Then the roadblocks appeared. Time is our greatest challenge. Despite my careful planning, the timing simply has not worked out well with our fall trip. Students have been stressed trying to get the darn thing composed. I have been stressed trying to cover my first trimester curriculum and get this first writing piece out of the way. In assigning this essay, I challenged my young writers to step up their game, but need to allow them to process what it is I'm asking them to do. That's taking time.
I wanted it to be done before we leave. Then one of my four classes needed more time with our grammar lesson, effectively eliminating the class time for composing the essay. I do not want it written outside of class, for a number of reasons. So, I decided for that particular class I would postpone the completion of the assignment. I could feel the stress lift. The exhalations in the room were palpable.
As I looked at the calendar to determine when to finish the essay, I realized that I needed to just let go of the calendaring. I'm postponing completion of this baby for a while. In the interim is a normed writing assessment that I cannot move. It will be interesting to see if the preparation for the essay is evident in the result of the normed assessment. I hope so. I reminded myself that as long as the students are writing, it doesn't matter which writing piece they are working on. There will be plenty of writing this year. There is no need for me to create a stressful situation when one need not exist.
And so, we'll wait. I suspect that the time for the essay to germinate will end up being a positive. As soon as I communicated that I was postponing the due date, I began getting messages of gratitude and thanks from my students. Sure, there are procrastinators. But by and large, they all want to do well, and were genuinely relieved to be able to do a better job down the road. One sweetheart admitted feeling stressed lately as always happens during this first "hump" of tests and assignments hitting close together. These youngsters aren't used to balancing the workload...yet. By the end of this year, they will be pros at it. As for me, I want to ENJOY my trip with them.
I'm glad I picked up on the signals my young writers were sending. Years ago, I would have plowed ahead and forced them to just finish at home. The results would likely have been disappointing. I'm also eager to have them reflect on what impact the delay had on their composition. This time, I think the lessons NOT on paper are more important than the ones that are. I'm relieved that I won't be spending my weekend grading essays. I told the students that I wanted them to enjoy their weekend. I'm glad I will enjoy mine as well, and will have a more unstressed frame of mind when I do eventually provide feedback on the hard work they have demonstrated. All in all a win-win, I'd say.