Language & Composition

Mr. Eure | Brewster High School

Update: Q2 Enrichment

We are going to have a lengthy conversation about this midterm, and the refrain of that conversation will be succinctness and preparedness—the two traits at the heart of your performance, whether you demonstrated them or demonstrated a lack of them. The preface to that conversation is a response of sorts to the (thankfully) few of you who sought me out to complain that you did not have time to finish:

  • For Part 1: You had this article a week in advance. You had a half-dozen guides to rhetoric and style built on a semester’s worth of work, plus time in class to meet with me or your peers to prepare. Your annotations and notes on the article were required on the day of the exam.
  • For Part 2: You built your own prompt. You had time to outline your response before the exam. You had guides to the prompt and the response, plus a practice prompt we built collaboratively, plus access to me and your peers.

The only difficulty—and one emphasized in all our preparations—was compressing your thinking and outlining into two hours. But the synthesis essay requires only 40 minutes to write. That left 80 minutes for twelve questions on rhetoric and style—or between five and seven minutes each. The conclusion—one drawn for you in advance—is obvious: You had to be precise and fast. You had to be succinct. But most importantly, you were not expected to produce volumes. This was about quality over quantity, and you cannot blame the time frame of the exam for your struggles.

This is really a discussion about grades, and one I’ve raised before with a reference to an educator named Alfie Kohn. Grades are ineluctably tied to learning, at least for the moment, and that means we aren’t just talking about your reading of Sam Anderson or your ability to write a synthesis argument. We are talking about a number and how that number affects you. And I will tell you what I have always told you: Grades matter, but I will always give you control over what that number looks like.

So let’s talk briefly about enrichment and Q2 grades.

When you were given the opportunity to earn enrichment credit, the process was made clear: It’s a process, not a button you can press to get a treat. You are in a composition course; if you undertake the composition process outside of the course itself, I want to reward that. But it was always probable that the upperclassmen in charge of Ursus and the newspaper would need more than Q2 to get through your submissions. It was also possible that your work would be rejected or need such significant revision that you wouldn’t receive credit right away. Simply throwing old essays at me and then asking for bonus points ignores the point of the exercise, because it ignores the word “enrichment” at the heart of things.

I mention all this because you’ve been emailing me about enrichment. I understand the concern, and I understand why you’re asking now: The quarter ends in a week, the exam put a caustically bright spotlight on grades, and your vision is beginning to tunnel. Well, grades do matter—they matter so much, in fact, that we have no choice but to keep floating standards and ignoring Kohn.

All I ask is that those grades, when they are boosted or curved or enriched, somehow connect to real learning.

Here’s what that means: If you can write a response explaining what you submitted for enrichment and how it enriched your learning this quarter, I will give you credit that reflects your enrichment. If all you did was recycle an old essay, unchanged and unedited, you probably aren’t going to see more than a point or two added in, if that. What did you do to earn it, other than spend fifteen minutes delving into your writing portfolio during a period explicitly reserved for that? You’ll have to make do with the bonus points earned over the summer, the curves on many assignments, the many opportunities to revise, and the quarterly boost I always give. But if you did some honest, verifiable enrichment, let me know. Make the case.  I’ll give you what I can—only if you take the initiative.

This is due by Monday, January 28, and you must print the explanation. Take your time, be reflective, and unpack for me what you gained from the writing or revision experience.

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