Jobs. Some jobs are amazing, some are tedious. Some are amazingly tedious. Jobs are something we have all of our lives, from the task of clearing our own place from the table through the career or careers we use to fill our time as adults.We can always hope that the job we have is one we enjoy, one we aspired to, one that is fulfilling. In order to achieve that goal, there is the need to do well in school so that there are options for success. A time spent exploring interests might be a good idea as well, but not everyone has that luxury. I did get that chance–I lived in a few different parts of the country, I explored different colleges, universities, and majors, and had a chance to work in a variety of fields while I gained my more traditional education. I can now claim experience in baking, running restaurants and resorts, administrative assistantship, selling golf putters over the phone, background checks, tutoring, substitute teaching, conducting student orchestras, and (of course) teaching. There are aspects of each of these jobs that I found fulfilling and aspects that were less enjoyable. Some I have dreams of revisiting one day. We’ll see what happens.
In any case, waxing eloquent about jobs is prompted by an inadvertently profound studentism: “Thousands of people get jobs they hate and end up quieting.” This student claims that people, rather than quitting hated jobs, merely become quiet. I find this observation to be all too true. Think about it. I don’t know very many people who will voluntarily give up a job and a steady paycheck if they have one. Even if they are miserable, they stay quietly where they are, in order to support their lives and families. What a miserable concept.
On a related note, and one which often causes teachers to quiet, another student once wrote, “Almost half the students don’t do anything from the hours 8 AM to 3 PM.” Speak of profound observations. It is this problem that perhaps causes unsatisfactory jobs and people quieting later in life. If the students would learn and apply themselves between 8 and 3, maybe we’d all be more successful. Work ethic, anyone? Maybe we should reform everything. Just don’t ask me how; I haven’t figured it out yet.
“The first time I heard that sixflags was an adventure park I thought that it wasn’t going to be exited.” Well goodness. There are enough things wrong with that sentence I’m not sure where I should start. Capitalization of proper nouns? Content? Spelling? Pronoun-verb agreement? Some of that is boring (though necessary). The rest is what moves it from the realm of badly-written sentence to studentism.
Specifically, I am focusing on “it wasn’t going to be exited.” I know this student meant to write that it wasn’t going to be exciting. Really, now? First off, what high school freshman, writing near the beginning of the school year, is already so bored with life that their end-of-middle-school trip to Six Flags isn’t going to be exciting? What have they done in their life? Seriously? Mayhap this is why I have such trouble keeping their attention in the classroom.
But the real issue is this: The amusement park “wasn’t […] to be exited.” Holy Shades of Halloween Horror Specials, Batman! The amusement park that you can’t leave. Do they keep packing more and more people through the front gates like commuters onto a Japanese Bullet Train? Sorry. That was probably a misinformed generalisation, but it served its purpose. Or perhaps it is such a labyrinthine mess that once you’re in, you’ll never find your way out, despite pebbles, breadcrumbs, or golden threads. You’ll just be there, forever, until your teeth rot from amusement park food–or conversely, you starve to death because you can’t afford the outrageously expensive food any longer and there’s no way to make more money where you are.
Goodness. The scenario is getting worse by the moment. Do students know what they do to their poor teachers? All of these thoughts from an error-ridden sentence. Had I known even one teacher went places like this in their head from student writing, I would have ensured they had more to play with. Maybe that’s just me. Anyone else?
The persuasive essay is an interesting conundrum. I appreciate the idea that we ought to teach people methods of persuasion, and that they need to know how to judge an argument’s reliability. I even have simplified methods of helping students distinguish between pathos, ethos, and logos arguments. Then I try to convince them of the efficacy of a good counterargument, and finally they choose their topic to write an essay. Of course an essay! Without them, I wouldn’t have as much great material to write about. However, the essays in English class always seem so contrived. “Choose a controversial topic and write an essay arguing one side. Do not choose [terrible topic a, b, or c].”
But Miss BB, I can write about that! It will be good, I promise.
It never is. All of their arguments are emotional, or so misinformed it makes a teacher want to weep. It’s not my favorite essay to teach, but it does provide some excellent studentisms.
I chose to write about this particular studentism today because it seems timely. There will, I think, always be a number of things that are political hot-button issues; guns will probably remain on that list for some time. I have read quite a few essays touting the need for gun control, and quite a few arguing that guns are good to have around. As with any good persuasive argument, there must be a variety of reasons supporting the thesis. This student supports the argument that guns are good with a particularly convincing argument: “Guns are necessary because they are for self defense against strange people.”
What an interesting concept. We should defend ourselves against strange people. It does beg a question or two. Thousand. I’m not sure any of the questions actually have answers. Indeed, I’m uncertain I should speculate too deeply on that one; I might come to some socially or morally incorrect conclusions.
So what does a teacher do when faced with such a statement? It really depends on her mood. In this case, I laughed and added it to my studentism list. Should I have tried to correct the student? Probably, but there is that irrefutable logic inherent in the statement, and I just couldn’t bring myself to correct it with a straight face. Does that make me one of the strange people against whom we should all be defended?
Learning. It’s something we all do, and I hope I never choose to stop. For teachers, learning is our livelihood, our calling. In one sense, we learn anew each day that we can inspire hope and dreams. In another, we learn continuously how much work there is to be done. Some students arrive in our classrooms woefully unprepared not only for what we are teaching, but for many other aspects of life. Do we teach our subject matter, or responsibility? At the end of the day, which is more important?
Our leaders have realised that the educational system is broken, but their attempts to fix it appear to have gone awry. This often leaves the teachers feeling bitter, overwhelmed, and helpless as they watch students raised to the almighty test try (or not try) year after year to reach “proficiency” and wonder how this will really prepare our kids for life after high school. Life isn’t about multiple choice “bubble tests.” We should certainly aspire for more than mere proficiency! Yet that is the accepted measure of our success as educators.
It means we steal moments of time from the proscribed course of study to teach life, which many of our students have experienced only via a screen. They stare blankly, wishing the “commercial” would end so they can get on with what they’re forced to do. Some are forced to wait for the rest of the students to catch up while others are forced to attend school at all. It’s an interesting mix.
However! This blog is not about that. This blog is about the comic relief frequently found from those same students. I call them studentisms: typos, wrong usage, dangling modifiers, malapropisms, and anything that gives amusement while grading papers. After having collected them for a time, I pulled a phrase from a persuasive essay. I no longer recall what the essay was trying to argue, but the phrase reads, “all of their innocent killings.” The clouds parted; the angels sang. I had a title for my collection! It has morphed into “Our Innocent Killings” because no one is perfect, and we all kill the language at some point. I do hope you enjoy the journey with me.