Archive for August 19th, 2015

Mistaken identity

Or maybe I’m just wrong. My essay workshop met in two separate groups today, each for ninety minutes, and both groups were friendly, focused, followed directions, and got quite a lot done. Totally different energy.  Part of it might have been that I had rearranged the room into a more traditional rowlike arrangement; we’d been in a big circle the first day, which might have been a mistake, because they were all excited to see one another.  On the other hand, the counselors had talked at them in an auditorium for the first two hours of the day, so there might have been no way around the outbursts of energy and socializing when they got into smaller rooms.

Whatever the reason for the difference, I find that now I’m way more optimistic about teaching this grade again.  (I had about 35 of them last year as juniors, and will have roughly the same number as seniors–some repeats, some not.)

An essay concerning human understanding

I generally enjoy the few days of college essay workshops in August, though today the rising seniors were restless and goofy.  It’s a weird class, this one–it has a rep as being difficult, and the kids know it, unfortunately.  I’m thinking that part of the issue might be that this class seems unusually fractured into groups, and more cliquey than other grades I’ve taught.  SA is small enough that pretty much everyone knows everyone else, and that almost no one only belongs to one friendship/activity/affinity group.  The Snork Maiden, for example, has a few groups: one is a group of five more or less like-minded female friends who do things together and are friendly with a lot of people, but not social butterflies; she is also part of a theater group, girls and boys; and she has the band kids, within which she’s particularly tight with a sub-group of awesome nerdy boys with whom she’s been friends since sixth grade. She also has a good male friend in band–a bassist who’s not really friends with the awesome nerdy boys–and therefore is a part of his friendship group, which includes his girlfriend and some of her friends, who are second- or third-tier social butterflies in the junior and senior classes.  And she has another good male friend, the son of a staff member and therefore someone with whom she’s sometimes been thrown together, and she sometimes hangs out with his friends, though she’s more likely to see him one-on-one.  This kind of omnivorous friendship style is pretty typical at SA, although many kids would also have an athletic team context that provides another group of friends.

In this class, however–and I might be misreading it, because I am an adult and only have a limited understanding of their extremely complex social world–there does not seem to be so much mobility between groups.  The football and boys’ basketball teams are particularly packlike, and seem to hang together more than usual.  However, senior year does do weird things, and it may be that there will be some loosening of boundaries and more mixing of groups.  I think I may want to spend extra time with my senior classes at the outset, getting them to trust one another and connect.  I’m not quite sure what I will do, but today made me think it might be important.

I have been taking a little break from writing them short cheerful notes on their first drafts. The essays tend to be overly earnest and expansive at first, but they will get better.  Five more comments tonight and I’m done.