The Infamous In-Class Essay: A Room For Debate

Deon Custard & El Buchanan We all know that In-Class Essays are a highly debated topic. Deon and El both have strong opinions about the role of essays within the classroom. Read both of their articles and please comments your own feelings on the issue!   Deon Custard Anxiety-inducing, burden, dread, word vomit: these are all words that may come to mind when students are assigned the polarizing in-class essay. For some, these assignments may be a time to shine since they act as a brain dump where ideas must become fully structured arguments under pressure, but for many, in-class essays are anything but a relief. Some students do prefer major writing assessments in-class because of the lack of worry prescribed to them out of class. Seniors Layla Passman and Sandy Nguyen agreed that they like in-class essays because they don’t have to sit with the topic for a week. The work that would be done over the course of that week was described by Mr. Marshall as the “rehearsal [to the] performance”. Skills that are essential to being a proficient writer, like syntax and grammar, are important to practice, “but in-class writing helps writers determine how many of the lessons of that practice they’ve internalized.” Students also fear that in-class writings aren’t representations of their best work. Keeping that in mind, some teachers such as Dr. Woods “use a different rubric than [they] would for an out of class essay,” since the skills that are assessed out of class and in-class vary in the degree of precision to which they are expected to be completed. Some worry that the in-class essay may very much be a waste of time. Junior, Henry Block pondered that if “teachers wanted students to think critically about the book, wouldn’t they give us more time?” This thought is answered by Mr. Marshall’s earlier quote – in-class essays are meant to test how deeply ingrained the skills learned through the writing process are with the writer. History department chair Ms. Hennessy also spoke to the fact that professionals don’t get “weeks [or] weekends to polish written work”; in that sense, learning to excel at in-class essays is a valuable real-world skill. On the issue of academic integrity: an anonymous student admitted “if we can cheat at home, we can cheat in school,” which may echo some teachers’ fears. One staff member, though, who also chooses to remain anonymous, says that in-class essays allow for teachers to “create a sense of equity, as not all students have access to supplemental material” at home or a tutor to proofread. The in-class essay, although still open to cheating if students choose to take that route, is more fair to students overall. Timed assessments may still seem daunting for students, but they should not be viewed as an attempt by teachers to make our lives more difficult. Rather they’re opportunities to help us improve our skills and keep our English classrooms as close to a level playing field as possible.     El Buchanan  The education system, as a whole, has holes. Latin puts a great deal of effort in modernizing our education. Something is missing from that moderation, though — the infamous In-Class Essay. What is the point of an English class? In my opinion, the most important part of an English class are the discussions. For example, a student comes into class reading a chapter or two and has their own interpretation of the reading. They have facts backing it up, but they are also ready to listen to their peers. If someone has the exact opposite interpretation of the text than someone else, it will cause everyone to think differently of the entire reading. The student has just learned something valuable and important without the teacher even speaking. The skill of being open-minded to other ideas is not just important, but essential for being a citizen of the world. The average Latin English class does it perfectly. That beautiful learning skill is completely lost in an in-class essay. Getting handed a passage and having fifty minutes to analyze it does not help the student further understand the reading or improve their analytical skills. An in-class essay could prove analytical skills to the teacher, but everyone has a different interpretation of the text. Therefore, who is good at analyzing? Also, what is the point of analyzing if you cannot share your thoughts with your classmates? I want my classmates to tell me I am wrong and give me a new perspective, not just stick with my own interpretation of the text. Some say that in-class essays show your true writing style because it is timed, but one of the most important parts of writing is editing. The concept of editing is lost and not taken seriously when writing an in-class essay. Changing and going back and redoing the entire essay are key parts of writing. In-class essays are usually graded less harshly, and bad habits are bound to last if you were to continue to do them multiple times. Writing is supposed to take a long time and sometimes be a grueling process with many rewrites. In-class essays rush students and allow for careless mistakes. At the end of the allotted time, they leave students dissatisfied with their writing and sometimes with a poorly written piece of work. Lastly, try to think of a real world example on when it is required to write something in one sitting. It will never be required of you to sit down for fifty to ninety minutes and analyze an obscure poem. The only real world example of an in-class essay is when taking the ACT. But, the ACT is an unfair standardized test that measures how well you can answer trick questions. If Latin is supposing to be preparing us for the real world, what is the point of the in-class essay? There are plenty of good reasons on how a in-class essay could benefit a student. The problem is how this method is executed. Doing a majority of in-class essays in an English class can be ineffective and make bad habits grow on young writers. In-class essays are most likely never going to go away, but it is important for students to think critically of how they are being taught and to think – what is the point of this?    ]]>