Since we’re early in our novel study, I asked my freshmen to work in their Trio Teams to find a line from ch. 4 that they found interesting or meaningful. When Team 5, the International Bureau of Brains (IBB = their first name initials put together), shared the line above, my classroom exploded with a discussion about how school lets them down. Some of the points were typical complaining teenager stuff (“I mean, why do we even have to learn math?”), but other points held a lot of weight.
In my state, only 79 percent of kids graduate and many of those who earn a diploma don’t go on to a four-year university, yet the focus of our writing has been on academic research and SAT-style rhetoric.
During the conversation, one student told us she just got a job at U-Swirl Frozen Yogurt but had no idea how to complete her W-2 tax form. “I didn’t even know what that was,” she told the class. “I had to keep calling my mom, asking her what to put in the boxes.”
Resumes, cover letters, and financial documents are a mystery to my kids. Adding to my concerns, Stanford University this week released a depressing study of 7,800 students (middle school through college) showing that 80 percent of them couldn’t tell the difference between valid and fake news stories. Seriously.
Now, I’m no Miss Caroline and all my students seem to be lice-free, but I’ve still had a few moments this semester when I’ve needed to just sink down into my chair and bury my head in my arms. I don’t have all of the answers for how to meet my students’ diverse needs, but two realizations came to me this week:
1. More than ever, I need to add relevancy to my lessons. I’m generally pretty good about hooking into pop culture or selling students on a lesson with a fun intro, but I also need to add more real-world writing tasks/skill-builders into my routine. What’ll that eventually look like? I have no idea, but it’s clear my kids need these tools.
2. My spring semester plans are going to change. I recently wrote about the time crunch I’m feeling on this new block schedule and one of my solutions was to set aside my 20Time experience this spring so I’d have enough time to fit in regular curriculum. Uh…scratch that. The conversation with my freshmen (and the robotic, going-through-the-motions work created by the majority of my sophomores and juniors) has convinced me that these students need the real-world 20Time experience more than they need me to squeeze in an extra novel or play. Calendars, prepare for a slashing.
So that’s where my head is this weekend. If you have any advice or resources to share for those real-world document lessons, please leave a comment or url below. I don’t know when I’m going to have time to build those tools, but I know it needs to happen.
Teach on, everyone!
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