The English Inquisition

“This ain’t English Class”

Posted in Uncategorized by Eric Yingling on March 15, 2010
     Though I was planning on sleeping late everyday and being lazy over spring break, I decided that my wallet would be happy with me if I worked during the past week. I let my old boss know that I would be available to substitute teach, and she told me that I would spend the next five days teaching a ninth grade physical science class. Though I wasn’t terribly thrilled with the grade level or subject, I decided to make the most of it and see if I would think about things differently after having had half a semester of education courses under my belt. By the end of the first period, something struck me that has been discussed in many of my classes: Writing across the curriculum. 

    My instructions for this class were to review material on Monday for an exam on Tuesday. The rest of the week I was able to introduce new material any way I wished. I took a look at the exam and decided that since the review was only going to take about 30 minutes, I would have the students take the rest of the period to do the critical thinking essays on the exam in pairs in order to get deeper into the material (they were not supposed to do these questions on the actual exam). Upon hearing that they needed to write out their answers, I heard one student say, “This ain’t English class.” After getting over the initial bad taste that enters my mouth when I hear young students use the word ‘ain’t’, I realized that some students really do see writing as something that should stay in the English classrooms. It also became apparent that by ninth grade, these students had not been introduced to much writing in a science classroom. After hearing their moans and groans, and telling them that doing the questions would help them on the exam, I had time to think about the implications of this. 

    Though the readings I have encountered in much of my current course work emphasize how important it is to develop student writing across all sections of the curriculum, it still does not happen in some schools. The use of writing forces students to understand ideas and put arguments together in their heads and then on paper. This level of thinking is advantageous to understanding material in all class settings, not just in an English classroom. I realize that implementing writing across the curriculum is easier said than done, but it should be happening on some level. With writing and communication being such needed skills in finding a job today, it is important that students not see writing as something limited to a 45 minute block during the school day. As for the student using the word ‘ain’t’…well I’m not (ain’t?) going to discuss that in this post! 



5 Responses

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  1. brm5004 said, on March 17, 2010 at 12:25 am

    I agree with you Eric, I was observing at my high school over break in a variety of English classes. I could not believe that students thought 10 pages a night was plenty to read. When the teacher assigned 23 for the next night they were about to have a heart attack. It is hard to get students motivated and actually WANT to read in English class. They really do just see it as a 45 min class. I don’t think they realize that they will be reading and writing the rest of their lives and not just in high school!!!! It is really frustrating…
    Anyway about what you did while you were subbing over break, I think that was great! You started doing what we have been discussing and actually got them to write across the curriculum a little. Good job!

  2. […] thinking essays, and encountered some resistance, which is also the title of his latest blog post “This Ain’t English Class.” His prior post was about self-efficacy, in which he considered how important it was to a reader to […]

  3. […] bit. Too many usernames/passwords!).  I have commented on a few blogs and have learned a lot from Eric’s blog and from Colin’s. They have discussed topics I am interested in and would like to learn more […]

  4. The Reflective Educator said, on April 7, 2010 at 10:44 pm

    Teaching over Spring Break – wow.

    • Eric Yingling said, on April 7, 2010 at 11:17 pm

      Hahahaha I know! Some spring break right!? Thanks for the comment on my post about firing bad teachers. I wasn’t trying to bash tenure. I was trying to generate some conversation about the issue of firing bad teachers. Some people think that is a solution, but no one can really define ‘bad’ as far as weeding out teachers. It’s quite a dilemma.

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