On Essays

I wonder if my teachers growing up assigned things like essay quizzes and tests partially to have some quiet time to catch their breath. You know, like I do. I assume they did. I mean, we’re all human, right? We all need a break.

Of course, essay quizzes are not without merit. Students need to write – need to learn to communicate ideas and analyze text through writing. They also need (for character building purposes) to feel the cold sweat of fear if they are utterly unprepared for said essay quiz and then have to spend the class scrambling for something – anything – to say.

But it doesn’t hurt that I get a few classes of silence, either. Sweet, sweet silence, in which I can work on the various and sundry things that are crowding my desk and giving me cold sweats.

I wonder if my students have cottoned on to this. I never did. I always assumed that my teachers did everything in the name of some sort of education goal. Well, my English teachers anyway. Math and Science teachers were always suspect.

I hope that none of them sees through me. Honestly, I don’t fear it that much. They barely think of me as an actual person. I am simply the arbiter of Englishness, the giver of grades and provider of grammar-related puns. Surely my secret desire for a classroom filled only with the sounds of scratching pencils and the ticking of the minute hand can’t be visible in my eager, essay-assigning grin.

There is, of course, a downside. For every day I luxuriate in quietude, there is a day of reckoning set aside for me. A day of red pen (or purple, if you’re me), paper cuts, and general frustration. Every essay requires a grade, and every grade will strike its sad little gong in my heart.

But for now, the day stretches on tranquilly, an oasis in the turbulent sea that is high school English class.


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