Between working first as a writing tutor and then as a writing teacher — and, oh yeah, as a writer — I’ve seen a lot of personal narratives over the years. While each person’s story is their own, I’ve noticed trends among classes (within cohorts) over the years. I’m not sure if it’s shared experiences among students or if it’s commonalities in brainstorming suggestions or what. (It’s true that I read every paper that I’m remembering now at some point in the process. But I wasn’t necessarily involved in helping the students brainstorm each one.)
For instance, there was the year of the “How Football Changed My Life” essay.
Followed by that “My Boyfriend/Girlfriend Cheated on Me (That Loser), and Now I am Heartbroken” story.
Which, perhaps fittingly, was followed by the year of “Then I Found Jesus.”
Subsequently, there was a year I dubbed “Things with Cows” since the narratives ranged from 4-H projects to becoming vegetarian (where cows specifically had a role in this decision) to cow tipping.
And the year of student heroics, “Fleeing a War Zone,” which was intense, to say the least.
This year’s theme seems to be “That Time I Got Arrested,” which might be slightly disheartening were I not mentally comparing it to last year’s rendition of “How Facebook Changed My Life.”
One very optimistic fact is that I got a roughly 83% on-time turn-in rate from ninth graders. This is even before parents and coaches have seen progress report grades.
In this world, there is hope yet.