In my 7th grade English Writing class, students are currently writing persuasive papers. Of course, this is right up their alley because they love to argue, debate, and whine. They're experts at getting what they want because they catch us adults when we're tired, and they wear us down with their begging, whining and puppy-dog eyes. We say "yes" just to silence them. So, this is a lesson that students are fully engaged in. The lesson in convincing an audience to do something that they feel is important will always be the ideal assigment. They've learned all about making a claim, taking a stance, different persuasive techniques like logos, pathos, ethos, and kairos as well as counter arguments and call to actions.
One student tried to use bribery in his paper. That's when I had to go BACK over the rules; no bribing, no begging, no whining, and no name bashing. Play fair and stick to the persuasive strategies taught in class (please!).
After I modeled how to approach the persuasive writing process, I consulted with each student throughout this process. I was amazed at how many future negotiators, debaters, lawyers, and mediators that I have in my class. This is the most talkative on an academic level that they've been all year. What bright futures they have! My scholars had many requests. Just to name a few: longer lunches, less homework, fresh air after lunch, power naps throughout the school day, to be able to wear their hoodies, to get rid of grades, shorter school days, better food for lunch, to get paid for their grades, no standardized tests, and just basically to be heard and respected. When I thought about it, it made sense. I mean, they're at school more than they're at their own home. They want to be comfortable and feel like home in their learning environment.
Honestly, what my students were requesting kinda sounded like something from a Finland school system. And we all know that places like Finland and Switzerland have some of the best, most nontraditional school systems in the world. They start school around 9 A.M. and are done by noon or one. That's no more than 3 to 4 hours of instruction a day. Finnish lunches are healthy, warm, and tasty, plus free of charge to all pupils since 1943. No homework. No standardized tests. At the most, students get 2 report cards throughout the entire year, and their grading systems involves the numbers 1 - 4 instead of A's, B's, and C's . Also, after graduating, these Finnish students are some of the smartest, most calm, and well-rounded people in the world. Maybe our students are on to something. Maybe they know something that we don't. They know what they want, and what they want makes sense.
I wanted to share these essays with our principals just to demonstrate that our students put thought into what they feel is important and maybe it'll make for some good summer reading. So, we altered the essays and turned them into persuasive letters to our principal instead of persuasive essays to me. They became very excited when I told them that the principal would be getting the letters. Because my students had an audience other than me, they put even more effort in making sure that their persuasive papers were engaging.
We're getting close to the end of the school year, and with that, I'm realizing how much my learners have grown and matured. They're critical thinking skills have improved, and most have become 'real' authors. So, what do they really want from educators and the school system? What I gathered from this persuasive lesson is that our students want flexibility, comfort, and quality instruction and food while at school, and and occasionally some outdoor time. I don't think that they're asking for too much because they deserve the best. And hopefully, things will slowly change, and they can have exactly what they want and deserve.
Proud to be a teacher!