Obama and the 11th Grade

note: this is an edited version of a previous post.

A couple weeks ago, I assigned a 150-word essay to my 11th graders on their opinions of Barack Obama. Before they were sent off to write their reviews, we spent our class period going over a hand-out of the various promises he has made and how things were looking a year after he had assumed office. They also received a BBC article about his opponents and their most important complaints.

I’ve only received half of the essays back to date, but they offer a small glimpse at the level of my students’ English and the world in which I teach. These students represent by far my most advanced class.

One of my favourites of the the lot came from one girl, whom I had really never heard speak until this past week. Turns out her English is far better than I realised. Her essay provided a bit of amusement, though it was, minimally, quite comprehensible. Which is something!

I think Obama is a good President of USA because he has a good personality (on the TV) and he can talk/promise things very good…Obama is the first coloured President of the history and I’m also an asia and I respect him. He has a beautiful wife and their children are good too… he looks very healthy, because he always does sport aktivities and Bush doesn’t do that he was a weird idol. Everyone of the world like him, because he is a good. he doesn’t do bad things like Bush and he always smiles, that’s why everyone like him. If he is a vegetarian, I like him more, because Im a vegetarian.

There were plenty of legitimate points. Some discussed Guantanamo, Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell, Afghanistan, Iraq, and health reform, and pondered whether Obama could really be held responsible for his shortcomings. Two of the better written essays concluded:

In my opinion he shouldn’t have promised so much. The fact that is bugging me the most is that he promised things that he ain’t got no influence and power about. Maybe if we give him more time he will do his job and do what he promised.

In my opinion, Obama is not the “hero” which he is said to be. The hope of millions of people he couldn’t satsified. The conclusion is Obama is in trouble but his work is not bad.

While my job certainly frustrates me at times, it has its rewards. And this class is, on average, generally delightful. A few of them participate in discussion, and at times, they have even demonstrated active interest in me, which is refreshing. Their English might leave much to be desired, but for their purposes, I would generally call it sufficient. In all honesty, these students don’t need high levels of English competence. A bit of communicative abilities really more or less will suffice for them. They do their best, and when I keep the proper perspective, I am generally satisfied with their work.

Sure, the work isn’t perfect, but such is life. It pays the bills, after all. Just under three months remain, but even that is a bit misleading, as I am off five of those weeks and am probably leaving a week early. I will survive. And after that? Tomorrow never knows. Though, I have some sneaking suspicions.


7 thoughts on “Obama and the 11th Grade

  1. Two notes: 1) I love that marking pen. I used to have a couple like it. I miss having a stationery store where I could pick up things like that. 2) Where did your german student learn “ain’t”?

    So you’ll have to fill me in more on what academic adventures you have in store!

  2. Haha, you ask an excellent question, Kathy. I have no idea where “ain’t got no” came from. But it is fairly fantastic.

  3. Tomorrow never knows … ?

    On “Ain’t got no”: Perhaps she’s been listening to Hair (the musical) while you, milady, have been listening to the Beatles? :-p

    Look, obviously these essays leave a lot to be desired — linguistically, stylistically and substantively. But I’m not sure this would be any worse than your average essay from an American high school German class. And as someone who has had the pleasure of reading Oxford undergraduate essays, I can tell you that even at a so-called elite university kids say the darndest things.

  4. Seriously??? You have no room to complain! Your students’ work is comprehensible. Try Berliners, most of whom can’t even write German properly. I guarantee half of my students would have word-for-word copied something from the Internet, including words they obviously don’t know, and the teacher wouldn’t bat an eyelash. Also, I can’t believe you’re actually doing assignments and grading papers. My school had me sit in the room and basically do nothing while the teacher talked unless a question came up. Only one teacher ever really utilized me.

    Oddly enough, I kind of miss it.

  5. Well, on the other hand, Meghan, you were at least in Berlin… I would have taken worse students for that.

    But yeah, I do plan lessons for my classes. More or less, I completely run 10 of my 12 lessons I teach each week. 9 of those I do with more or less zero input from the regular teacher (the last one, the teacher usually asks me to cover something specific).

    I am more or less out of teaching ideas though. And still have a few months left…

  6. Good idea to put less. An ETA my year had her blog discovered by her school through simple Googling, and she had made fun of some of the teachers and students. I tried to stay away from commenting too much on the specifics of my teaching situation.

  7. Teaching has its great moments–and frustrating ones too–gives you a different perspective on the profession and like many things the more you put in, generally the more you get out of it!

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