They said they were all so busy writing Statements of Purpose/Letters of Intent for graduate schools they were applying to and that they were spending all night filling out applications and writing letters.
Normally, I deploy a tried-and-true lecture/guilt trip to my students about how I did graduate coursework while I was teaching while my wife had just given birth to a baby while I was totally burned out and exhausted while I had to study for a teacher certification test to get my ESL endorsement AND while I was applying for jobs worrying if I would be able to feed my family! "We all have responsibilities outside of this class" and blah blah blah.
But I took a different route and got off my high-horse and said, "Well, a letter of intent is no different than a persuasive essay--probably one of the more high stakes persuasive essays you'll ever have to write! Forget about this other essay. We're writing statements of purpose!"
"What do we do?"
"Print off your statements of purpose and bring them to class tomorrow. We're going to read them and make them better."
I left class that day feeling a little uneasy. What if I've just called their bluff and then they don't do this assignment either? Should I plan a backup lesson? But somehow, something felt right, almost like Harry drinking that vial of Felix Felicis. The next day, every student brought in an essay! I went from a mediocre 50% to a 100% completion rate for the assignment. Students were engaged and asking questions and eager to share and get feedback. No one was off-task or checking their phones. I was really pleased with myself for being so clever but then I stopped and thought about it, and really, I was just listening to the students and giving them what they wanted. They had to learn about persuasion, and they did--they just weren't writing about gun control, or school uniforms, or the death penalty.
Have you ever stopped to listen to your students and come up with a win-win situation in the end? Leave a comment and tell me about it!