Saturday, November 10, 2007

Writing a Wrong

Friday's Boston Globe featured a story about how young revelers arrested after the Red Sox American League Championship Series victory over the Cleveland Indians are writing about their incarceration as part of their sentence.

"Of the 17 arrested that night and charged with disorderly conduct, seven people, most of them college students, were ordered by Roxbury District Court Judge Edward Redd to write a five-page essay about their arrests," the article states.

Redd's sentence is an example of the type of reflection we, as teachers, try to impart on our students. According to the story, "one student wrote that passing a night in jail made her feel 'reduced to a fraction of myself.' Another lamented that 'running down to Fenway Park in a craze is only asking for one thing and that is trouble.' "

As I've mentioned before, our school is currently in the process of implementing Writing Across the Curriculum. It seems only natural that it would extend to our school's "planning room," the place where students who can't behave in class are sent, usually for the remainder of the period.

I wonder what would happen if, as a component of students' punishment, they were required to write a reflective essay and share it with the teacher whose class they disrupted.


Redkudu said...

It's a thoughtful idea, and perhaps might work well to pass the time for people in prison - especially in this case. I thought some of the responses were certainly poignant and perhaps life-changing for those involved.

But I once asked a class of students with whom I'd grown very close, and established a rare level of candor with, why students tended to dislike reading and writing so much. One girl said something which has stuck in my mind ever since.

She said, "When our parents punish us, they send is to our rooms without TV, internet, or IPods. That leaves nothing to do but read. When the school punishes us, they make us write our reflections about what we did wrong. If a teacher gets mad at us, they make us stop the lesson and start answering questions from the book in written form. Every time we do something bad, we have to read and write."

All that aside, I do think your additional idea, that they should have to share their writing with the teacher, adds an extra dimension to this idea that might rescue it in the classroom disciplinary sense. If a student was allowed to read without interruption to a teacher, and the teacher might thoughtfully respond (either then, or better yet, in writing themselves), this might open a greater dialogue between the two. (Maybe even an ongion written dialogue.)

Certainly an idea to consider, and a thoughtworthy post. Thank you!

Mr. B-G said...

Thanks for the thoughtful reply redkudu. I find that when I have a problem or concern, silent reflection and writing aid in giving me insights to work toward a solution.

I think our students' lives are so structured, wired, and programmed that they rarely have time for pensive reflection - unless, of course, it is penciled into their schedules.

As for students not liking reading and writing, I've found that those who struggle with it dislike it, while those who are good really engage with the lessons I give them.

One of my current challenges as a teacher is reaching my reluctant readers and writers, and developing effective classroom strategies and lessons to give them opportunities to succeed.

I have a number of great instruction resources by educational leaders like Nancy Atwell and Jeffrey Wilhelm, but there is so little time to to keep up on current trends while planning and refining lessons and grading and tackling the bureaucratic responsibilities of the profession.

Teaching is incredibly engaging and rewarding, but there are too many demands on us to be able to do anything to the degree at which we might like.

I definitely have my share of successes and lessons I feel good about, but I would say that the majority of what I do could be done just a little bit better if I had a little more time or fewer students or less demands or one less prep or more time to collaborate with colleagues, etc.