An Open Letter to My Students and Their Parents

By , April 9, 2017 2:21 pm

Years ago, in the span of two weeks, my grade 11 students would take notes for a 5-paragraph essay on Egypt or Mesopotamia and produce the actual essay, including a draft. These days, time has slowed to a crawl and I have tried to adapt; I’ve changed the essay to a paragraph, and scaffolded it to a major degree, with the opportunity for feedback on an outline via comments on google docs.

Sadly, despite these adaptations, I have received a surprisingly low number of outlines. Now that the “deadline” has passed, I think I have received  16 out of 27.

What has happened? Or more accurately, I think, where has students’ time gone?

In the past, students didn’t spend 4-5 hours per day on social media.

If we think these phones aren’t harming students’ productivity, we are deluding ourselves. If we think these phones aren’t harming students’ ability to write, we are lying to ourselves.

I am seriously concerned about some students’ ability to be productive on any job, including paid work.

Students need to take responsibility for their own learning, which is precisely why I have increased my use of “assessment as and for learning”, wherein I give feedback but not necessarily marks as practice for upcoming assignments (as per the requirements of the Ontario curriculum). This Egypt or Mesopotamia paragraph will eventually be the first body paragraph in the students’ culminating essay at the end of the semester. Why wouldn’t students jump at the opportunity to get it done early and receive feedback from the teacher? The Ontario curriculum is designed for students to practice their skills. I am providing that opportunity. The fact that some students don’t want to take it really concerns me. That’s why I say they have to take responsibility. I’ve created the conditions in which they have the opportunity. They just have to do it.

Ultimately, it may be that paragraphs and essays aren’t the most engaging types of assessments. I get that. But I feel that after my nearly 20 years of teaching I have a position from which to judge what they need to work on most. I’m really trying to get my students to think, first and foremost. But I also believe that expressing themselves, both in terms of detailed evidence and strong arguments, in a formal written manner, is crucial for their future.

It seems to me that the culture we live in does not promote responsibility. I will keep trying to go against this current.






Leave a Reply

Panorama Theme by Themocracy