Inevitably, the end of the year brings an insurmountable amount of stress. Even in Cartagena, students are NWEA testing, studying for finals, and preparing for their final projects. During finals, I have always struggled in assessing my students with on-demand writing. Is this format the best way for my students to “show” what they know? Will I see the thinking and writing capabilities of my English Language Learners when they are under pressure?
When I gave my students their first on-demand writing assignment during the middle of the year, I was taken aback at their level of anxiety. In the states, I had never witnessed this level of student stress. We had done multiple process writing assignments and thought it was time for them to practice on-demand writing. An uprising almost occurred at the announcement of their Slaughterhouse-Five in-class essay.
I know I live on the coast and life is laid back. An appointment at 4 means I will be helped sometime in the afternoon. Yoga class at 5 means the yoga teacher hopes to arrive by that time and well, I will just have to wait. And dinner? I would never show up at the time I was told or else I will be the only one sitting at the table.
As an American, life on the Colombian coast has been an adjustment and teaching multiple forms of writing has brought many surprises. During the course of the year, I always expose my students to multiple forms of writing so they are comfortable with all genres. I wanted to continue with these practices with my students in Cartagena.
Keeping this laid back culture in mind, I braced myself for the battles and prepared myself to be an anxiety counselor as well as English teacher. I incorporated the work I did with ISAW (Improving Student’s Academic Writing) and we practiced many forms of on-demand writing. I think they eventually let go of some of their stress and together, we found strategies to work under pressure.
Their final exam is in exactly two weeks away. I’m actually excited to see what they produce and see if the work we did pays off. On-demand writing may not show everything a student knows, but it’s a reality of schooling that all students need to be taught how to handle. English Language Learners, especially, should not be removed from this practice. I feel confident that they will “show” what they know.