I sense there is an ever-growing segment of young people, mostly male, who are unable to compile a written response to the simplest of essay questions. After growing tired and confused as to why they would choose to not answer a test question, I decided it was time to inquire as to why "John" was finding it hard to pen a few lines. In a polite manner I asked what he knew about the subject in general. His mind was in lock-down mode and he was having difficulty laying it before me...so I supplied him with a 2-3 clue words to cue his thoughts. John proceeded to rattle off everything he knew about the subject, nailing the original essay question in a way which surprised both me and himself.
"Why did you find this specific question so difficult to answer on today's test?" John told me he knew all the information, but didn't know that this is what I was looking for, nor did he know how to get it out of his brain. While there are some educators who would simply accept an unanswered essay question, I am becoming rather insistent in finding out what my students know and why they are willing to bail ship by accepting their lackluster performance. In the real world, employers won't consider any job application that contains blank space in an area which is designated for thoughtful response. Are schools so forgiving to accept this behavior?
I am exploring new ways in my classroom to change this behavior while still retaining their trust and buy-in to my teaching style. There is a segment of students who dislike writing assignments and often ignore them altogether in hopes that they'll simply go away. They accept failure as routine and normal. My grandmother had a saying that the hardest nut to crack often had the tastiest meat to enjoy. The same holds true to a small segment of students who are often considered hopeless- the knowledge is there, you just have to crack through the barrier. There's a wonderful world of intelligent thought waiting to be revealed!