I am drained. I am sitting by candle and fire light with a cup of tea to soothe my tired soul. It has been a long week, but I somehow feel a sense of accomplishment in just arriving at the weekend. I also feel a sense of failure as I relive challenging conversations and flounder with upcoming obstacles that make me feel a sense of dread.
So, what is soaking up my energy?
The newest development this year in my English teacher world is a change in SOL testing. Instead of students completing a single writing test, they now will write a portfolio piece each year in grades 9-11. This may sound simple enough. Maybe it is, and I possibly worry too much about my students passing it. After spending months trying to navigate this new set of expectations, I cannot help but wonder why we continue to test children this way. I worry they will continue to lose their creative expression.
Humor and Voice
I found a bit of humor and light when I had my students begin a “fun” piece of writing today, where they develop an annotated list of things that they do not want to accomplish or experience, a reverse bucket list. The things they come up with always make me laugh. Every year, a few kids point out that they never want to swim with sharks or they never want to become a teacher. Ouch. Others will write about never wanting to try raw, baby octopus or have their eyebrows pierced. All of these seem rather relatable on some level. One of the frustrations I have had in the past with this assignment is that kids do not want to actually work on their craft. Sometimes they miss the skill I am trying to teach with this particular assignment: voice.
What happened to our voices?
I have determined that my students frequently miss the point of exercising their voices because they want to just appease their audience (me) with an academic, formal text. I think they have lost their voices. Maybe we all have. Are we afraid to be honest? Are we afraid to stand up for what we believe? Are we afraid to be wrong or to be honest? Why is that?
How does technology influence our voice?
Technology and the constant pressure to multitask is making us inattentive. I think we are losing our grit and our ability to play around with what is in our own minds. We would rather see what someone else is doing by watching a video or by gazing at another headline or photo. Furthermore, writing is more self-conscious. We worry what others will think. The effect on our voices and what we say can be strained or even dishonest.
I must remember to practice my own as I continue to mentor and coach those around me.