I spent most of my day today grading cold writes for a DI lesson on Monday. I was able to look at probably 100 7th grade narrative essays on the prompt: tell about a time you solved a problem. Since the “thinking” part of the prompt had a picture of a bike, the most common problem solved by this group of students was changing the bike chain. I was surprised at how many young teens had actually done that! The next most popular topic was babysitting a small child. The students’ descriptions here were quite humorous; I wish I could have been a fly on the wall for some of them.
Then there were the ones that made me cry: the student who wasn’t sure how to give his sister her diabetes shot; the numerous essays that depicted these young people- children themselves- having to find food for their siblings so they could eat that day; the essay about the boy who was suffering from depression and the one being bullied and the one who didn’t know where his dad was.
Reading these essays always slaps me back into the reality that these students face every minute of every day. They remind me that these standardized tests are not necessarily the most important thing they have to deal with. I know I can’t solve most of their problems, but I can make their time here with me a little bit easier. And all it might take is a smile, an encouraging word, a hug.