The Keys to the Engaged Essay: Sharing and Caring (E-Prime version)

Read in regular English (sqrt(E)) right here.

Papers. Essays. Research Papers. Compositions. These act as an important part of any school education, but they lack something. Students almost unanimously hate essays, find them hard to work on and finish, and struggle to take them seriously except for the fact that they attach themselves to a large part of the student’s grade. The missing links here present themselves as sharing and caring.

The current essay-writing system looks like this: 1) Teacher assigns essay. 2) Student writes essay. 3) Teacher grades/comments on essay. And then what? You’re given an essay back with, let’s say, a “B-” on it. What do you do? Keep it in a folder? Frame it on your wall? Burn it? (Sometimes you find steps 6 and 7 which look like “Student revises essay” and “Teacher re-grades/re-comments on essay” respectively, but that doesn’t really change anything.) Because of this lack of completion of the essay-writing process, motivation to write a good essay solely depends on the reward/punishment feedback system of grades which, let me tell you, breaks down under a surprisingly small amount of intellectual pressure.

If we, taking more than a few pages from the Agile Learning process’ book, make the essay have inherent value it turns from an excuse for someone to either castigate you or pat you on the back into something much more powerful. Let’s say we implement a new system. Here’s how it works: 1) Teacher assigns essay. 2) Student writes essay. 3) Student and teacher work together to make the essay ready so that 4) Teacher and/or student shares essay in a relevant online community or another place where it would have value or use for others. Using this method, every essay-writer becomes accountable to other humans who value what the essay-writer has to say. The motivation problem becomes addressed, if not solved, and the system fosters the idea that children and teenagers can, and should, contribute in real ways to the larger community, an idea that conventional schools entirely disregard and even deny.

As an add-on to this system, students should write about things that they take a genuine interest in. The reader can hear the tone of the writer through the writing and it affects how much the reader engages while reading. The reader will enjoy a piece of writing as much as the writer enjoyed writing it. A good essay never comes from apathy. It stems from enthusiasm for the subject at hand. Students must care about what they write about for anything valuable to unfold.

Interested students writing and sharing useful pieces that have intrinsic value will create the best work possible and will learn the most.

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The Keys to the Engaged Essay: Sharing and Caring

Read in E-Prime right here.

Papers. Essays. Research Papers. Compositions. These are an important part of any school education, but there is something missing here. Essays are almost unanimously hated by students, hard to work on and finish, and hard to take seriously except for the fact that they are attached to a large part of the student’s grade. The missing links here are sharing and caring.

The current essay-writing system looks like this: 1) Teacher assigns essay. 2) Student writes essay. 3) Teacher grades/comments on essay. And then what? You’re given an essay back with, let’s say, a “B-” on it. What do you do? Keep it in a folder? Frame it on your wall? Burn it? (To be fair, sometimes there are steps 6 and 7 which are respectively “Student revises essay” and “Teacher re-grades/re-comments on essay” but that doesn’t really change anything.) Because of this lack of completion of the essay-writing process, motivation to write a good essay is solely dependent on the reward/punishment feedback system of grades which, let me tell you, breaks down under a surprisingly small amount of intellectual pressure.

If we, taking more than a few pages from the Agile Learning process’ book, make the essay have inherent value it turns from an excuse for someone to either castigate you or pat you on the back into something much more powerful. Let’s say we implement a new system. Here’s how it works: 1) Teacher assigns essay. 2) Student writes essay. 3) Student and teacher work together to make the essay ready so that 4) Teacher and/or student shares essay in a relevant online community or another place where it would be of value or of use to others. Using this method, every essay-writer becomes accountable to other humans who value what the essay-writer has to say. The motivation problem is addressed, if not solved, and the system fosters the idea that children and teenagers can, and should, contribute in real ways to the larger community which is an idea that conventional schools entirely disregard and even deny.

As an add-on to this system, students should be writing about things that they are genuinely interested in. The tone of the writer can be heard through the writing and it affects how much the reader is engaged while reading. The reader will enjoy a piece of writing as much as the writer enjoyed writing it. A good essay never comes from apathy. It stems from enthusiasm for the subject at hand. Students must care about what they are writing about for anything valuable to unfold.

Interested students writing and sharing useful pieces that have intrinsic value will create the best work possible and will learn the most.

Pros and Cons of Homeschooling/Agile Learning

Now that I’ve been homeschooling/Agile Learning for over half a year, here are some of the pros and cons of the whole thing.

PROS:
Learning what you are interested in
When I homeschool, there are things that others say I have to learn, but for the most part, I get to decide. Because I can learn what I are interested in, my enthusiasm goes up, and I much learn better.
Learning at your own pace
A huge part of the value of homeschooling is that one are able to learn at one’s own pace. I am fast at some subjects, and I can speed ahead without worrying about having to wait for my slower classmates (they don’t exist anymore). When I am slow at other subjects, I can pour extra time on it however I want in order to get it done.
No travel to school
Last year, I spent an average of 1.9 hours each day just traveling to and from school. I spent around 14.25 days of my life each year on the bus. This year: 0.0. The nuisance and wasted time of bus rides, etc. is gone.
Customized schedule
Work better at 5 o’ clock in the morning, or at 8 at night? Need to sleep in in the mornings? Your schedule can be completely customized to your needs and how you like to do things.
CONS:
Social life
For me, homeschooling has not promoted any kind of social life. It is more difficult to make friends when I don’t have constant exposure to other people my age. This can be nice, I don’t have to deal with annoying/mean/immature people, but I also don’t get to hang out with as many with cool/nice/interesting people.
Frustration of doing things by myself
Teachers are one of the many things that you don’t realize are valuable until you don’t have them. It is a great privilege to have someone super-knowledgable to help you when you don’t understand something. Teaching yourself can get very frustrating. It’s a little bit of a paradox: you need to know stuff to teach yourself stuff, but you also need to teach yourself to know stuff.
Self regulation
Self regulation is a difficult part of homeschooling. Sometimes I think that I have not done enough on something, and then I over do it, putting too much effort into a thing with little or no consequence, and sometimes I don’t put enough effort into something when I underestimate its importance.
So those were some of the pros and cons of homeschooling/Agile Learning. I definitely like it more than my last years of “regular” school, but it has its tough bits.