I love the kids that surprise. Like the skinny, big-eared, brown-skinned boy in the front row who didn't do his summer reading and thus has gotten off to a bad start. Every day in class, he's a friendly distraction - asking way too many silly questions, desperate for approval, carrying around a basketball because the kids haven't been issued lockers yet and practice is right after school, talking a bit too much for my tastes. I wouldn't have thought he would be the one to write a personal essay that nearly blew me away today. One with an actual voice, a rarity for a 9th grader. It was funny and detailed with imagery throughout.
Or the Little Miss Perfect, hands raised all the time like in the Reese Witherspoon scenes in Election, who wrote about her brother's death at age ten. How the person who guided her through it was only herself, because her parents had sunk into a pit of depression and ignored her, and how her drive to succeed is feuled by desire for her parents' affection. Or "Mary," who wrote an essay worthy of college freshmen, about being the only white girl in her school in middle school, and how someone named Jasmine made her stop feeling sorry for herself.
I skim way too much student writing. I have to with my student load. But these essays, I'm reading with a fine toothed comb. And a lot of them are good. And a few of them, well, I'm wondering how they got out of middle school, and it's amazing to me that they're in the same course. But that's what varied instruction is for.
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