When I tell people that I teach high school seniors, they often respond by rolling their eyes or by telling me that they could never teach seventeen and eighteen year olds. I always laugh and state, “There the easiest group to teach because they already know everything!”
It’s a great line, but it is far from the truth. No, they don’t know everything, and few of them behave as if they do. In fact, it is fascinating to teach high school seniors who are about to step out into the “real world.” They are so inquisitive about what will happen next, and they usually realize that today is the last chance they have to prepare for that huge step into college.
Research papers are due Wednesday, and we spent part of the class period going around the circle so students could tell the topics for their papers. Students often mentioned a topic that was unclear, and I tried to help them clarify the focus of their papers. Other students selected topics that were too broad, and I encouraged them to narrow their focus so their papers would be more informative. Most students were appreciative of my help, and I have no doubt that they will take my advice and write better papers.
However, there is always at least one student who rejects suggestions. When I told one student today that her topic was too broad, she immediately challenged me and told me that she had already done the research and the topic was not too broad. I tried to gently explain to her how she could write a better paper by narrowing the topic to something more manageable for a short (4-5 page) research paper.
Much to my surprise, she rejected every suggestion I offered, and all I could do was smile and move on to the next student.
I wanted to caution her about the importance of listening to a teacher’s suggestions. I wanted to reminded her that after having taught and graded the research paper for almost twice as long as she has lived that maybe I might know a thing or two about research papers.
Instead, I smiled and moved on to the next student who was much more receptive to my ideas. After more than three decades in the classroom, I know that some students have to learn the hard way.
I just hope she learns before she turns in the final paper on Wednesday!