When class starts I know that the students are not going to be prepared for the lesson I have ready for them. I announce to them that I have something different today and point to the SmartBoard where a college freshman English class is displayed.
"I want to talk about some of the goals in this class and how they fit into your future goals. How many of you plan to go to college?"
About half the hands go up.
"Four year degree?" Three hands go up.
"Two year degree?" Six hands go up.
"I plan to get a welding certificate," one student tells me.
"I'm going to go for diesel mechanics," says another.
"This," I point to the screen. "Is a syllabus for a college freshman English course at University of Great Falls (Montana). And it is fairly representative of what you will encounter in most freshman English courses around Montana, and even out of state."
I then walk the students through the structure of the syllabus, explaining each section and the requirements.
We stopped to discuss the writing requirements, the amount of writing required and the used of pre-determined topics.
We then arranged time to work on personal essays in class and set writing goals from now until the end of the year.
The discussion about the syllabus moves from particular requirements of a class to the general requirements of college life.
Students want to know how many classes they should take, how much time they will spend on homework, and of course, how much recreational time they will have.
I answer students questions, to which there seem to be no end. I emphasize the importance of time management and knowing individual learning styles. We discuss the difference between general ed. classes and classes they will take once they pick a major.
Toward the end of the class one of the students asks about the different kinds of writing she will have to do at a four-year college. I talk to them about persuasive, expository and narrative writing again.
"What about personal statements?" she asks.
"Those are generally narrative," I tell her.
"Can we work on those in class," she asks. We are a week out from Christmas and I usually have students in my room after school asking for help on their college and scholarship applications. Not so this year for a variety of reasons.
"Sure," I say. "What day?" We agree that next Wednesday would be a good day, as it is just before they get out for break, but this seems like the best time to work on writing that goes beyond the classroom.