Calling All Teachers

by Emily Birman, age 11
Calling All Teachers Emily is eleven years old. She goes to MS 54 and she is in sixth grade. Her favorite thing to do is gymnastics. She also likes baking, skiing, and listening to songs in all languages.

“While writing a creative story, I enjoy spilling out all of the ideas, and I can’t stop, or else I find myself in the situation of being stuck, not knowing what to write next. But when I, or other students, hear the word ‘essay,’ we all groan. We know that right now, we are going to get a prompt that we have to answer, and we don’t have a choice how we want to structure or form it.”

Dear teachers and administrators,

Thank you all for being gathered here. My name is Emily Birman, and I’m a 6th grader in M.S. 54. Throughout my seven years in public school, I have written quite a few essays and also quite a few creative writing stories. I’ve written persuasive essays, reading responses formed like essays, and at the same time, a few stories just based on what I think about a topic that I made up.

I think that essay writing may be pushing kids, and that’s why a lot of students prefer just writing their own stories instead of listening to a teacher give them a certain point that they have to write about.

In 4th grade, I remember having to write an essay about what I think about zoos: should we keep zoos or shut them down? Even though in this essay that I had to write, I was able to choose what side I wanted, there was still something that I needed to write about. Yes or no, but I couldn’t choose the topic. I had to write about zoos. I learned about the advantages and disadvantage of zoos. I could have done the same thing by writing creatively. Kids could have researched about it, but interpreted it with their own creativity instead of being forced by their teacher to write about a topic that they might not want to. While writing a creative story, I enjoy spilling out all of the ideas, and I can’t stop, or else I find myself in the situation of being stuck, not knowing what to write next.

But when I, or other students, hear the word “essay,” we all groan. We know that right now, we are going to get a prompt that we have to answer, and we don’t have a choice how we want to structure or form it.

This reaches to another point. In creative writing, there isn’t any certain structure that you  must follow, unlike essays where there is a formula that you have to follow. A type of paragraph in a essay, as many of you may know, is “RACER.” My class just learned this, and for the past couple weeks, that is the only type of paragraphs we have been writing. “R” is restate, “A” is answer, “C” is cite, “E” is explain, and “R” is revise. We can’t write freely in whatever kind of way we want. We can only do so much with this format. We only have a limited amount of sentences within a paragraph.

I remember one time in class, a girl brought in a paragraph that was about ten sentences long, and there were four sentences that didn’t exactly follow the RACER structure. My teacher said to delete those sentences. They were not “needed.” This way, people will start limiting themselves, and soon, I predict that people will start writing just a few sentences instead of a paragraph, which is five to seven sentences. Another way that people could be limiting themselves is in creativity. As soon as the structure gets stuck, it will be hard to add their creativity in while still using the form or structure. This doesn’t only go with the RACER structure, but with every structure, and it may also be hard for students learning it while they want to be creative and to include creativity.

Some of you may not agree with me though. Using help from a few friends, I came up with a few counter arguments. One thing that some of you may be thinking is, “But we need more structures, not less, because then, it won’t be organized.” But that’s not true because it really matters what you’re writing. In creative writing, there’s really no certain structure or structures that you have to follow, so there’s really no way that it can sound unorganized or messy.  

There can obviously be multiple more reasons why any of you might disagree, but one reason is because then it might seem as if the teacher is teaching different structures to everyone. But even people who haven’t learned the structure can see how the structure is the same for each person, so it would be boring reading it for them. In creative writing, there isn’t any form that you must follow, so that way, it wouldn’t sound repetitive.

What I really want to improve in classes when it comes to writing is to have as many essays as creative stories. In each grade, we always wrote more essays than stories. I don’t see why. Creative writing also helps. All of my teachers said that creativity and imagination are very important, so why don’t we use it? I hope all of you take this in mind and hopefully make a change. Thank you.

 

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