I spent all weekend grading essays. They weren't good essays, in any sense of the word, which made it all the more painful to spend my weekend on it. While grading them, I vacillated between hopelessness, despair, frustration, and annoyance. I blamed the kids for their shockingly bad writing skills. I blamed myself for failing to teach them how to write. And then, I started to scribble some things down.
I don't know where to draw the line between holding the kids accountable for their own learning, and allowing them some degree of leniency for things like high mobility rates, language skills, and cultural obstacles. On the one hand, they need to be pushed, they need to be challenged, and they need to learn to take responsibility for themselves and fight as underdogs on a playing field that isn't fair. On the other hand, is it fair to hold these kids to the same level of accountability as upper class kids if the challenges they face are greater than others?
I am struggling with where this line is. I have expectations, but are they high enough? And on the other hand, if I set expectations that are too high, I take away all motivation to reach for those goals. Am I crippling my students or enabling them? Am I actually teaching them any skills at all or am I just reveling in the sound of my own voice and merely assuming they are picking up skills?
I don't know how to make my kids better writers, except to practice even more, and next year start this process even earlier. And of course, that means that much less time to devote to content, which is the whole reason I love teaching history.
I don't know what any of the answers are or who to ask to get them, so until someone comes along with the answer, I'll just keep plowing through, doing the best I can, every single day, and hopefully that will help some of my kids a little bit.