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This is our third blog post from the staff.  Thank you Mr. Burns for sharing your thoughts. 

Frequently Asked Questions in English Class with Mr. Burns

Question: I’m doing well in most of my classes but English. I have always been a straight-A student and I have never failed. How can I improve my grade in your class?

Answer: I recently realized that learning how to write is much like playing professional football. While I do not follow sports regularly, I do know that Bill Belichick, coach of the New England Patriots, is much like a teacher, pushing his students to their highest levels of achievement. In order to achieve and excel during the game, the players must engage in many rounds of challenging practice to strengthen themselves and their skills. Each time, they adapt and hone their game plan depending on many variables, including the opposing team and the players on that team.

Learning how to write and improve your writing is no different. Think back to the first week of school when I asked, “Who are you as a writer?” The overwhelming majority of my students stated that writing was an academic area that they want to improve and gain higher levels of proficiency. More specifically, you want to write better thesis statements for analytical essays. You want to construct a series of paragraphs that are clearly developed and organized for argument writing. You want to focus on formal word choice. You want to be a better writer.

Any coach will tell you that this does not happen overnight and that this does not happen without practice and serious work and effort from the player. If you are not satisfied with your game on the field or the grade in English class, the conversation cannot be about the score of the game or the grades on Infinite Campus. If you talk about grades, you belong on the other team. I want you to talk to me about your writing and how to improve your skills as a writer.

How? Show me revised formative assignments. Research the writing tutorial links that are posted on Google Classroom or do your own research for remedial work or writing practice. Write and share extra essays so we can assess your growth and development before the next summative. Listen to the audio feedback that I have provided. Read through the rubric and comments that are attached to the documents. Reflect on the different stages in the writing process. Have someone read your writing to you or you read it to them. Self-assess your own work with a critical eye for higher order revision concerns and lower order issues. Practice. Practice. Practice!

How well you played football last year or two years ago is irrelevant to today on the field. Right now matters. Your moves and skills in this game matter. This practice matters.

If you only worry about having an “A” today and tomorrow, the writing will never improve. Focus your attention on the writing. Take the time to put in the practice to improve your writing. When the writing improves, the grade improves. If the players on the field do not practice before the game, they may not perform to their highest potential. If you do nothing with your writing except submit it and wait for the next essay to do, nothing will change, including your grade.

As your coach, I am pushing you to look at your areas of strength and areas that require improvement in writing. This is not work that can be done through multiple-choice reading quizzes or meaningless homework. The more you write (and read) in and out of class, the stronger you will become as a writer.

I’m not telling you it is going to be easy, but I am telling you that it is going to be worth it.
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