We are writing analytical paragraphs in class. I really have to sell them, as you might imagine. “You’ll need to know these for high school! DEFINITELY for college! Bust one of these things out in Social Studies and your teacher will freak out!” I don’t add, to really make them appealing, “And, wow, you’ll blow ’em out of the water on any standardized test you’ll take!” Maybe I should consider changing this particular approach to inspiring my students.
Look, thinking critically about anything is valuable, whether it is photosynthesis, the current political situation in Ukraine, or a movie about desegregating a football team (which is actually what my students are doing today, while I am home with my sick daughter). Writing about the rich, deep, complicated spectrums of life is a necessary life skill. I am not arguing about the importance of critical thinking and writing. But I also think about nurturing my writers in other ways. Those kids who process their lives through their words. I was like that, and back in junior high school and high school, all those essays about literature just about sunk my love for writing-and reading, for that matter. Granted, I could churn out essays and research papers for college, and I did greatly appreciate my teachers, then.
But other worlds exist for writers, and I want my students to know those worlds, too. How do you collect your thoughts into a story, a poem, a blog, a letter? How do you arrange your ideas so that they make us think and move us? Stories are important. Reflection is vital. When you are discovering other writers’ voices, it helps to know yourself and your own voice. Don’t we appreciate beautiful writing more, whether it is narrative or nonfiction, if we understand how difficult it is to craft this beautiful writing? Our understanding deepens if we have also attempted a short story, a poem, or an essay.
I am sweating through all of this analytical writing because I know how important it is. I am not going to totally swim against the current, and I fight to make these assignments relevant. Yesterday, watching my students try so hard and struggle, I told them, “Could you have done this assignment two months ago when we started?” The overwhelming response was, “No way!” They were seeing how far they had come.
A little perspective helps ease the pain, but I also want to honor the balance. I never want to give up my precious time with my writers. I’ll continue to weave in poems and stories and free writing to unlock our ideas. You see, I know that all my students are writers, and my job all year is to convince them, too.