Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Hunger for Education

Photo: AZRainman, Flickr Creative Commons

I was prepping my students yesterday for a practice writing test. I'd been spending a part of each block this week talking about writing persuasively, and that day, the day before the test, we were looking at sample essays that the state had released. These were actual essays submitted for the graduation test and they were paired with their scores and commentary. The names of the schools were removed, of course.

There's one essay, a long paragraph really, that I've shown every class for two years now at this point in the semester. It's the worst paper in the collection. There is no development of ideas, the paragraph gradually wanders further and further from the topic until finally it just stops. There's a distinct lack of understanding of singular verbs. This is the paper I show to raise my students' spirits. Hey, look! I say. None of you suck quite this bad. No matter how much you struggle on the test, you'll always know that you weren't the worst ever. It's good that they see this and tell me how it could be improved before we move on to the better essays later in the list.

Except this time a sentence near the end caught my attention. I knew it was there, but this time it struck me differently than it had before. In the middle of a rambling string of complaints about school rules, the writer basically throws in something along the lines of "we all like to have food."

Fuck. This is a paper from a kid who probably only ate at school, one of those lousy students who never misses a day and never drops out, the type that teachers struggle to understand why they bother showing up. I've taught those kids. I still teach those kids.

I don't know if I can use that paper as an example anymore. I don't need to be reminded that there's nothing I can really do for some of my kids.


Courtney said...

That's sad. But I think by being a positive role model in their lives, you are doing something for them, even if it's small and you can't feel it yourself. Some of those kids may look up to you and want to break out of the cycle of poverty they grew up in.

Also, that picture is totally Kate and Sawyer from Lost.

Julie said...

That makes me sad.

A Free Man said...

It is Kate and Sawyer, isn't it? I was terribly confused about that until I got to the end of the post and then still slightly confused.

At any rate, the bigger issue is poverty, not skinny Lost stars. And I still find it incredible, and depressing, that people go hungry in one of the world's richest countries. It's shocking, but more depressing than anything else. Especially since the last national political figure that talked about it was the now disgraced John Edwards. Ah well, I gave up.

Jacob said...

I actually didn't know that until Courtney pointed it out. I've never seen the show. I just picked it because they looked hungry. Seriously.

Also, I don't always post images that necessarily support the content of the post. I always run searches inspired by the topic, but I don't always get a result that I like enough to use so I'll go with whatever strikes my fancy.