The essays aren't bad. Most of them really are not. We've been writing essays all year. The kids have gotten increasingly better, or at least I think they have.
That's what I feel like when I read my students' essays. They feel like little kids, trying to talk in big kid voices. They're doing it, kind of, but there are still lots of approximations. They use language like, according to the text or the text states, or as readers can clearly see, but they don't use the language exactly right. They say things like, "On paragraph 4" instead of "in paragraph 4." They cite evidence, and then explain it in exactly the same words. Or they cite the perfect evidence and forget to explain it. Or they gum up the quotation marks. Today, one of my pretty strong writers used colons, instead of commas, to offset quotations. And I have no idea where that came from.
Usually, I'm a teacher who can honor and celebrate approximations. I delight in kids' mistakes, because that shows me they are noticing things and trying them, and growing. But we are six instructional days from our state's test, and I'm having trouble celebrating their approximations and their errors. All I can think about is who will be proficient. And what I should do about the kids who are usually pretty good writers, but didn't write well on this particular assignment. And what will make the biggest difference for the next five days. And whether my students can write fast enough to read three articles and write an essay in one session.
I'm not feeling like a very good writing teacher tonight. And I keep thinking about those little kids, dressed in big kids' clothes.