December 1, 2009

Squeezing Good Writing Out of Them

Lately, my creative writing class has been wearing on my nerves. I thought I blogged about it, but I don't see the post. Basically, in the last few weeks, I've complained to my teacher friends, "What came first? Them being assholes, or me being a bitch?" Either way, what a warm fuzzy classroom environment! If sarcasm is a teddy bear, that is.

Last night, half the class was gone, including some of the students that I might be two inches away from hating, and I was a completely different teacher, and they also had a different tone.

Anyway, last night, I had a nice group of students (some of them are not really that nice, but their antagonistic buddies were gone), and I gave them a writing challenge to write a 6-sentence paragraph without repeating any words. I encouraged them to look in their writer's notebooks for topic ideas (finding a topic is always a struggle) and to brainstorm on the topic first so they would have a word bank (not an unusual concept to them, yet not one they don't necessarily subscribe to). Finally, I said, "The dictionaries are on the shelf. Does anyone want a thesaurus?" (I only have 4. They have to share.)

Hands shot up all over the classroom. I LOVE IT! These are the students I adore.

At the end of class, I gathered their paragraphs, which they verbally lamented about throughout the entire period, and I was so impressed by their creativity, ingenuity, and overall quality of writing. I was gushing about how good they were to the point where they started accusing me of doing drugs. Again. Weird behavior = substance abuse. They just don't get English teachers.

I don't know if it was because it was a "short" piece of writing, or because it looked like a puzzle--a challenge, that is, but I need to get some more of that going on! I can praise them all night long and into tomorrow when they can create such inspired pieces of writing. (Take my word for it, as I don't have any examples.) When they act like jerks and hand in things looks like my 3rd grade son wrote (and he doesn't like writing, either), I can't say complimentary things. Sure, I can bit my tongue against saying what I really think--sometimes.

But as my story goes, and has for the last 5 years in my time at this school, they are a fickle bunch. What they think is lame and what is cool changes constantly.

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