The Blackboard Jungle

days spent beating back the seeds of doubt

Monday, November 29, 2004

Another day, another day, another day, yet another after school class.

Tonight, I worked closely with Stacy, Sharn, and Anil to improve their woeful grade E essays on Frankenstein to the degree that they appeared to have taken a crash course in Romanticist Authors.

Students are usually deeply grateful for the time taken to give them such personalised attention. In a school of class sizes of 32 or more, it's not often that they receive twenty minutes concentrated assistance in writing at any level.

The most difficult part of the session turned out to be encouraging students to improve their vocabulary and express their words in a more concise fashion. If I underlined an unwieldy sentence, offered suggestions for how it could be rewritten, or dashed out an example, then asked Stacy to rewrite the line in fewer words herself, she simply was not able.

I suggested to Stacy that her difficulties with articulating complex ideas in more concise language probably indicated one thing: that she had not been reading in the past two or three years.

Stacy blushed, and agreed. Then stopped herself. She had read two books. In two months, as well.

Really? That's more like it, I tried to reassure her, asking her to go one further and make sure she asked for some fiction for Christmas.

Yes, miss. One of them was called 'Lessons in LoveLorn ...' erm, something. By someone. And the other, I can't remember.

I sigh and prepare a list of suitable authors to move onto in Stacy's christmas break reading list.
Inwardly I curse the government initiatives of the previous five years that prioritise decontextualised grammar exercises and actively discourage reading entire texts more than one time per academic year.