?
i dont know.im not sure what i can and can’t do for the class
What do you mean by that?
for work.to attempt to get a better grade
Here’s the thing, Sweet; I’ve still not received your analysis paper.
analysis for Rain man/the curious incident?
Analysis for your human rights topic.
Yeah, and that’s a problem.
I can’t mark you with a passing grade just because I believe you CAN do the work – you have to PROVE that you can do the work
yeah. that makes sense.
and it KILLS me, because I KNOW you CAN. YOU don’t know you can, though, and until you do, you won’t; you know?
people say that but i don’t know where to start with it a lot of the time.or when i start it i get a paragraph into it and then…blank.nothing
Do you still have the graphic organizers I gave you? I find that a lot of people say they’re VERY helpful in helping them generate ideas
i still have those
What I’m looking for is your ability to make a claim and then support it using evidence from the text – whatever that ‘text’ is, a book, a news report, a story, a film, a discussion. The first thing you’ve got to do is to take in and understand that ‘text.’ From there, you need to say something about it; you need to understand it well enough to make a reasonable claim
is this about the analysis paper still?
It’s about ALL of it, Sweet. Pretty much everything I’ve asked you to do in my class has revolved around making and supporting claims about the stuff we’re working with.
yeah.but i dont think im very good at that
Tell me WHY you don’t think you’re very good at that. You’re a very smart woman. You’re observant, you’re thoughtful, you’re sensitive; there’s no reason why you can’t apply those skills to the things we’re doing in class.
i dont know.i dont know how to back up with reasoning with writing things out
You do it the same way you have a discussion; “here’s what I think, and here’s why I think it.” Tell me, for example, about the similarities between Rain Man and Curious Incident. Why do you think I showed that film with that book?
because the thought process of both of the main characters was similar.
(just as an aside, what are you supposed to be doing this period? You’re not blowing off a class IMing with me, right?)
Sure, but that’s easy. Why ELSE did I show that movie?
im in photography class.
Should you be doing photography? We can talk about this later
hes talking a little but were not really doing much today
but we could talk about this later
Let’s do this; think up FIVE reasons why I showed Rain Man with Curious Incident. Write them down, then write about how the stories are similar AND different. Be SPECIFIC here; say things like “Raymond and Christopher were both mathematically inclined, but Christopher is willing to engage people in conversation where Raymond almost never does.”
Okay – do that. Don’t worry about writing it in nice paragraphs; bullets are fine. Have those for tomorrow, okay?
okay.i’ll do that
Cool. Now get to class!!