This article was originally posted in the print edition of The Bullis Bulldog
The most interesting piece of data that could be extrapolated from the survey was that students who took fewer Honors or AP classes, on average, said that they have more writing assignments compared to those students with more Honors or AP courses. Logically speaking, it should be the other way around, as those in the higher level courses should be held accountable for more work. As well, these same students, for the most part, answered that their writing has not dramatically improved over the course of their time at Bullis.
Also, I, as well as Mr. Kosegarten, thought that the responses would refer mainly to the English department, but instead, as the responses rolled in, it was obvious that writing at Bullis transcends English, and for many students, is just as integral to a language or history class. For instance, 31% students responded that they do more analytic writing in history rather than English.
33% of students believed that writing does not increase their knowledge of the subject matter. Over half of the participants said that they think that their writing has improved “ just a little” over their time at Bullis.
The quantity of writing is not the issue. Most students recorded that they spend 2-5 days, and 3-6 hours per week, writing for school (whether that is essays, short response answers, focus questions, or other writing related assignments). On average, these same students write 3-6 pages in a week’s span. Also, there are good resources available for us also; you can see a Bullis student tutor or Mr. Foster if you need an extra pair of eyes on a paper.
The writing quality and experience could be improved, however, if we were given more freedom with regard to assignments.
English teachers always say that literature is up for interpretation and some students would agree.
“It most enjoyable to write English papers because [I] can simply use the text to back up [my] thoughts about the novel” Sabrina Snowberger (‘16) said. “I prefer having these kinds of writings in English class rather than a research paper in a science class, for example, because I am able to express my own thoughts rather than simply stating facts.”
Yet teachers often tell us how to interpret it by giving us very specific ways to respond. For instance, If we were given a general topic, and given the freedom to choose what direction we took our writing on that topic, our success with writing would be much better. However, if that same teacher was to ask me to write a paper on, say, race relations in 1900s, I would not turn in my best product. If I am able to back up my thoughts with enough evidence, why can’t I write an essay on this topic that I care more about?
Also, grammar is missing from our English curriculum. The only time I have ever truly been taught grammar at Bullis was in seventh grade English and by now, I cannot even remember it. I can’t believe I am saying this, but grammar should be at the forefront of any English class taken at Bullis.
QianWen Li (‘19) also made a good suggestion. He said Bullis students should “write some short paragraphs when doing reading instead of those long essays when they finish reading the whole book.” This is good way to give students the opportunity to address specific topics the teacher wants and to address individual interests. This would be a good way to improve.
Sabrina Snowberger (‘16) also stated that “Bullis currently has a very good writing policy; however increasing frequency of in-class writings may be helpful to students to benefit them in the future”
Overall, writing is an area of improvement for Bullis and some of these points should be taken into consideration by not only English teachers, but all teachers. This way, we will be more successful when the college level paper comes down the pike.