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Writing can be an utterly jubilant activity, but a significant level of creative ecstasy is rarely encountered by highschool-aged students and is very nearly impossible to achieve in the traditional school environment.
Experience in most high school classrooms (using the mass-production educational model and presided over by often well-meaning but uninspired pedants) so often prompts one to conclude that essay writing is always something decidedly distasteful. The essay, however, can be an eye-opening opportunity for endless creativity and variation, whose flexibility and expressive potential is limited only by the writer's ability to weave cogent content into a dazzling fabric of felicitous diction -- well, perhaps it needn't always go that far, but the point stands: essay writing is what one makes of it and the more one does, the better one gets and the easier and more enjoyable it becomes. This is the philosophy that our Writing classes espouse and implement.
It is very hard to generate enthusiasm for writing when one's labor results only in an ephemeral entity whose sole purpose for existence is to be the subject of a cursory critical evaluation and a single mark in a grade book. Essay writing is often much more exciting and interesting when one is writing for an audience and not just for a teacher who will glance over the paper quickly, make a few red marks, and return it. Unfortunately, few alternatives to uninspired and anemic instructional mediocrity exist, though alternatives are emerging, one example being our online and hybrid writing class in which everyone has the opportunity to write for an audience -- for the class as a whole, the teacher, and ultimately, after some honing and revision, for a larger audience of fellow students and parents, for the public in web and print media, and for inclusion in individual student portfolios.
A class grade in an accredited highschool is certainly of some value, but it becomes somewhat feeble when placed next to a portfolio of published works whose message and mastery are directly evident to the observer. Such a tangible record of student achievement is far more compelling than a simple letter on a piece of paper reflecting a perfunctory perusal and a possibly skewed evaluation by an only marginally interested and probably harried and preoccupied instructor.
For nearly ten years, our College Preparatory English class has been held largely online, with all handouts and assignment submission taking place in an online classroom, but with a weekly traditional classroom meeting concurrently available online, free to auditors, and recorded for review, in which corrected papers, grammar, writing style, and the language of great writers and speakers is presented, analyzed and discussed. Now with full online application sharing, together with full audio and video, online students may participate equally with classroom students.
Many traditional and online grammar and writing resources are at best uninspired and at worst, misleading and error ridden (See SAT grammar errors found on educational websites). We feel that polished formal standard English should dominate in the classroom, in both written and spoken examples, for emulation is one of the most powerful pedagogical devices and it is a crime to use it to propagate errors and misusages. At the same time, there is no reason for grammar and writing study to be dry and boring (see our writing skills playsheets for a taste of the classroom teaching style.) Our class follows an open enrollment policy whereby students may join at any point during the semester and stay as long or as briefly as they choose. The one-room schoolhouse paradigm is used with students of multiple ages and abilities working and studying together.