The sweetest thing happened at the end of the school day today. I'm thinking we'll need a bit of backdrop for this story.
This is my fifth year teaching and advising 9th graders. I love this age because the kids are still silly children, just on the verge of growing up. Every year in the 9th grade we get a lot of new kids who have come from questionable middle schools. Questionable as in: children frequently throw food and other items at each other; no homework is assigned and/or completed; students can pass from one grade to the next while learning very little and producing almost no work. Suffice it to say that this is not the situation at my school. My school is tough and demands a lot of its students.
So, every year I get a group of kids who are simply furious that they are expected to stay after school three days a week to do their work. The first few months of school we fight and fight and fight. I demand they push themselves and they sulk and yell and tell me they'd rather be anywhere else. When they ask why I am so hard on them, I tell them that I love them. That I know they are capable and I'm excited to see them graduate and go to college in a few years. Wide eyes on their part.
This struggle continues through about January. Then you start to see the turnaround. I only know this because I've done it five times now.
And then there was today. One such girl had emailed me her essay yesterday. (Please note that before this year she had never written more than a couple consecutive paragraphs in her life--so turning in ANY essay is a big deal.) I print it out and observe that it is essentially a page of disorganized gobbledygook. So today I hand her essay to her and let her know she'll need to stay after school to revise it once more.
She's okay with this. (It's past January.)
By 4pm she's ready to show me her revised essay on the computer. She assures me that every sentence begins with a capital letter. (I know, I know.) And that every piece of evidence is followed by analysis. And it looks good. It really does. I am happy.
I say, "Okay, do you see the difference between this and what you turned in yesterday?" "Yes," she responds. "And do you know why I made you do it over?" Here I am expecting a response along the lines of how much better this version is, etc., etc.