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Lesson Planning

Okay; I’m working on a project idea and I’d love some input.

I had started out thinking that I’d run my Humanities classes with a traditional trek from Greece and Rome, a trip though the Dark and Middle Ages, and a romp through the Renaissance and the start of the Modern age, but that’s just not going to play with my kids. I need to make it personal. To that end, I’ve decided that the classes are going to focus on how we posit ourselves as individuals in the context of the larger world (so, the way outside forces influence who you are, how you think, and what you value). I figure I can bring in some of the high points of ancient and foreign cultures while still keeping the kids focused on why they, personally, should give a shit about them.

We’ve already talked, albeit briefly, about how cultures are arranged and what kinds of things are necessary for them to thrive. I’ve done the quickest thumbnail sketch of the basics of citizenship. Today was spent investigating the difference between observation and analysis, and I’ve given them a bit of poetry (I snuck a Shakespearean sonnet in there!) and some art to scrutinize, and I think those exercises went pretty well.

I want to continue the work of analysis, but I want to turn it inward a bit. The art I had the kids analyze was Samuel Bak’s Self Portrait:

self_portrait of samuel bak holocausto

They did REALLY well with it, so I’m thinking that this might be a good spot to run with the idea of ‘self portraits’ and have them do a project in which they consider their own identity and then represent themselves in a bunch of different ways.

I want the project to have three different components; a written, a visual, and something that demonstrates that they’re able to see the ways in which they have been influenced by outside forces, whether that’s family, religion, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or something else.

I’m going to start them with the visual aspect, I think. I’ll get them started tomorrow with an exercise where they brainstorm adjectives that describe them as they see themselves, and then get them working on coming up with some way of representing those qualities visually (depending on how they take to this idea, I may invite them to include some aspects of how they think OTHERS see them, as well, but I’ll wing that). I want to give them a lot of leeway in how they do this; I know that *I* would rather have the opportunity to create a collage or a powerpoint presentation than try to draw myself (i.e., creating an ACTUAL self-portrait), and I want the students to be able to free themselves from concerns about their artistic skills and instead have them focus on what they want to SAY about who they think they are – and how they think they got that way.

I’m happy to entertain suggestions about what the written and analytical pieces should look like (and whether they should be separate assignments or one focused piece of writing). I’m expecting this project to take a week or so (given that we’ve got a four-day weekend coming up in two days, and a four-day week after that). Who wants to help me put this together?

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I’m Feeling a Bit Like Bilbo…

… getting ready to go on a big adventure.

Today was the first in-service day at my new job. It wasn’t at all anxiety-inducing; I’d worked at the school last year as an aide, so I already know everyone (minus a new math and science teacher named Lisa who was hired over the summer; she seems lovely and I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to talk with her some more), though I did feel a little different – more ‘real,’ if that makes any sense. As an aide, I didn’t really fit in anywhere; I wasn’t part of a department, I had minimal interaction with any of the classroom teachers save one (who’s left the school to take a really fantastic gig with the state; I miss him already). Now, as a full-time classroom teacher, I feel more like part of the group (and it may be that the group can now be more accepting of me).

We started the day with a whole-staff meeting (there are 10 of us, total, so “whole staff” isn’t as ominous as it may sound to folks who work in big schools). We opened the meeting with one of those activities that everyone hates (so WHY do we do them?!); we all had to introduce ourselves (which seemed silly, given that only one of us didn’t know everyone), to say one thing we “appreciated about the summer” and one thing we’re looking forward to in the new school year.

For as much as I really do hate these kinds of things (how many people really LISTEN to what the people who come before them have to say? I mean, really; you’re not listening because you’re too busy wondering what YOU’RE going to say and hoping you don’t come off like an idiot… or you’re frantically trying to think up a new answer because the person two seats ahead of you just said what YOU were going to say, the bastid!!), I actually had good answers to the questions this morning.

My family and I just returned from two weeks in England (which I haven’t written about yet; I should do that while the memories are still fresh, but I’m still a little overwhelmed by the the whole experience that I’m not really sure where I’d start), so that was my contribution to what made my summer memorable.

It was my answer to what I’m looking forward to this year that felt more important, though. Since I left CHS three years ago, I’ve felt a little adrift. I’ve been teaching since then – I never left the profession – but the kind of teaching I’ve been doing – namely adjunct work in colleges and universities – is a very different kind of work than classroom teaching. I’ve been grateful for the experience of teaching at the collegiate level, but I found the work to be isolating. I am, by nature, a very collaborative person. I don’t LIKE working alone; I can do it, but I don’t like it. I feel much more engaged, much more effective, and much more energized when I’m part of a team. I love coming in in the morning and talking to my colleagues. I love listening to lunchtime talk about a lesson that clicked (or one that fell flat), or about this or that kid who’s either kicking ass and taking names or stumbling (and what we’re going to do as the respective kids’ support system to help). I like sharing materials and ideas, I like sharing successes and failures, and I like sharing the day-to-day that make up the best part of this kind of work.

So that’s what I said I was most looking forward to; being part of a team again. I don’t know if I’m going to click with everyone on staff, but I know I’ve connected well with the two with whom I’ll be interacting most (the other upper school English teacher and the social studies teacher; I also get on well with the two science teachers and, perhaps more importantly, the principal and the lead office goddess). In fact, as I was composing this, the English teacher – I’ll call her Rachel – texted me with a “nice work today!!” message.

I can’t wait to get started.

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Setting Up

I’m getting closer to moving in to my new digs at my new high school!

A few weeks ago, Pete let me know that he’d decided which room I’d be occupying. He warned me not to settle in just yet, though, because the custodians hadn’t done their summer floor refinishing.

When I left CHS, I took everything – EVERYTHING – that belonged to me; I would be damned if I was going to donate anything to that place. As a consequence, I had a LOT of stuff; I’d bought decorations and posters and such, I’d bought a TON of books (well, not literally, but it sure felt like it once they were all packed), I’d bought book cases from IKEA. ALL of it came with me. When I was given the heave-ho, Mr. Chili went to Staples and bought dozens of boxes into which I packed pens and Post-it notes, books and magazines, containers of wipes and bottles of Lysol, posters and magnets and bumper stickers. All of those boxes got stored at Chez Chili, divided between the basement and the as-yet-unfinished master bathroom and, after Pete decided which room would be mine next year, my family helped me cart all those boxes up the stairs and into my new space.

The boxes sat on top of tables for a couple of weeks while we waited for the custodians to work their magic, and the other day one of the lovely office ladies, whom I’ll refer to here as Molly, sent me a message giving me the green light to come in and start unpacking.

My nephew, Nate, who’s been living with us since November (he’s moving here from England and has had a bit of trouble finding a good IT job) was keen to help, so we packed up the un-assembled book cases and made the half hour trip to the school. I started unpacking boxes while he started putting together a book case, only to realize that he’d failed to put the case backs in the car. This wasn’t REALLY a problem, though; there is a built-in book case in the room, plus a freestanding unit against a wall, so I was able to put some of my books away. Besides, what I REALLY wanted the man to do was to get a handle on all the computers in the room and, given that this is his particular talent, he was happy to help.

There are tables around two edges of my room upon which are situated a number of computers for the students to use. While I’m not obsessively type A, I really do like my environment to be neat and orderly, and these computers were ANYTHING but; there were cables EVERYWHERE. Nate had noticed this when we were moving the boxes in and volunteered to get all that mess under control; as soon as we got home from the box moving trip, he went online and bought some velcro straps and assured me that he’d put the whole thing right for me.

He did. He spent most of the other day tracing cables back to their origins (at one point making me laugh by walking into the middle of the room with a line of cable spooling out behind him, then turning to me with an hysterical look on his face and saying, in his lovely British accent, “Right; this cable needs to be about 18 inches long. What is this? 10 feet? What were they THINKING?!”) and making sure that everything worked properly. I kept myself busy unpacking books which, I’m not ashamed to say, felt a little like Christmas; I rediscovered books I’d forgotten I had – AND I found all of MY copies of the books I teach (distinguishable by all the myriad sticky note flags in the pages; despite a world-class English teacher training, I still cannot bring myself to write in the margins of books).

By the time we thought to look up, it was already quarter past five and we needed to get home. We went back today – with Bean in attendance – to do some finishing up, so we put the book case backs in the car and headed over. Nate built book cases (there’s still one left to build; we need to find some more wooden plugs because we somehow came up short) and I filled them.  Bean had a blast decorating my classroom with posters, stickers, magnets, and memes I’ve printed from the internet.

be a weed

By the time we left this evening, I felt really good about the way the room looks. Bean has promised to come back with me next week to help me sort all the books. Some of them are in logical places, but the ones I put away today were just thrown on shelves with no discernible order, and I can’t have that; I need to have at least a general idea of where to look for a title. There’s still a bit of work to be done – the tables need to be rearranged, I need to decide which chairs I’m going to use (I’m hoping to switch out the chairs that are in the room for rolling chairs from a room down the hall) and I NEED some plants – but I’m confident that I can make this space a really great and welcoming place for students to learn.

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Back At It

I’ve been very remiss in my writing practice over the last year or so.  Part of that was a sort of cold-turkey response to my blog-post-a-day habit; for a number of years, I posted literally every day (I think I missed a St. Patrick’s day one year), but I came to the realization a while ago that the habit was stressing me out.  I didn’t want for writing to be a source of tension, so I dropped the writing (and replaced it with a facebook habit, but that’s another story).

My proverbial pendulum has swung back to center, though, and I’m realizing that my life is made better and richer when I’m writing; I take the time to observe and reflect when I’m writing, and I feel much more present in and connected to my life.  To that end, I’m going to wade back in to my writing practice, though I don’t think I’m going to jump into the deep end that I was inhabiting when I was posting something every day.

Another motivation for my writing again is that I like having a record of my thoughts and experiences, and over the last few years, my professional life hasn’t really been something that I’ve been eager to recount.  Since I left my job at the charter school under profoundly difficult conditions in the summer of 2012, I’ve worked a series of adjunct gigs at Local University and a few area community colleges, and while the jobs helped pay the bills (and helped keep me from going too deeply down the proverbial rabbit hole of professional ennui and despair), none of the experiences was especially noteworthy or exciting.

I’m hopeful that that’s about to change.

Last fall, my adopted daughter (here referred to as Sweet Pea) introduced me to a co-director of the charter school from which she graduated (after leaving the train wreck that was high school where I worked).  She felt that this woman – let’s call her Elizabeth – would resonate with me and I with her; we had, Sweet Pea assured me, a similar energy and we valued the same things.  She arranged for us to all meet over pizza, and before our drinks were even brought to the table, both of us knew that Sweet Pea was right.

We had an energetic (and energizing) conversation about education, about what we think is important in school (and what a lot of schools are missing) and, perhaps most importantly, WHY we’re in this business.  By the time our lunch was over, I almost wanted to weep with relief; Elizabeth gets it, and I felt like I could be enthusiastically myself without having to worry that I was “too much” for her because she, herself, is also too much.

A few days later, I got an email from Elizabeth asking me if I thought I could be “free in January.”  She was pretty cagey about the request, telling me that she couldn’t really tell me any details, but that she really wanted me and was “working on something that might interest” me.

Those were a couple of LONG months, I’m here to tell you.

Round about the middle of January, Elizabeth sends me a text message asking if I can meet to discuss what she’s been “working on” since we met in the fall.  It turns out that she couldn’t put me in a classroom, but she could get me a gig working as a one-on-one aide with a kid with mild Asperger’s.  She explained to me that she understood that this job wasn’t in my field of expertise, but that it was well within my ability (the kid was a joy; truly) and that it would position me to be ready to slip into a classroom job that she was sure was going to open up for the 15-16 school year.

Even though I was a little insecure about the one-on-one job – I don’t have any SPED training beyond a couple of classes I took as a graduate student – I trusted Elizabeth when she said it was a stepping stone, and I jumped at the offer.  The student I was working with was a senior who really just needed someone to help keep him on track (which was a good thing; all his classes were math and science based, and I was essentially useless as a content tutor, but I could help him with the executive functioning).  He was sweet and happy, and I started looking forward to going to work every day.

A few weeks ago, the other co-director of the school, a gentle giant I’ll call Pete, caught me in the cafeteria after lunch and asked me if I could stop by his office before I left for the day.

I’m going to let you in on a secret; no matter how old you are, no matter what position you hold, and no matter that you’ve never done anything wrong, when you get called to the principal’s office, you get nervous.  I KNEW that he was asking to see me so that he could talk to me about the possibility of my coming to work in a different capacity next year, but I spent the rest of the afternoon fretting that I’d done or said something I shouldn’t have, even though I knew I hadn’t.

In any event, he’d called me to ask me if I would be interested in coming on board as a faculty member next year (and got a chuckle out of my confession that a call to the principal’s office still makes me edgy).  He was very vague on the details – they hadn’t worked out yet what position I might fill or what classes or grade levels I might teach or whether the position would be a full or part-time – but he wanted to know if I wanted the job.

It was seriously all I could do not to squeal.

I’m still in a bit of limbo.  My senior has graduated, so I’m filling in as a floating aide around the school (a situation which I really, really don’t like, but it keeps me present in the community).  I had a meeting a week or so ago with both Pete and Elizabeth and was formally offered a classroom position for next year; though they’re still not sure exactly what classes I’ll be teaching and I’ve not been presented with an actual contract yet, the deal is essentially done.

I cannot express in words how excited I am to be back in a high school classroom again.  I haven’t been right since leaving my job at the charter high school (even though leaving was absolutely the right thing – the only thing – to do), and I’m very much looking forward to feeling right again.

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If You Don’t Want to Hear What I Really Think….

…. don’t ask me the question.

A former community college student of mine is doing some work for an Ed. class and sent out a call for answers to some of his questions about standardized tests.  Here’s what he got back from me:

Are standardized tests accurate examinations of a student’s (STUDENTS’) knowledge? (I can’t help it, N; I’m going to correct the grammar in your questions.  Deal with it.)

No, standardized tests are not accurate examinations of students’ knowledge.  Standardized tests, by their very nature, target narrow and specific slices of student capacity.  Standardized tests may be able to measure how well a student can retrieve information from a given text, for example, or how well they can answer a math question, but they cannot take into account a student’s creativity, problem-solving, or cooperative skills.  Because standardized tests are narrow in their scope, they can’t measure the ability of a student to make meaningful connections between, say, an historical event and a novel, or to apply a formula from math class to solve a physics problem, or to appreciate beauty in a poem or a work of art.  In short, the things standardized tests measure are not the things that we claim to value in our students, and they are certainly not an indication of how competent the students’ teachers are.

1. Do you feel standardized tests are important to schools (QUESTION MARK)  why (CAPITAL W) or why not?

I do not feel that standardized tests are important to schools; or, rather, I feel they SHOULDN’T be.  The facts on the ground say that standardized tests ARE important to schools; the results of standardized tests are being used to determine things like school performance (and, by extension, funding) and are now starting to be used to determine teacher quality (and whether or not teachers get to keep their jobs).  Schools have been shut down – or taken over – because of poor student performance on standardized tests, and these tests have historically been used to rate schools and determine the kinds of federal funding they’d receive (which makes exactly ZERO sense to me; the schools that do well are rewarded and the schools that do poorly are punished.  The reverse should be the case; schools with lower test scores should be receiving more support, not less).  So, perhaps you should reword your question.  ARE standardized tests important to schools?  In the current scheme of things, yes; they are vitally important – sometimes to the very existence of the school.  SHOULD they be important?  Absolutely not.

2. Do you feel that students try on the standardized tests (QUESTION MARK)  why (CAPITAL W) or why not?

The students who care about such things will try their best on standardized tests, as they try their best for the rest of the work they’re asked to do.  The students who do not care about such things won’t.  The really smart students – the ones who really care about their work but who recognize that the standardized tests don’t affect their GPA, or who pick up on their teachers’ or parents’ disdain for the uselessness of the tests – may or may not bother.

When I was teaching high school, I was honest with my students.  They had to take the NECAP – we had no say in that matter – and I made sure they understood how I felt about the tests.  I also told them, however, that the results of the tests were going to go a long way to determining the kind of rating that their school received and that the rating would determine whether a) the school received funding or b) the school would be put on a “watch list” for not making “ADP” or “adequate yearly progress.”  They understood that the stakes were high for their school, though not necessarily for them as individual students.  In the three years I taught at the school, the reading and writing portion of the NECAPs went up steadily, so I know that a) I prepared my students well for the tests (we had test-specific classes in the two weeks leading up to the test date) and b) the students took them seriously enough to do well.  Let’s not kid ourselves, though; we know for sure that there are some students who fill in bubbles to make a pattern and really don’t care about the results of the tests (and, really, why SHOULD they?).

3. Do you think there should be another method to test the knowledge of the student (QUESTION MARK)  why (CAPITAL W) or why not?

There ARE other methods to test students’ knowledge.  Teachers implement these assessments literally every day.  Essays and projects and portfolios and reflections and presentations and speeches and experiments and, and, and….  The question I think you’re asking is perhaps better posed as “should there be another way of proving to politicians that all students know the same thing?”

Look, the problem that we’re running into here is twofold.  The first, of course, is the intrusion of politics into education.  This is a complex and difficult thing to unravel because it deals with things like grandstanding (politicians claiming loudly that our schools are a shambles and “SOMETHING MUST BE DONE!” but having no idea whether what they’re saying is true nor how to address whatever problems may actually exist), the vilification of teachers (“our kids are coming out of school without basic knowledge of important things, therefore the teachers must be at fault!”), and a complete hypocrisy on the part of a society that SAYS it values education and then guts funding, attacks curriculum (google “Texas textbooks” to see just a sample of what I mean here), trashes teachers, and refuses to do anything to address the despicable conditions of our schools (we’re MORE than happy to build new prisons, but bonds to build new schools are almost universally defeated).  Add to that the incursion of interests that want to privatize schools (look into the motivations behind the GOP to push school vouchers, charter schools, and homeschooling movements to see what I mean here) and you’ve got a system under attack.

Our kids are NOT stupid.  They are NOT failing school because they can’t learn or because their teachers are bad.  They’re doing poorly because many of them come from poverty (a hungry kid can’t learn – see Maslow’s hierarchy).  Their home lives are unstable; their parents can’t find work (or work two or more jobs, or THEY work after school because they have to).  They’re doing poorly because they’re stuffed into overcrowded classroom with overworked (and under-paid) teachers who are expected to meet the needs of these diverse kids with little or no support and few if any materials.  They’re doing poorly because they’re expected to learn the SAME thing at the SAME time to the SAME degree and demonstrate that knowledge using the SAME assessments, and they recognize that that’s bullshit dehumanization and they don’t want to play along.  They’re doing poorly because, in our zeal to “achieve” to the test (and our desperate need to balance our ever-diminishing budgets), we’ve done away with art classes and music classes and gym classes and home economics classes and shop classes and have completely abandoned EVERYTHING we know about child and adolescent development in a desperate attempt to do the best we can under the conditions in which we’ve been forced.

I have a LOT more to say about this, but I suspect this may already be more than you need.  Feel free to hit me up with questions or points of clarification.

Love,

Mrs. Chili

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Quick Hit: Get This Right

FYI:

Breathe – with an E – is a verb that means to move air in and out of one’s lungs.

Breath – no E – is the air that is so moved.

Please get this right, especially now. It’s “I can’t BREATHE,” not “I can’t breath.”

Sigh.

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Giving Feedback

My students are working on an issue analysis paper.  Their assignment reads as follows:

Your next writing exercise of the semester is going to be executed in two parts; this is the first.
Begin by choosing an issue that is part of the national conversation, taking care to choose something about which you do NOT already have strong feelings.  For example, if you KNOW yourself to be staunchly pro-choice (as I confess to be) or enthusiastically anti-gun control, then do NOT choose those topics; you want something that you’re going to be able to stay open-minded and inquisitive about.

Some topics you might consider are listed below.

Begin by articulating the “topic/purpose/audience” trinity we discuss every week.  Be very clear about WHAT you’re investigating (many topics are complex; you do not have to elucidate every facet of your chosen topic), WHY you’re doing this work (remember that the purpose of this phase of your writing is to EDUCATE) and WHO your audience is (assume an audience who’s heard of your topic, but who doesn’t have any strong feelings one way or the other).

Once you’ve got that, go to the discussion board and post your results, then go and look at other people’s ideas.  Make sure you get the proverbial green light from me before you begin to research in earnest (though you may have done some light research while choosing your topic).  Use the discussion boards to ask questions (both on your thread and on others’).  Keep checking back, giving and receiving feedback; I do not want you to do this work in isolation (in fact, if someone chooses the same topic as you do, I’m not going to object to your working cooperatively on this).
Come to class on Wednesday with evidence of some pre-writing work – notes, articles you’ve found about your topic, youtube videos, interviews, ideas about books you might reference, guiding questions you’ll be asking about your topic.

Remember that you’re REPORTING here; you’re not to interject any personal feelings into this phase of this work whatsoever.  Your job is to present as full and complete a picture of the state of your issue as you can.  Present the viewpoints of the interested parties as comprehensively and fairly as you can.  Right now, I don’t want to know what you THINK – I want to know what you can show me about what OTHER people think, and about how you would describe the state of policy or condition surrounding this topic.

Some possible avenues of research (you do not need to choose solely from this list, but this is a good place to start):
• minimum wage      • voting rights
• abortion rights       • income inequality, either micro (male vs. female pay disparity) or macro (ultra-rich vs. very poor)
• healthcare (including the ACA, private insurance, healthcare costs, religious exemptions, etc)
• immigration
• welfare/public assistance (including SNAP, Medicare, or unemployment benefits)
• veterans affairs (including VA benefits backlog, veteran homelessness/unemployment, etc)
• elder affairs (Social Security, Medicare, retirement age, pensions, etc)
• workplace concerns (including trade agreements, unions vs. “right-to-work” and safety standards)
• energy policy (including oil/gas (production, transport, safety, regulation, etc), renewable energy (solar, wind, hydro, etc), cost, access, regulation, etc)
• food and drug safety or policy (the FDA, obesity, heart disease)
• LGBTQ issues (including marriage, housing, workplace security, hate crimes, etc).
• foreign policy (aid, military presence, diplomacy, etc)
•  science and exploration (including NASA, medical/genetic research/funding, innovation)
• transportation issues (including rail, flight, cars/trucks, regulation and safety, innovation)
• Citizens United, lobbies, and money in politics (501C3 entities, the Koch Brothers, SuperPACs, etc)
• Banking/corporate regulations and “too big to fail”
• Issues around public safety (the Ebola situation as it pertains to American domestic policy; policing policies (including the utilization of military equipment by community police forces); sanitation, or vaccination initiatives)
• legislative process (how does our system actually work?)

Since giving the assignment a month ago, we’ve gone through several drafts of the paper in class, workshopping and collaborating to make the papers stronger, clearer, and easier to read.  We’ve talked about sufficient background, we’ve talked about avoiding the use of loaded or influential language, we’ve talked about introducing quotes and putting them in context within the larger narrative of the issue, and we’ve talked about how to ethically represent opposing viewpoints.  My hope was that all this time spent working closely on these specific papers would make them better.

Except… they’re really not.

I offered to give students specific feedback if they sent me their drafts, and I’m disheartened by what I’m seeing.  One student sent me a copy of the same paper I’d seen the week before; she’d made none of the changes I’d suggested in her last draft.  Another student struggles with clarity, and I spent 5 or 6 email exchanges trying to help her untangle a tortured passage in her introduction.  A student who hadn’t submitted a draft to me yet sent me her most recent effort yesterday and asked that I “look it over” for her (which, as every teacher knows, is really code for, “can you fix it and tell me everything I need to do so I can get an A”).  Here’s the response I sent her:

Dear Hannah,

    The first thing I notice right off the bat is that I don’t see ANY citations…

    I also notice that there is a LOT of prejudicial language in this essay; on the first page alone, we have “terrible crimes” and “rotting away” and the like.  Remember that your job here is to relate the FACTS of the issue, not to pass any kind of judgement about them.  Go back through your narrative and scrub out anything you’ve written that could be interpreted as your trying to influence the way your reader thinks about a particular facet of the issue.  Tell us the facts and trust us to make our own judgements about them.

    There are a number of places where you need MUCH more information.  What, for example, are the “Divine, Moral, and Martial Laws”?  How were they drafted, and why?  Who instituted them?  Did they have the desired effect? Why don’t we practice them anymore?  Do you expect your reader to be familiar with them?  More detail here would be warranted.  Also, what were the circumstances of Kendall’s conviction?  Was he convicted by a court?  Local, State, or Federal?  What was his trial like?  Who decided that he should be put to death; under what authority was that sentence carried out?

    See what I mean?

    You do a lot of generalizing – “many people question” – that sort of thing.  Remember that in analysis, the more specific, the better. You need to drill down and be VERY clear and VERY specific about exactly WHAT you’re talking about.  For example, when you say, on page 3, that “closure” is a reason for supporting the death penalty, what does that even mean?  Is one family’s closure going to be the same as another’s?  Is there EVIDENCE for this as a CREDIBLE reason to support state-sanctioned execution?  What does “serving justice” mean?  Honestly; *I* think that spending the rest of one’s life in prison, deprived of liberty and human interaction, is a FAR more “just” punishment for a heinous crime than the oblivion of death, so “serving justice” as an argument in favor of capital punishment doesn’t quite work for me.  Is there evidence that the death penalty – as we currently practice it – really IS a deterrent to other would-be criminals?

    See what I mean?

    Go through your essay point-by-point and really CHALLENGE yourself.  Can you PROVE your claims with evidence from your research?  Do all the points you make satisfy the “so what?” questions?  Have you given your reader enough background and foundation to understand the issue and form their OWN opinion about it?

    Keep working; you have the framework, you just need to sharpen your focus.

    Warmly,

        Mrs. Chili

I’m already pessimistic about how these papers are going to turn out.

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