In addition to my regular job, I teach a photography class at our private school. Part of the class is learning how to write for the yearbook. This way the students can write their own stories and captions for the photographs they take. Sounds simple? It should be!
I have been working on the same four paragraph paper with my students since March! I assigned it. They didn't turn it in on time. I added work. They only got it in on time after coming to me last minute and asking for help. I gave it back to be corrected...and they forgot it was due today! even though it was written down on their homework slip! I tried to help them...but there is only so much I can do in an hour! That is why it is homework.
As frustrating as all this has been, I think my students are really making progress. They are learning a whole new approach to writing. I wouldn't say that they enjoy it yet, but I can see the wheels turning. They are starting to grasp the abstract concepts and creativity is flowing more naturally. Writing is a multifaceted tool that will carry them into adulthood--something very significant for youth coming from their backgrounds.
On the other hand, I am thoroughly confused as to why this has been so difficult. If they aren't learning English in school, then what is the foundation for all their other studies. Many of our students are behind upon entrance to our school. This is a testament to what they are learning in public school!
Don't get me wrong, I am a product of the public school system. I think it can be a wonderful asset if utilized properly. However, if the standard is to teach, test, and move on, how can we be sure our children are properly applying the skills they learn? Too many kids are being pushed through the system. Parents have to fight for their kids to learn. So what happens when the kids don't have parents who care? How will they become productive members of society if we don't teach them the skills they need to succeed? If we don't set an expectation for excellence, or mediocrity for that matter, then we can only expect the future leaders of our nation to fail! One of my seventh grade students didn't even know the difference between first and third person! When I told them they couldn't talk about themselves, they still used words like "I," "me," and "my" throughout the entire story!
We must expect more, or they will never become more. Although it has taken months of painstaking work, that same student can now form concise, cohesive, and even creative sentences with very little help. My students have become beautiful writers and beautiful photographers! I am so proud of them, but it took a lot of work. There were many rude and frustrated comments along the way, but if they can become successful in the workforce and in college, it is worth every moment. It would have never happened if I had given up on them. We cannot expect other people to do the work. So whether you are the parent, the teacher, or someone else entirely, be encouraged to make the extra effort by pushing your kids just a little further.