As a teacher of Language Arts, one of the most difficult aspects is reading all the essays I have vigorously assigned. Usually it is the same topic and after reading a third of the work, I start skimming. At the end of the year, after reaching the point of I couldn't read another essay if my life depended on it, I've even hired a former English teacher to edit the essays.
But...this time it's different. After traveling with our 51 students and sharing 12 days of experiences with them, and having assigned an essay, I've relished their thoughts--even re-read some of the best writing. This is a first. Within this new experience lies the secret to savoring student writing.
The problem may have been asking students to interpret an idea, a piece of literature, a historical time, in the same way, or having not given them the needed variety of options in their writing.
With the travel essays from Greece and Italy, I am seeing how different their experiences were. They were asked to write on any aspect of the trip and to not just write a travel report, but to write an essay--find a theme, a truth within their experience and expound on that experience.
I've been astounded and not so astounded--but touched, or moved to smile, or feel admiration for their insights. I've pulled some of the best from all 51 essays:
* Have you ever seen a painting that was so beautiful that you started to cry?
*I felt like it was possible to do something as great as them (the artists).
*All these experiences and realizations during these twelve days helped me change my outlook on life.
*Seeing these current events has made me question if I will do my part to help people in the world who are struggling or will I sit back and watch history write itself and me not be one of its authors.
* Delphi...inspired me to get a closer relationship with my God.
*ONe of the bigger questions I had while in the Pantheon,...was what does my favorite really mean?
*Sacredness is what makes life valuable.
*...those fleeing from Syria with papers and without papers had the same desperation and dire need for a new home. I didn't see a cut and dry difference of legality, I saw a difference of lucky and not so lucky.
*(The parthenon)...wasn't in the best shape in the world, but I wouldn't be either if I'd existed for 2000 years
*The ultimate goal in life is to create something that time cannot degrade."
*Gazing at the earth, man was inspired to not only survive, but to live, to create, to explore, and to discover."
*I drown myself in pleasure, excuses, idleness and sin while the world suffers or abuses others through their pride.
*The purpose of these museums and tours...is so we can acknowledge what's in front of us, undrstand the process of how it came to be, realize the difficulties and appreciate the accomplishments.
*Going into the Vatican was like walking into heaven for artwork.
*I wish I had kept a better journal.
* ...when I stared up in amazement at the magnificent colosseum in Rome, I pondered, "Will I be great? Will I also be timeless? Will I be remembered like the great men of old who built these walls and raised these great cities?
*Greatness is the fruit of perseverance.
*We can be the Michelangelos of our day.
*Funding winterim on my own has been and will be a challenging journey. But the elevated perspective on life, history, food, people, buildings, different cultures-and most of all myself-makes the toil of the ascent worth it.
*I'm not a leather girl, but they had some cool stuff.
*At all the other places we went to, I took pictures, but then took time to enjoy it with my own eyes.
*If we are lazy in our dressing, something that we wear as a second layer of skin, then what else are we giving up on?
*As we moved through Italy, in and out of museums, and then onto the streets, I realized that everything we do is a channel for the infinity of human potential (This is a quote from a ninth grader--yes it is!)
*David was man-made. Then I felt big though I had not reason to, and in the most presumptuous way, I felt the possibility of being significant.
The 8-10 page research paper is our next assignment and before this discovery, I was shaking in my boots at the prospect of all that writing, reading, and editing. But because they will choose their topics of research with in a very broad spectrum, I'm looking forward to their finds.
There's always a better way.