Today was a “Jean’s Day” at school. Based on the seniors’ research papers which I’ve been grading these past few days, I decided to wear this shirt.
Then, it was time to teach one of the junior classes. In pairs, they are writing analytical paragraphs of a Walt Whitman poem–not a heavy duty writing assignment, but a solid base for real discussion of the poem and of writing techniques. We started yesterday, and today they were to revise and proofread. I reminded them how we sometimes need a day between writing and proofreading so that our brains don’t automatically insert what we meant to write even if we didn’t actually write it. Immediately, one student came up to me with her paper and said, “We’re done. My partner knew she wouldn’t be here today so we finished yesterday.” UGH. Did she hear what I just said? No. “Okay, now you should proofread it. You might notice something that you did not notice yesterday.” “You will collect this right?” she says, handing me the paper again. “Not now. Please proofread it. Here’s a checklist for writing. Perhaps this can help you proofread and revise.” She took her seat in a huff and proceeded to suck her teeth at me for the rest of the period. Happy day.
And then, this happened:
As I was circulating among the other groups, I heard snippets of conversation that went like this:
“No, no, aren’t we supposed to use present tense for literary stuff?”
“It’s the sound imagery, not just imagery.”
“Where’s the thesaurus?”
“Can I use my phone for thesaurus.com? This thesaurus doesn’t have intrusive.”
“Wait, there’s alliteration. What does that do for the idea of the poem again?”
Ninth period rolls around, and it is time to do the same lesson with another group. They come in talking about the poems, and I don’t even have to take them to take them out their paragraphs from yesterday.
Two students came to me saying, “We have a disagreement. I think this is a run-on sentence. She doesn’t.” She read a beautiful complex sentence to me that is not only grammatically correct but is also spot on when it comes to both the poem and the assignment. I say, “That is actually a beautiful sentence.” The girl who wrote it gives me the most powerful high five I have had in a while.
Followed up by,
“Is this too repetitive?”
“We think there’s too much in this sentence. Can you help us make it better?”
“We’re not sure how to get the quotation in smoothly. Does this make sense?”
And two students handing me their paper like it is a treasured object.
“Can we have extra time? Can we finish over the weekend and give it to you on Monday?”
(Did they just ask for weekend homework?)
And four students remaining engaged in their work at the back of the room even after the bell rang. And this was a last class on a Friday!
These girls were not only engaged with the poem, they also experienced the joy of thinking deeply and writing well. Everyone left the room in a good mood.
I guess it was a good day after all.