Blog Your Blessings: A Perfect Essay

It's a perfect essay, I told my students. And we're going to read it to see how a perfect essay is written, and how you can learn to read for answers in one and then to write one.

The perfect essay was President Obama's letter to his daughters, which ran in the Parade section of our January 19 newspaper. In it, Obama explains to his daughters--and to all American children--why he chose to run for the presidency. He begins with a clear introduction in a paragraph that ends with a thesis statement. Each of the next seven paragraphs identifies a reason he chose to run for office. The conclusion summarizes the essay and includes a restatement of the thesis.

The structure is textbook perfection. The content is a story of love for his daughters and the belief that if you love your family you do everything you can to make their lives as good as they can be. The bottom line: running for office was a gesture of love. In the words of another brilliant writer--Elie Wiesel--the theme is this: "Once you bring life into the world, you must protect it. We must protect it by changing the world."

Students who have gone as far as bringing their parents to me to deliver the baggage they have invented to justify not reading in class, not participating in any way, not working at all ever asked to read. Students who had yet to connect learning with the quality of their lives wanted to read. Kids who never gave a thought to behaving and respecting their peers wanted to read. It was a miracle that had everything to do with the author and content of the reading material at hand and my students' identification with him.

I have sought to teach these kids to look deeper into President Obama. Enough with the "he's the first black President" stuff. Who is he? With that question in mind, I found a piece on the ABC News website that discussed his early life and brought that to my seventh graders. They read for themselves that first his father and then his mother left the household and Obama grew up in the care of his maternal grandparents--who struggled to get by. This scenario is not unfamiliar to a lot of my kids. Here they were reading about a man who faced challenges similar to their own but made an impressive life for himself and for his family as well as others.

My little ruffians read with rapt attention. Another miracle. When I stopped one child so another could begin, the first child said, "Miss, I wasn't done." I wouldn't argue with that; I let him read on. And on. And on.

At the street level a week after the inauguration of President Obama, I saw an amazing transformation. A random good week in the ghetto? I've had those before. They weren't like this one. This was a miracle. Kids are seeing for themselves through a man they see as one of their own who happens to lead our nation that it really is possible to hitch your wagon something greater than yourself and realize your potential.

Obama: "And so what I told [Middle East envoy George Mitchell'] is start by listening, because all too often the United States starts by dictating -- in the past on some of these issues -- and we don't always know all the factors that are involved. So let's listen."

Blog Your Blessings

Comments

  1. i never could write a decient essay... ugggggg

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  2. How wonderful that you could give your students an example that they could identify with. That is the genius of good teaching. Well done!

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  3. I am so happy to read this report about your class Sandy. I know you have been so stressed about them lately. Thank God for Barack. If even for one minute they have given thought to a positive outcome that is possible in their lives. Thank you for your efforts. All will be gilded in the end.

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  4. Sandy: Thanks for the lesson in the perfect essay; and for the inspiring post about your students. What a great way to cick off the weekend! Aloha-

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  5. that's wonderful that we have a leader who can touch and influence children who struggle because of prejudice and poor beginning. it's truly a new era. good teaching techniques. you always try to catch their interest and it sounds like you are succeeding. congrats.

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  6. Sandy - What a beautiful way you have of teaching your students about life and of relating their lessons to a higher purpose. Wonderful!

    Peace - D

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  7. Oh if I could turn back the clock and have a teacher such as you ... what would my life have been like? I envy your students, I do!

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  9. It's true: a teacher such as you is fundamental in a student's life.
    Excellent post, Sandy.

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  10. We all need leaders to look up to..and he seems to have a charm and charisma and honesty worth listening to...I do hope so. At least he has acknowledged the need to listen to others forst... :)

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  11. Anonymous7:16 AM

    I weep, frequently, when I see kids whose potential in life has been swallowed up in care-less parenting, Self centred society, list-ticking bogged down educationalists, and misguided policies and policing. You can see the shutters over their eyes and minds. We all need role models and what we've fed to our kids for the past few decades is the vacuuous celeb as the pinnacle of aspiration. PTL for those like you who open eyes and minds to what could be and should be. Well done!
    My daughter lived as a drug addict for more than half her life, but died a free young woman. You can read her story in my latest book.
    Mel Menzies, author of A Painful Post Mortem - a story of love and loss.
    http://melmenzies.co.uk/

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  12. It was interesting to read this, Sandy

    It enhances Hope that if Americans stand by their President..A real Change is possible...

    And a Change in US policies means a Change to the world. My socio-political self keeps a keen watch of US policies..

    wishes,
    devika

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  13. OMG, Sandy, how many times do I have to say what a wonderful teacher you are - and blogger!! I want to read that essay... :)

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  14. That is the beauty of you Sandy, and why the children who want to learn from you. You listen. To them. You identify with them in a way no one else seems to and I love how you share these blessings.
    President Obama's inauguration as President is a gift as a teaching tool for many. His background and his hopes. Most of all though, I love the letter he wrote to his children. Because it is written in love, in their eyes at least, he will never fail. He will always be dad who tried his best.

    No one can ask more than that.
    Thanks for sharing (and your visits and support as always.)

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  15. Let's hope and pray that the spark continues to inspire and grow.

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  16. I am a great believer in a phonetic approach to the teaching of reading. Then they can make up there own mind about life.

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  17. Seventh grade is such a crucial place in children's lives. It's that point where children's bodies are turning into adult bodies, long before their minds are adult minds, but when the consequences of what they do can be far reaching. It's a time to begin preparing for college -- take that first algebra class or get a leg up on learning a language. I remember seeing so many of the working class kids I grew up with, who were so smart and so capable get turned off to school in the seventh grade. What a blessing to have a teacher like you at that point in their lives.

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  18. Can I come round and sit in your class one day?

    SERIOUSLY ......

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  19. I wish I had a teacher like you, Sandy. You teach them to look, listen and think... and then love to learn more. I never had anyone teach me to study either. I had to figure that out on my own.

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  20. Anonymous7:40 PM

    hello friend!....would you mind if we xlinks?....my link is,http://etherealheaven.blogspot.com...just feel free to check it out...take care friend ^_^

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  21. Sounds like a good week. :)

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  22. A very inspiring post, Sandy! I wish I could also write something like this someday, and maybe I really would. Thanks for the inspiration.

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  23. not only does he write a complete essay, he writes a darn good one from start to finish! Thank you for sharing this with us Sandy!

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  24. Anonymous11:33 PM

    I'm very touched by this, that Obama is touching so many others.

    I think you write a good essay as well.

    I wonder why his mother left.

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  25. I have a friend who's from America who was one of the handful that moved to Canada after George W. Bush's last election... she's a woman of colour, and after the election (and she reiterated after the inauguration,) that although she was happy to be Canadian now, she is beyond proud of her nation... not because she's a Democrat, but because the promise that anyone from any social strata can make it in America has been kept.

    One of the stranger things I overheard on my bus to work (which passes two of the rougher high-schools in Toronto,) was a group of young kids re-considering things after the election. They were actually talking about how they "didn't care" before because they "knew" they weren't "going anywhere"... but now... They have the will to excel.

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  26. Wow. Thank you for writing this.

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  27. Looks like Change has come to America indeed!

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  28. I wish all teachers were as inspirational as you.

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  29. His upbringing was not the idyllic childhood that people cite to give him the moniker "elitist."

    Perhaps the kids would like to hear his story.
    "Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance" or "The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream." They are both available on Amazon.

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  30. I still want to see his politics giving communication results (not only words and information)before I will applaud and believe he is the president we need from USA

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  31. Sandy, you move me every time your write about "your" kids. Today even more! I had not read Obama's letter to his daughter (those were the days, when Parade landed on my doorstop Sunday mornings, with the Washington Post!). Such an outstanding human being, as are you, Sandy!

    Congratulations on your Post of the Day Award from David!

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  32. Hi ~ Congrats on POTD. Powerful piece of writing and it exemplifies the hope that so many of us feel. When I read posts such as this I truly miss teaching. Thanks for reaching out to your students and working to make a change!

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  33. Sandy, you are a gifted teacher. You knew what would work for these kids, and you took them by the hand and led them there. Something tells me President Obama had such a teacher at some time.

    I'm over from David's. He was wise to recognize this post. I also saw the gracious compliment you paid me. Thank you for making my day.

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  34. It is about time we have a president who is literate :) Well said :)

    Found you through David's Blog! :)

    Bradley
    The Egel Nest

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  35. Wise words. We don't listen often enough. I will have to look up that reference since I didn't read the paper.

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  36. I have loved essay writing since I was in the fourth grade. It's the better part of writing...succinct and to the point. Congratulations on Post of the Day mention from David's!
    Sandi

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  37. This is very inspiring. My son teaches high school English in NYC and he is seeing a renewed interest in learning in his students.

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  38. I'd say you wrote a pretty damned good one here yourself. Obviously, so did David. Congratulations on POTD!

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