I am happy to say that these papers are no better or worse than many of the first plebe (freshman) papers that I would receive at West Point for the fall composition class. Like those cadets, they all have a unique voice in their writing, something to build upon. And like those cadets, they have generally come out of their high school English classes not quite ready for college English, understandably not having foreseen the higher standards of discourse in the academic and professional realm, and, perhaps, not having fully assimilated certain basic grammatical lessons such as sentence boundaries in particular (comma splices, fragments, and run-on or fused sentences in). This is not a knock on the high school teachers. I know that all teachers in high school have a tremendous job, a Sisyphean task, if you will, to simply put in place the foundations and building blocks, the intellectual and moral structures, that will, hopefully, pay off one day when that student begins to get serious about life. And these teachers perform this job with a group of students who are going through perhaps the most confusing and chaotic time of their entire lives.
These teenagers are drinking from the fire-hose of some of life’s hardest lessons, having their world expanded by leaps and bounds almost every single day, which can be very frightening and frustrating. They are learning daily about responsibility, reward, consequence, disappointments, rejections, hurt, cruelty among their peers, the sometimes fragile, unstable world of teen friendships, the ugly depths of the human sin-nature, and encountering the glorious and tragic world of romantic relationships. Additionally, many of these kids do not come to class completely “in the game.” Many or most bring with them the distractions of their various problems, concerns, fears, worries, excessive self-consciousness, low self-esteem, chaotic relationships, and, worst of all, dysfunctional family issues. Certainly the teen years are not all dark and depressing, but it is most definitely a challenging time in life. And the youth in your lives probably need a little more understanding, patience, prayers, loving-kindness, mentorship, an ear to truly listen, a heart to truly care, maybe gentle firmness in maintaining standards so they can have some stability in their lives and the chance to grow, but certainly more encouragement and humor. It is because of the difficulty of these teen years that high school teachers have one of the hardest, yet most critical, jobs in our American society.
More on this tomorrow. I pray that God will bless you with a unique and effective work for Him wherever you are in life.