Stupid Essays

Hi. I’m Julie, and I just wrote a stupid essay.

I’m embarassed. Ashamed, even. And not about using the S-word. ((My first year elementary students stunned me by sharing that so-and-so said the S-WORD! I was shocked…. thinking about the ‘real’ S-word, not stupid. Or shut-up… but I digress.))

It was between 200 and 800 words. Answered the prompt. Correct grammar. Punctuation in all the right spots. Appropriate paragraph structure.

My husband’s feedback? “It’s very formulaic.”

And yet, that’s what I was asked to give- a writing sample with correct spelling, punctuation, paragraph structure, and grammar.

The whole time I was writing to this prompt, I was screaming internally, “Why? How does this help you know me? How will you know from these 349 words that I am prepared to succeed in grad school? “.  Honestly, my essay fit all the requirements but had no real passion or true voice because I did not feel that I had any agency.

How often do our students feel this internal frustration and lack of agency? Are we willing to make the changes that an honest answer to that question requires?

The sad part of this story is that I taught this essay structure to my students last semester, in the firmly held belief that this is important and necessary. To some degree, it is. It’s the standard go-to staple for all levels of standardized testing, from state tests to AP tests to grad school entrance exams. I wish that we would find a more authentic measure of writing than a typical essay question. I’m guessing that whoever grades my piece will have rubric handy to tag my essay with an appropriate number. (Flashbacks to my two-day stint as a standardized test evaluator…)

Creative Commons License photo credit: Darwin Bell

2 thoughts on “Stupid Essays”

  1. I think both left and right brain writing activities can “live together in perfect harmony” without any serious loss on either side providing they don’t try working too much at the same time.

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