You have called me before you today to justify my retirement from the teaching profession at the age of 51. I'm not tired, I'm not burnt out (most days), I'm not sick, and I'm not that old. You (and others) have asked why I would hang it up after a mere 26 years. In support of my long-thought-out-and-not-hasty-at-all decision, I offer the following evidence. We'll call it Exhibit A.
This essay was submitted by one of my students and not contrived or edited in any way (not even to remove the italics, which makes me twitch just a little bit). The writing prompt asked students to read Jack London's eye witness account of the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 and analyze his use of descriptive language. I always point students to the specific examples of words and phrases like "conflagration" and a "lurid tower of smoke...seen from 100 miles away" to get them started. I instruct them to look for other words and phrases, especially extreme ones, that help paint the picture of San Francisco's devastation.
The young man who wrote this essay was sincerely trying to complete the assignment. This is not an attempt to be a smart-ass or write some drivel just to complete the essay. He wanted to do well. He is a senior with only a few courses remaining before graduation. And this is Exhibit A:
San Francisco that was a earthquake and there was a eye witness that actually stayed there and he seen it all happen, he even seen it happen when the people where stay there and they could tell what was going on,
he was standing there he could see that people standing there looking and hearing people trying to find out what the smell was and didn’t anyone know but something came to him and said him exactly what the smell was, right off the back did he new it was and earthquake.
He said that he had seen smoke of as you have never seen, right then in my head ii can tell that I was really into t. and the smoke in the buildings was really smoking so I could see it in my head.
The next day the earthquake had happen and it was one of the worse earthquakes that you have never seen as if people crying and everything so as I kept reading it I could seen people running and not even thinking that this could be there last breath in the dark black smoke as you have never seen.
Wednesday had came and you could see the destruction of the city and you could understand the thing of the building g and the skyscrapers, you didn’t see a women that had been crying and you didn’t se a man that had been sad because it seemed as if everybody had new it was coming built it seem that didn’t know one no about the earthquake the few day ago.
There was millions of dollars things that was destroyed and place that were going never be a lot because of the money in that town
People will never forget this day as it comes again next year you could see people running from the fire and the destruction of the town, it was something as you could never seen and that some people didn’t know what was going happen.
The next day you could see people leave that town destruction because there was nothing else there for them to stay there for as were many people dead as well and many people lost there kids and a lot of things. This story was one of the saddest stories I j have ever read. and it seem to be the first the I ever read about and earthquake.
Where do I start in trying to show this young man the error of his ways? How did he get this far in his high school matriculation and not be able to write any better than this?
In addition to passing his courses, he also must pass our state's standardized writing test. I know, right? And they want to base teachers' salaries on how well students do on tests like those. When they write like this.
So to answer your question...
...it's either retire or slit my wrists.