Every other Monday, my students write an essay in class to prepare for the AP test in May. Their homework is to type their essay on Google Docs before 11 p.m. so that their writing mentor and I can review it on Tuesday morning.
Usually, everything is quiet until about 9 p.m. Then the first text comes in. I tell my students that I don’t accept excuses but do appreciate knowing what’s going on. What’s even worse than a late essay, after all, is a late essay with no communicated reason. (That’s super bad.)
Here are the texts I received tonight:
- Three students seeking online help on their essays. They had trouble figuring out Charlotte Bronte’s language in the Jane Eyre passage. I love working with students on Google Docs, switching back and forth from chatting to making comments on their essays. They seem to like it, too.
- One student complaining that her Internet connection is intermittent again. AT & T says it’s something outside but has been unable to fix it. My student’s mom and I have been calling for three weeks. No solution yet.
- One student asking for an extension until midnight because her job changed her hours today. Sure, not a problem, I write back.
- One student telling me she’ll have to finish the essay tomorrow morning because she left her house after having a huge argument with her mom about college. The student wants to go to Los Angeles; the mom wants her to stick around. Her mom will come around, I write. Don’t worry.
- One student informing me that he might be late on his essay because he was absent from school today to take care of his mother, who is ill. I tell him I hope his mom feels better and that his essay absolutely needs to be ready before morning, even though he wasn’t at school.
The bad news: Several students are still having trouble meeting the Monday night deadline, even though this is the fifth time we’ve done it.
The good news: They’re communicating with me. They’re telling me their stories. And they’re not lying.
Sure, I’d prefer if my students all had working Internet, didn’t have to worry about working 20+ hours a week, could apply to college without having to deal with parental interference, and didn’t feel like they had to skip school to take care of their mom.
But even though we didn’t achieve 100 percent on-time turn-in tonight, I do feel we achieved something else perhaps as important: that this class is a priority in my students’ minds, that they value our work together, that they want to do well, that they believe in the process of brilliance-making.