A space to reflect on my readings and musings, scattered and rescattered


Regents--the DJ Pep Talk

The Day of the English Language Arts Regents

On Tuesday morning, I grabbed hold of all of the 12th graders I saw entering my school building and flung my arms around their stiff bodies. Then I pulled back, still clinging to them, looked each one in the eye individually and said something like, "You can do this. I know your work. If you just do your best, you're going to pass this thing. There is no doubt in my mind. You're gonna be fine, just stick with it." I was fighting back tears and anger, trying to demonstrate only the hope and love in me. As I looked at their anxious faces, all the beautiful papers and projects they'd written for my class turned pages in my mind--proof of my words. I repeated, "I've seen your work. I know you can do this." I believe in my students. I believe that they're smart and capable and can pass this exam. But I also don't believe that their getting a diploma on June 26 should depend on the first draft of an essay undoubtedly on a topic they could care less about. In short, I think the test is a sham. I think they can do it, but only if they're in the right emotional space.

After the hallway hug attack, I dragged all four of them into Room 709 and gave a fierce but sincere pep talk. It went something like this: "Take it slow. You have plenty of time. Write as much as you can. The more words you get on the page, the more we have to work with when we grade these. If you skip anything, I'm personally gonna come find you and take it up with you. You can do it. Just write complete answers and do you best. I know what you can do. There is no doubt in my mind that you can all pass. No doubt." Followed by more hugs.

Then we all marched upstairs to the testing room. Inside I found more of "my" 12th graders and a couple of 11th graders to hug and then I decided to try out my speech on the large scale. About 15 more kids got the DJ pep talk. "Okay, listen up. You need to know this. Write a lot. Answer thoroughly. Take your time. The English test is an endurance test. It's like running a marathon: finish the race. If you skip an essay question, it will be very hard for you to pass. No matter what you write, I can usually give you 2-3 points and that could make all difference. Write as much as you can. Do you best. And if you don't write enough, Mr. R is going to hand it back to you and make you write more." Mr. R nodded in agreement. And then I walked them through the various parts of the exam, giving a quick tip on how to conquer each one. In closing, I said, "What's the most important thing I've told you?" One person responded, "Write a lot?" Yep, even if you're uncertain. It won't hurt.

I popped my head in an hour later to give encouraging hugs and back rubs. Kids looked up, moaned, shook their tired hands, stretched, "Deeeejaaaaaay, this sucks" and one pulled me over and innocently asked, "DJ, do you think I wrote enough for this one?" I nodded, smiled, "Yes and keep going. You got this."


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