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We don’t use corded telephones to make phone calls anymore. It wasn’t until I left academia and began writing for a living did I realize that the practice of writing academic essays is mostly useless.I need to make a clear distinction between essay writing and academic essay writing. And after three years of struggling, I stood staring at a pile of 10th-grade papers half as tall as it should have been, wondering why my kids refused to write.
When they pushed back, I repeated the same phrases like some half-dead, high priest muttering an ancient mantra: I’m speaking from experience. I wanted to monitor their progress over the quarter and provide help along the way. Nearly all my students started their essays in the last week before the due date with most starting the weekend or even the night before it was due.
I watched in real time as they struggled to pump out the words.
It wasn’t until later on that year when I started focusing more on alternatives to academic essay writing that I started seeing greater success with my students. State and district tests directly affect a teacher’s job security.
The few I had received only inspired a deeper feeling of failure with how far they missed the mark. Academic essays weren’t the only thing that pushed me out of the classroom and away from the kids, but they made up a significant chunk of it. Throngs of new teachers rush toward schools each year wanting to make a difference only to run away quickly. And you don’t need a study to point out that the lack of consistency is detrimental to student learning.
Most any form of writing on a topic is technically an essay.
This blog post is an essay; many vlogs are essays; even tweets can be essays.
These are the reasons why: I learned half-way through my career that the best way to grade essays was during one-on-one conferences with students. Unfortunately, I discovered the highpoint of absurdity in academic grading during my graduate English program. If essay writing brews so much disdain that students would risk academic dishonesty, jeopardizing their future careers, to pay total strangers to do it for them, then there’s a problem. These alternatives can be challenging to implement because they’re a bit riskier and require more effort on the teacher’s part, but they pay off because they inspire creativity and teach skills students can actually use. When we don’t talk (I mean really talk, as in exploring alternative ideas and concepts, throwing thoughts around, exposing them to the air outside our minds), we end up without the ability to engage in conversations.
I would call them individually to my desk and evaluate the essay there. Months of work and research would often result in a small paragraph of feedback that was pedestrian at best. Many of us showed up ready to grow and learn, but alas, not even full-blown academics enjoyed the process. The absurdity of students paying to take classes while also paying people to do their homework is ironic. Here are some alternatives: Sometimes it’s much better just to have a conversation. The result is that these conversations end up happening in a vacuum in people’s minds.
What I’m talking about in this post is academic essay writing.
I’m talking about the full-on, boring, dated, stuffy, no conversational tone, MLA/APA formatted essays topped with a bibliography or works cited if you can remember which one is which, the ones we all had hammered into us from high school through to college.