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.

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Pym Fan on August 19, 2015 at 4:10 pm

    It’s amazing, isn’t it, that a high school class as a whole can have a character? At my 30-year high school reunion, which most of my (small) class attended, I talked to a woman from a class two years ahead of mine who said that her own class wasn’t cohesive like that at all, that most of them hadn’t kept in touch, and that few had come to their 30-year reunion. I had never thought of my high school class as particularly chummy before (maybe because I didn’t belong to any of its major subgroups), but I realized then that as a whole class, we did have a relatively friendly “personality,” and that the different classes (as I remembered them) really did have different atmospheres or characters or something. Interesting.


    • Posted by meansomething on August 19, 2015 at 11:43 pm

      They do indeed have characters! Just like a workplace or a house of worship or an academic department or whatever else. I just worry about oversimplifying what’s obviously a pretty complex situation. How nice that your high school class turns out to have been so chummy!


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